Updated: Monday, 11 Mar 2013, 10:17 AM CDT
Published : Sunday, 10 Mar 2013, 6:35 PM CDT
PULASKI - The Pulaski boys basketball team returned home to a hero's welcome Sunday.
The team had it's first-ever state championship trophy in tow.
"I didn't think that many people were going to show up. There's a lot of people here and it's awesome,” said team captain, Cody Wichmann.
Team members were welcomed back to their hometown with the same fan frenzy they were sent to the tournament with.
"It feels surreal. Like it's not even real yet. So I'm so proud I just want to cry I love them so much, they're like all of our boys,” said Chris Lawniczak, whose son Spencer plays on the team.
The sight of the trophy and the roar of the crowd was enough to bring grown men to tears—even the coach.
“I was able to hold back my emotions until now but just to have the community support and come there to encourage the kids, it's everything,” said Head Coach David Shaw.
While hundreds packed this gym, nearly as many Pulaski fans traveled to Madison to see the game in person.
"I think the lights were turned off. It seemed like the whole community was there,” said Stephanie Reinhard, a Pulaski High School alum who brought her three young daughters to the celebration.
"It's about Red Raider Nation taking over Madison!" said Shaw.
The coach and the community say it's the little things, like quirky traditions and new catch phrases that helped encourage the Red Raiders to championship heights and elevate the team's stars, to local celebrities.
"That stands for you underestimated Pulaski, now!" one fan expanded on the shirts with the word “yup” on them, which is a favorite word of Coach Shaw.
"It feels good. I mean, getting the 'W' is the main thing for the community, just give everybody a bunch of confidence. It's a good feeling,” said Wichmann.
The last time the Red Raiders had even been to the state tournament was 1989—before any of the players were even born.
The remaining members of the team hope to defend the title next year.
But for right now, they're just basking in this moment of victory.
A moment, that's pure gold.