Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

April 2, 2014

Public invited to Appreciation Night tomorrow

By Nick Gonnella
Greensburg Daily News

Greensburg — For one final time tomorrow night, the town of Greensburg will have a chance to gather in the high school gymnasium and share an evening with the State Champion Pirate basketball team.

Greensburg is hosting Community Appreciation night Thursday at 7 p.m., offering the general public the opportunity to meet, mingle with and congratulate the members of the two-time state champion squad. Everyone in the community is invited.

Local and state dignitaries were present at last year’s trophy presentation, along with current and past school administrators, staff, coaches and former players. A squad of police cruisers and fire trucks escorted the players, coaches and cheerleaders from last year’s team to the gym, so this year’s events won’t figure to disappoint, either.

More than 1,000 occupied the gym last year, and that number looks to be even larger tomorrow.

Head coach Stacy Meyer has seen the fan support led to full gymnasiums of Pirate fans cheering on the team, even on the road. In all 29 games, the Greensburg following undoubtedly outnumbered the crowds supporting the opposing teams.

“It’s been awesome. We’ve talked about it before,” said Meyer of the loyal Pirate backers. “When we go on the road, whether it be conference play or non-conference play during the season, we have the largest crowd.”

Whether longtime supporters or those who have only recently been able to see Greensburg games, the majority of fans enjoyed watching the team’s three-year run of 77-3 as the current group of starters won 96 percent of their games together.

“You’ve talked to these guys a lot over the last two and three years, and you can see why it’s so easy to rally behind them,” said Meyer after Saturday’s repeat championship. “They’re great kids with a very bright future, and I don’t know if people understand – we have good talent. We have great talent, but these guys all have sacrificed, whether it be scoring, or whatever that may be. All these guys have sacrificed stuff to be a great basketball team. That sounds simple, but it’s not. They put their egos away and it was all about winning. It was all about taking it day-to-day, game-to-game, and it worked. We couldn’t do it with all groups, but with these guys it was pretty easy.”

The players had a large following of relatives and extended family members, including junior forward Ryan Welage. His cousin, Claire Welage, is a senior, while her older sister Laura, a 2011 Greensburg graduate, is attending college at Marian University and has watched her cousin play in person.

“I just want to thank them for everything they’ve done” said Ryan of the fans. “They’ve been amazing, even at New Castle. We’ve had the best fans all year. Everywhere we go, they’re just amazing. I also want to thank my family for backing me up and supporting me all this time.”

Contact Nick Gonnella at (812) 663-3111, x7003.