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REBECCA BARNETT | The Roanoke Times
Salem seniors Allie Garst (from left), Courtney Hopkins and Kirston Kesler cheer during a pep rally Friday for the boys and girls basketball teams.
REBECCA BARNETT | The Roanoke Times
Salem senior Coraleigh Jones cheers during a pep rally at Salem High School on Friday.
Saturday, March 9, 2013
The bus seating will go the way the bus seating must go.
Boys in the front, girls in the back. No defections! There is only one way to win, you see. A proven way.
And that is boys in the front, girls in the back on the way up to Richmond, girls in the front, boys in the back on the way home to Salem.
Different movies will be watched (“300” is on the menu this time, so you know this is big). Different food will be thrown. But the seating is nonnegotiable. It must be the same as it was Tuesday, when the Salem boys and girls basketball teams traveled together — and won together — for the first time.
“We’re actually very superstitious about that,” Salem senior Matt Hill said.
And why wouldn’t they be? This is one team, not two. Oh, the schedule says the girls play for the Group AA Division 4 title at 7 p.m. today and the boys play for the Group AA Division 4 championship at 9 p.m. today. Two separate games, two separate opponents, two separate trophies.
But really there is one team heading to Richmond today: Salem High School.
“I’m really good friends with them,” Salem guard John Repass said of the girls team. “I grew up with Tessa Foley. She used to live across the street from me.
“We’ve been best friends through middle school, high school. I’m really excited for her.”
The feeling is mutual. After the girls take on Courtland in the early game, they plan to stick around and cheer on the boys facing Grafton in the late one.
Yes, they know that could be bittersweet if they should happen to lose.
“Of course it’d be tough,” Salem guard Tay Taylor said. “But we always want to be supportive of our guys. Hopefully they know that we would always be there to support them.”
They do. And the boys will return the favor at 7, making sure to be present and cheering at tipoff of the girls game. They plan to get dressed at halftime, then hold a brief team meeting at the end of the third quarter. They’ll watch the end from the tunnel before coming out for warm-ups.
“I think for our guys, it provides kind of a level of comfort,” Salem boys coach Kevin Garst said of the girls team’s presence. “You get in that big environment and you see people you know, another team kind of experiencing the same thing. So it’s really been comforting and relaxing in a way.”
The Salem boys and girls played on the same night often during the regular season, so this is all new. Tuesday marked the first time they’d traveled together — a jocular bus ride that got more serious the closer they got to Richmond.
The school held a pep rally Friday to salute both teams, which will depart together at 10:30 a.m. today for the state capital.
“I’m sure if we both win states, we’re going to go crazy together,” Hill said. “We’re going to try to pull a couple of pranks on ’em. I know I definitely am. Tay and I have been talking about it in English.”
The whole school gathered for the pep rally, and two buses of students are expected to head to Richmond today.
“It’s good for both teams to be able to see each other win and compete,” girls coach DeWayne Harrell said. “We’re going to stick around and help them win a game.”
That’s the goal: that somebody comes back to the Roanoke Valley a winner.
“I love that they’ve gotten this far,” Foley said of the boys team. “Nobody expected that. It’s great that they’re here too. I’m glad to share it with them.
“If we don’t win, I hope that they win. I just want to bring home a title, whether it’s them or us.”
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