HENNESSEY — As the Hennessey girls basketball team slept on the team bus driving home from Weatherford on Saturday, they were stirred by the coaches around midnight.
There was a surprise party about to happen.
“Get up,” someone on the coaching staff said. “This is the worst party we’ve ever been to. You all should be excited.”
As the players started waking up, the lights started appearing down Main Street.
The community was waiting for the team’s arrival to celebrate making the Class 2A state tournament for the first time since 2000.
“You can just hear everyone outside making all kinds of noise, honking, flashing their lights,” junior Kylee Blehm said. “We were just overwhelmed with the constant support of our school coming together that night and cheering us on with a great student section. The support is just overwhelming for all of us.”
The Eagles, the lowest-ranked team in the field at No. 19, open the tournament at Westmoore on Thursday at 2 p.m., and they have their hands full with tournament favorite Millwood.
But making the state tournament alone signals a change for the program that started with the hiring of coach Marty McBride over the summer.
McBride spent the past eight seasons coaching at Chattanooga and has coached in eight state tournaments, finishing runner-up once. His first action as coach was telling his team they possessed the talent to make the tournament and they would do that very thing.
The problem, though, was really making the Eagles believe that.
“Some of these girls hadn’t played in an area tournament,” McBride said. “It’s hard to know what you want to do if you haven’t experienced it or even thought about it. We talked about it earlier, but I don’t know if they really believed that was a possibility. Until we got closer and closer, I think they started to believe more and more.”