After a day that Madison County basketball fans will never forget, they came together to celebrate the boys who gave them something to remember.
A huge crowd turned out to cheer the new state high school basketball champions at Madison Central High School on Sunday night. Fire trucks paraded the team and cheerleaders down Main Street, which was lined with fans, then brought the team to the packed school gym.
The crowd cheered when principal Elmer Thomas ran out holding the Sweet Sixteen championship trophy, the first in the school's history.
After introducing the staff and team, Madison Central coach Allen Feldhaus Jr. thanked everyone for their support during the team's wild tournament ride.
Earlier in the day, Richmond might have looked deserted, because many of those fans had headed to Rupp Arena for the finals.
"I'd say half of Richmond is here," Carey Parks said before the game. "There must be 15,000 fans here from Richmond alone. Look at all the red and blue."
With official attendance set at 17,351, the crowd might not have been quite that lopsided, but by the end, it seemed like it.
What does a win mean?
"Everything," said Julie LaFever of Richmond. "It will mean a lot to the community."
Especially, she said, to fans of Dominique Haw kins, the senior guard getting lots of looks from University of Kentucky Wildcat coach John Calipari. "We're hoping this isn't his last Rupp Arena game. My son says he's a very nice guy."
Marie Rose of Richmond confirmed that.
Her son, Robert Estill, coached Hawkins "from the time he was little. It's really special seeing him here for this his senior year."
At halftime, with her team down by 12 points, Rose and her friend Betsy Campbell were ready for them to get serious. "They better come on and get with it. We're behind now, but we're going to get in it," Rose said.
For a while, things looked grim. But the band and cheerleaders rallied parents in the lower level and students in an upper level section filled with Indians fans. They sported face paint and Mardi Gras beads.
Grace Brock, 14, a Madison Central freshman, wore a homemade feathered headdress. She said she felt lucky to be starting high school on such a high.
"I think that all (the 2012) seniors are jealous, that they graduated last year," Brock said.
Right in the middle was senior Tyler Beardsley, 18, in an electric blue Mohawk wig and red and blue war paint.
"It's the big game. Got to go all out for the last game," Beardsley said. "I kind of wanted to make a big deal out of it. ... This is a treat for our senior year."
He predicted that with the championship, "the next week is going to be pretty crazy."
On its website, the school district urged everyone to wear red, white and blue Monday.
Because Madison Central was in the tournament, the district closed its schools on Wednesday and Friday for the earlier-round games. Many students took advantage of that to attend the tournament in Lexington.
"We've been to every game," said Anslee Wood, 12, with her brother, Logan Wood, 10. They're students at B. Michael Caudill Middle School and White Hall Elementary, respectively. Both are basketball players.
"This is Kentucky. Basketball is really big here," Logan Wood explained earnestly.
They were there to see history, they said.
"If they win, it will be the first time we ever won state," Anslee Wood said. "We want to see them win."
They got their wish.
Janet Patton: (859) 231-3264. Twitter: @janetpattonhl.