Amidst all of the celebrating after the Crothersville girls basketball team won sectional in February, someone mentioned to coach Kevin Hensley that his squad should be the grand marshal of the town’s Red, White & Blue Festival parade.
That person thought the girls deserved it for making history by claiming the school’s first team sectional title.
Hensley said he knew that wouldn’t be official until hearing it from a member of the festival committee.
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That recently happened, so Hensley was joined by the players, assistant coach Chris Mains and the Tiger mascot Saturday as they rode on a 1936 Crothersville firetruck along the parade route.
It’s something none of them will forget, especially the team’s three seniors, Katrina Christian, Madison Reynolds and Kashmir Kelshaw.
“I know it’s a big honor for them and all of the hard work they put in for the last six or seven years, where they started in grade school all the way up through,” Hensley said. “It’s just great to see how much they blossomed every year to get to that point to be able to do this.”
When they learned about the grand marshal honor, the seniors were excited.
“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh! That’s really cool,'” Kelshaw said.
“It’s just an honor that they keep recognizing that kind of stuff. You know it’s going to keep going, and it was really cool,” Reynolds said.
Christian, who is going to play NCAA Division I basketball at Eastern Illinois University, was leaving for college Sunday, so she was glad to be able to participate in the parade.
“This is like the last time I get to see my teammates right before I leave, so I was really excited,” she said.
The Tigers defeated Trinity Lutheran 49-47 in overtime, Orleans 54-41 and West Washington 72-69 in winning the Class A Sectional 61 at Orleans.
In their first regional, they lost to eventual state champion and top-ranked Wood Memorial 73-57 to finish with a season record of 19-9.
When they arrived back in town after the sectional championship, the team bus received an escort to the school, where a lot of fans gathered to congratulate them.
“It’s kind of all a blur,” Reynolds said. “All I remember is a lot of shouting, a lot of screaming, and we came back and this whole (area outside the school’s gymnasium) was filled with people. It was probably the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.”
Christian said a lot of fans were at the game, but even more people showed up at the school.
The next week, a lot of fans attended a regional pep session and lined up to have team members autograph T-shirts.
Even more fans went to the regional game at Springs Valley High School.
“The whole town was there,” Christian said.
The sectional trophy was placed in a display case near the gymnasium, a reminder to everyone of what the team accomplished.
“I would make sure every time I walked in the hallways to go to class, it was always this hallway,” Christian said, smiling.
Even if that meant being a little late to class, she said she had a good excuse.
Then the week of graduation, the three seniors joined their classmates for the Senior Walk, wearing their caps and gowns while walking through the elementary school hallways.
Once again, the young kids were able to look up to the sectional winners.
“All of those little kids looked at them like they were movie stars,” Hensley said. “It rubs off on them.”
Once it came time for the Red, White & Blue Festival parade, they were all stars again.
“It’s really just another proud moment for the town and the school,” Christian said. “I think it really humbles us to know that everybody is still behind us, and going toward next season, too, they are still behind the team.”
Kelshaw said she got a little emotional seeing all of the people lined along the streets.
“It was an honor to see everyone cheering for us and clapping for us,” she said. “It was good.”
Reynolds said she appreciated everyone’s support once again.
“You see all kinds of people, people you don’t even know, and they are going, ‘Way to go, girls,’ ‘Good job, guys,'” she said. “It means a lot.”
Hensley said he even saw a former teammate from his high school basketball days. The man, who now lives in New Albany, was sitting on the front porch of his mother’s home while visiting Crothersville for the festival.
“That was the first time I had seen him since he had sent me a message after we won,” Hensley said. “We always tried and never could get over that hump, and these girls finally did it.”
Now that attention is turning toward next season, Hensley said he is seeing an increased interest in girls joining the basketball program.
Christian said she thinks that’s because the team proved a sectional title is possible.
Even though crowds at regular-season games typically were small, she said more people went to the postseason games when they heard how the team was doing.
“I don’t think really anybody believed that we could (win sectional), honestly,” Christian said. “(Game attendance) was kind of like a putdown, but actually at the same time, it kind of gave us motivation to say, ‘Hey, if we’re going to win the sectional, Crothersville has to come out and support us.’ I don’t think they really realized how fun our games are to go to.”
She said she expects more people will attend games next season because of what the 2016-17 team accomplished.
Christian said she will continue to support the Tigers.
“They are always going to be our team regardless if we’re here,” she said. “We’ve graduated, so we’re always going to be here to support.”