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BRITT | Some tears trickled down the cheeks of the West Hancock girls’ basketball team Sunday, March 3, despite being greeted with applause and cheers from their family and friends.

The sting of its 76-52 defeat to No. 1-ranked Newell-Fonda in the 1A state championship game Saturday, March 2, at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines lingered at a welcome-home rally scheduled earlier in the week.

“We didn’t lose to a bad team I’m going to tell you that right now ... Their heads should be held high for what they did. They played hard,” Coach Paul Sonius said.

The Eagles ended their season with a 25-2 record, and the school’s first girls’ basketball championship appearance in history.

Within four days, West Hancock played three games. The Eagles defeated North Mahaska 67-54 in the quarterfinals and Montezuma 59-50 in the semifinals to advance to the biggest stage of the tournament.

Dozens of community members — many of whom followed the Eagles to the Well — turned out to show their support for the team at the rally in the high school gym.

During the rally, school staff, coaches and players thanked members of the community, especially their families, and each other for a memorable season.

“I would like to thank all of you guys for making those trips and everything and thank you for all the livestream support, too,” said junior Amanda Chizek. “We really appreciate it.”

They also expressed hope — and confidence — in the future of girls’ basketball at West Hancock.

This year, there are no seniors on the team, so it’s expecting to return all 16 of its players as well as next year’s ninth-graders to the roster.

“Last year, we knocked on the door and it didn’t open. This year, we knocked on the door and it opened ... Well, next year, we’re going down to Des Moines, we’re going to kick the dang door in and we’re going to take our spot at the head of the table,” said Kevin Wilson, assistant coach.

Chizek and Riley Hiscocks presented the team’s state championship runner-up trophy to Dan Peterson, high school principal, to display it in the school’s trophy case.

West Hancock advances to state title game after big fourth quarter

The rally concluded with Kool & The Gang’s “Celebration” while family and friends gathered around the trophy for photos.

The last time West Hancock girls’ basketball team qualified for state was in 2012.

Photos: West Hancock girls' basketball welcome-home rally

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Reach Reporter Ashley Stewart at 641-421-0533. Follow her on Twitter at GGastewart.

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