WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — College basketball teams are not the only one’s dancing in March. The New Hanover High School Wildcats celebrated today after winning the state championship Saturday. Players say it’s a championship for the school, the community and the city.
“All the teachers, all the students, I mean it couldn’t get no better than to come back and bring a state championship back to Wilmington,” senior guard Thomas Johnson said.
The Wildcats finished their dream season 30-1 and hoisted their 14th state basketball championship Saturday night, the most of any school in North Carolina.
“It’s really fun to see a community get really excited about our kids, and at the end of the day, that’s what it’s about,” basketball coach Kirk Angel said.
The first day of school since Saturday’s win in the 4-A final was just as crazy as the game itself.
“It’s fun seeing all the players and coaches and giving them high fives,” New Hanover High student Bates Taylor said, “just saying congrats and telling them what a great job they did and what they mean to this school now.”
Cheerleader Destiny Cooper said, “Everybody’s really pumped about Hanover winning and how awesome our team is and how we’re proud to be a Wildcat.”
Coaches and players say it was their fans and student body that made all the difference on Saturday.
“They would skip their own practices to come watch us play and be at games,” Angel said. “They love our kids, and our kids love them. They feed off of them. It was just a lot of energy in the building the other night. It was incredible.”
Coaches, players and even the staff at the school know the accomplishment is bigger than just another banner at Brogden Hall.
“This weekend was really a win for the entire city,” principal Todd Finn said. “We talked to the players Friday before they left, and I had the chance to let them know that it was more than just a game, that they’re going to win this game for the entire city and the entire county, and they took that responsibility on themselves.”
It’s a memory the students, the team, and especially the seniors say they will remember for a lifetime.
“To come from where we came from… it was just crazy,” Johnson said. “I’m speechless. Put it like that.”
Johnson was named the Most Outstanding Player from the East in the state playoffs. Meanwhile, teammate Kadeem Allen is the Mideastern Conference Player of the Year.