PANDORA — Pandora-Gilboa no longer can be called the only school in Putnam County to never send an athletic team to the state championship. To say that has their fans ecstatic would be an understatement.
It’s been bedlam in the southeastern part of the county since the Rockets beat Crestview 70-58 in the regional finals Friday. The team will take a 26-1 record into Thursday’s 2 p.m. state semifinal game against Marion Local (23-4) at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus.
Carol Williams, of Pandora, said the welcome the boys received when they returned home after the regional game was amazing.
“The police and fire departments from Pandora and Gilboa met us at [U.S. Route] 224,” she said. “They escorted the team through both towns.”
Stinky’s Country Well set off fireworks while the team passed through Gilboa. Pandora residents covered the light poles in toilet paper when the team passed through town, Williams said.
“The thing is, it’s good for the town,” said Nathan Sprunger, owner of Sprunger Insurance in Pandora. “We had two after games meals at the community center. We’ve been watching them play since they were little.”
Sprunger said the team started out in peewee together, played in junior high together and moved up to high school. Their freshman year, they only won three games all season and now they’re going to state, he said. While there have been injuries and changes over the years, it’s still basically the same team, he said. The injuries have been severe over the years too, causing some players to miss entire seasons of basketball while they healed, Sprunger said.
“This team has faced a lot of adversity,” he said. “But they stuck with it.”
Gina Schlumbohm said high school teams getting to play in state championship games bring small towns like Gilboa and Pandora closer together with the consolidated schools. People who normally wouldn’t meet or interact with one another do through a common investment in the local high school athletic teams, she said.
“It’s really exciting they’re going,” Schlumbohm said. “I’m proud of the team, they were able to get this far.”
Mayor John Schlumbohm signed a proclamation declaring this week as P-G Rockets Spirit Week, he said. It’s something he has done before for individuals making it to state championships in track and field and other athletic events like those but this is the first time he’s ever done it for a team.
Reach Bryan Reynolds at 567-242-0362.