GREENSBURG — Hundreds of Pirates supporters erupted in cheers and applause in a sea of Pirate blue Thursday night as their hometown heroes, the state champion basketball team, entered the high school gymnasium among oscillating lights, artificial fog and phat beats.
The school had organized the event to allow Pirate fans to celebrate the team’s accomplishments, to witness the trophy presentation and to bid farewell to the nine seniors who will graduate this year.
The community celebration was equal parts pomp and restraint. The players’ entrance into the darkened arena, with lights and music, evoked a professional basketball game atmosphere — while earnest words about the community’s travails and the players’ character and conduct served as a reminder of the community’s small-town values.
Head coach Stacy Meyer told some personal stories about the players and shared two Top 10 lists that helped explain the team’s success. The high school band brought to the celebration a few notes of ceremony and cheer, especially with its rendition of the Queen classic “We are the Champions.”
The evening’s solemnity was interrupted occasionally by flourishes of fun — as when Meyer shared stories about some of the boys’ bodily functions — and symptoms of sadness — as when Mayor Gary Herbert told the players that their success helped the community through some emotionally difficult times.
Many of the speakers, including Herbert, Superintendent Tom Hunter and Athletic Director Bill Edwards, praised the team’s athletic accomplishments, but also noted the player’s academic achievements and their respectful conduct off the court.
“We’re proud of you,” said Herbert.
Audience members frequently got to their feet to show how much they respect the team’s hard work and dedication. They also clapped their hands occasionally during a video presentation of the season’s highlights, which featured game footage — crisp passes, elegant layups and authoritative dunks — but also the quiet moments before the games, such as players wearing headphones on a bus headed to another tournament.