by Lisa Hinton-Valdrighi
Our school. Our team. Our championship.
Community pride and a feeling of unity swept across Lancaster County last weekend when Lancaster High School’s varsity Red Devils captured the second state basketball championship in school history.
The Devils defeated the Spartans of Eastside High School, Coeburn, 52-49, in the Group 1 tournament final at the VCU Siegel Center in Richmond.
Sirens screamed from the Robert O. Norris Jr. Memorial Bridge in White Stone through Main Street in Kilmarnock and along Mary Ball Road to the high school in Lancaster late last Friday night as the sheriff’s department, state police and volunteer fire departments and emergency services vehicles escorted the boys home with a heroes’ welcome. And indeed, they—the players and coaches—are hometown heroes.
“Only in a small town do they announce the win over the PA system in Walmart,” wrote one Facebook fan. Another wrote, “Everywhere I went, it’s all people were talking about. Everybody was so friendly and happy, wish it could be that way all the time.”
After going 15-5 during the regular season and losing to Northern Neck District rival Northumberland High School in the district tournament final, anticipation started to build and the crowds started to grow as the Devils swept through the Region 1A tournament then defeated Riverheads High of Staunton, 69-49, in a Group 1 state quarterfinal. That win set up a fifth meeting between the NHS Indians and the Devils at King William High School on March 6 in the state semifinal.
The NHS-LHS semifinal drew a standing-room only crowd of 1600 with Lancaster coming out of the final four round victorious, 53-42. And that left two, the Devils and the Eastside Spartans, which brought to the state final a pair of 6’8” and 6’7” twin towers and a 25-2 record with no losses to Virginia High School League teams. The Devils weren’t fazed by either.
The powers-that-be at Lancaster County public schools made the call to close school Friday, March 9, to allow students and teachers to attend the game. The high school brought two student fan buses and there were children of all ages in the stands.
The Siegel Center was a sea of red, white and black for the 4 p.m. game with Lancaster fans claiming the majority of the seats. Thousands of LHS supporters made the trip, some, including alumni had driven from as far as Northern Virginia to see their Red Devils bring home the state crown. Folks took off from work. Owners closed shop early. Much of the county made an exodus across the Rappahannock River and east on I-64 to watch the game.
Those who couldn’t make the trip listened to WKWI as broadcasters Carroll Lee Ashburn and Demetrius Means called the play-by-play. And still others, like alums as far away as Chicago, live streamed the broadcast. Indeed, March Madness had come to Lancaster County and the feeling lingers.
Our boys. Our win. Our Red Devils pride.