Eighty-two-year-old Arlene Slocumb-Myers can't get enough of her beloved Winnebago Indians.
"We as a community stand behind them and we're so proud of them. We are at two years in a row, and we are working on number three," Slocumb-Myers said.
That's the consensus Winnebago fans shared in a special welcome home ceremony. School leaders celebrated the boys magical ride to the Class A final in Peoria, behind a rabid fan base that brought nearly half of the entire town to cheer on their Indians.
"Wow, the fans were great, came to a lot of games, sold a lot of tickets. It's very tight knit with the basketball and the community," Winnebago Center’s Jacob Spencer said.
Beyond points and assists, leaders also hailed Winnebago's strong team character, pointing to their overall 3.5 GPA and the positive examples they set for the town.
"One thing about a small community, the kids grow up here and everybody knows them. They see them play in junior high, on the freshman teams. They get connected with them," Winnebago head coach Joe Murphy said.
Being huge role models in a tiny community doesn't faze these players.
"It's great. It's all great to see it, most kids like the attention. It's nice to see kids look up to you like that," Winnebago guard Wes Reinke said.
"It's an honor; I can't believe they want my autograph, but I'm happy to sign any autograph," Spencer said.
And though the Indians run fell one game short, Winnebago fans and players admit it's a run they'll cherish for a lifetime, the ultimate uniter for this tight knit community.
"The passing of our last referendum has brought a lot of people into our community, and there will be more moving because we excel," Slocumb-Myers said.
They’re excelling downstate and representing back home upstate for a team that defied the odds, and a town that cheered alongside every victory.