The equivalent of a fifth of the population of Mount Vernon turned out Sunday to welcome home the Rockcastle County High School girls' basketball team after its historic state championship.
About 2 p.m. Sunday, the team rode into town atop three fire engines at the head of a convoy of honking vehicles.
The championship victory, which came on a last-second shot by guard Angie Lawrence in overtime against Manual, was the program's first state title.
The nearly 500 people who packed the high school gym started to arrive about 1 p.m. Some wore championship T-shirts and waved pompons. The crowd roared as the team pulled up.
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The girls held hands and prayed during the ceremony, thanking God and their fans.
This year's team has had several standout players, Coach Chrysti Noble said, including Lawrence and Sara Hammond, Kentucky's first McDonald's All-American and the tournament's most valuable player.
The coach credited the team's "perfect chemistry" as key to the championship. They also had good leaders, she said. This year's team had a large contingent of seniors, each of whom gave thank-you speeches Sunday.
For Noble, 43, the win was the high point in her 21-year coaching career, she said. She has taken a team to the Sweet Sixteen seven times but had never brought home the title.
The team and its fans were hoarse from cheering and weary after traveling from Bowling Green, where the tournament was held.
"But it's a good kind of weary," Noble said.