In the middle of pouring rain and crashing thunder, the Warren Township High School boys basketball team stepped off a bus in the school parking lot as runners up in the IHSA Boys Basketball State Finals. Decked out with second place medals and a trophy to top off an impressive season, the 15-member team walked into the school as the cheers of fans drowned out the sounds of the weather.
After being conference, regionals, sectionals and supersectionals champs, many on the team were hoping for more than second place in the final round.
"We're definitely disappointed," said junior Jameris Smith. "We felt like we could have won that game."
But Smith said the support from the fans was making the whole team feel better Sunday.
Gurnee police and fire vehicles escorted the Blue Devils the last few miles of their trip en route to a pep rally in the high school gym. Hundreds of fans, members of the Blue Crew and Mom Squad included, joined the pep band to welcome the team home from Peoria. A celebration like this hasn't taken place for the basketball team since 1999 when the players also came back with a second-place trophy.
Warren Township played Normal on Friday night in the semifinal game, winning 55-43. The team then lost 48-39 after the Saturday night game against Simeon.
"It didn't go the way we wanted it to in the end," said Head Coach Chuck Ramsey, "but the whole process was fantastic."
Cindy Munda is a member of the Mom Squad, with a personalized T-shirt to prove it. She said her son Mitch Munda has been teammates with many of the other players since they started in sixth grade. Even back then people were saying the team was going all the way to state.
"It really happened!" Munda said, hoarse from a weekend of cheering.
And for the 11 juniors who will still be around next year, there may still be another chance.
Diane Ellis, mom of junior Darrick Ellis, sure thinks so.
"Next year we're coming home with first place," Ellis said. "This was a warmup."