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Like team, Chesapeake community embraces first state tournament

COLUMBUS — The historic first trip to the state tournament certainly meant a lot to the Chesapeake Panthers boys basketball team. It might have meant even more when it comes to community pride.

Last Saturday at Ohio University’s Convocation Center, Chesapeake reached new heights with the schools first boys Regional Championship in a 63-47 win over Ironton.

On Thursday, the team played against Lima Central Catholic’s Thunderbirds at the Jerome Schottenstein Center on the campus of Ohio State University in the State Semi-Final, the first time the school has made it to this biggest of stages for high school hoops.

The east side lower and middle sections of Value City Arena were filled with a large contingent of the purple clad Chesapeake community ready to show their support.

“You can see the crowd we have here, and everybody is proud of the kids. The kids have played hard all year. The community has supported (the team) all year, and you can see (the community) is here supporting them today” Benny Copley said.

After coming so close in 1989, 1991, 1993, 1998, and 2004, losing in the Regional Finals, the Chesapeake boys’ basketball team was able to finally cut down the nets as Regional Champions.

The win left the Chesapeake community with an excitement that has never been felt before, and the excitement was evident on Thursday and it is something that the entire community could experience together.

Chad Henderson, his wife, Tina, and son, Austin made the trip to Columbus.

“It is definitely exciting for Chesapeake to come this far. To have been so close so many times, and this has been great for the team and community to get here to (the State Tournament). It is uplifting, and it says a lot for our community to come together. This is awesome to see the community support and the people who traveled up here today” Henderson said.

“It’s great. This is something for the entire community to experience, and the community loves these boys, and (this team) has made it farther than any other Chesapeake team” Jim Kennedy said.

When a team from a small town makes it to a stage like the State Tournament, many people from neighboring communities show their support as well.

“I think the whole county is behind Chesapeake today. We brought our kids today, and I have seen people from different towns in the county here today” Lawrence County Commissioner Jason Stephens said.

With all the excitement surrounding making the State Tournament, there was a still a game on the floor. And although the Panthers fell short, 59-48 to the Thunderbirds to finish the year at 21-5 and a perfect 10-0 to claim the Ohio Valley Conference championship, the community could not have been more proud of the run the team made.

“It has been really great, and I think that it is great to get the Chesapeake community together and it has been really fun. The boys are all really good kids, and their parents are really good people, and it is just really good to see a community come together and have this success after being close so many times” Stephens said.

The experience of making it to this point is something that will last a lifetime for Amber Wright.

“It is a once in a lifetime experience. It was something that we never expected, but I am sure glad that we were able to make it this far. This is something that I or the community will never forget” Wright said.

For Kennedy, the support the team has received is something that has been there all year, and the support will continue.

“The community has been there to support this team, and this is a good group of fans. The community support will be there when we get back home.”