ANTIGO (WAOW) -- The WIAA High School Basketball tournament kicks off Thursday in Madison. And the Antigo boys are the only team heading to state to represent north central Wisconsin.
They left Wednesday morning, hoping to cap off a perfect 21 and 0 regular season with a state title.
"It's just a great feeling for us and our fans and our community," said senior Jordan Mach.
"I'm so excited," said senior Mat Littlejohn. "We had to come to first hour and I couldn't even do anything. All I could think about was going down there and playing on the Kohl Center court."
But the community couldn't let the team leave without a proper farewell. They packed the gym to say farewell.
It's the first tournament birth in 15 years for Antigo. The last one came in 1995 under Coach John Mielke, who now leads the Red Robins first opponent, Appleton East.
"He took the last team to state," explained head coach Jesse Shaw. "Ironically, they played Appleton East in the state tournament and lost by one. So we're hoping to change that course of history now as we take our team down 15 years later."
For the players, a shot at a state title is an opportunity of a lifetime.
"I remember back when I was little," Mach said. "playing basketball in my driveway, thinking about going to state. Now it came true. It's just unbelievable."
"Coach has talked defense, the whole year he's preached defense and I think that's our strong point with our team," Littlejohn explained. "And our bench has definitely helped our starters out."
And now that they're on their way, a new goal for team is to bring back that golden ball.
"Play hard, play smart, play together," said Coach Shaw. "Those are our 3 goals."
The Antigo boys tip off against Appleton East at 1:35 p.m. Thursday. You can catch the action on Newsline 9.