Updated Mon, Mar 24, 2014 4:44 pm
Putting a smile on hundreds of faces at once might not be the easiest task for your average group of 14-18 year olds, but the Eastern Lady Eagles have united an entire community in joy after bringing home a state basketball championship.
Tuesday night, Eastern High School hosted a celebration in its gymnasium to celebrate the basketball players that brought the school its first state title in any sport.
The Reedsville/Tupper Plains community, as well as citizens from throughout Meigs County came to honor their Lady Eagles, who had bundles of awards and good words heaped upon them.
Apart from judges, politicians, banks, alumni, coaches, cheerleaders, and every form of occupation and business that existed in the tri-valley area, hundreds of fans flocked to The Nest to cheer on its team. The team received items ranging from plaques, to certificates, to flowers and gift cards for food.
Meigs County Commissioner Randy Smith proclaimed March 15th (the day the Eagles won the championship) forever to be “Lady Eagle Day” in the County. Debbie Phillips of the 92nd district of Ohio was in attendance, and Lou Gentile of the 30th district was spoken for by Phillips. Phillips noted that the Lady Eagles will get to visit the state house and be commemorated for their success in the near future. Bill Johnson of Ohio’s sixth district also had someone in person for the event.
Smith also mentioned how the combined GPA for the Lady Eagles was a 3.78, while five of the athletes were National Honor Society members.
Ohio Valley Bank President Dan Short even presented the team with $1,000 to be put towards championship rings.
The five seniors received applause throughout the evening that commemorated not only this season, but also the work the seniors and the team have put together in their basketball career.
Sheriff Keith Wood presented a plaque from the county to head coach John Burdette in commemoration of the victory. Wood also showed, to the pleasure of the audience, the parade route the Eagles the day after the championship game. Wood unveiled a picture of an Eagle, showing how he had designed the route to take the form of an Eagle.
Eastern boys basketball Head Coach Jeremy Hill told stories about the team and detailed how he had once told the girls to “take it easy” on one of their opponents and about the hounding he received from the girls for that comment.
Hill also discussed a text message conversation between he and John Burdette had after the regional championship game with Hill explaining how he had asked for John to save him some room in the trophy case. John responded, “We’ll just build another one.”
“Ladies I’m going to tell you that every one of these 30-40-50-60-70-year-old men and women, they would love to be in your shoes,” said Hill. “You guys have accomplished something that very few people are fortunate enough to do.”
The boys’ team then presented the girls team with gift cards to enjoy a team meal together. They also presented the girls’ coaches with gas cards purchased out of Hill’s own pocket, as the coaches had put in hundreds of miles for scouting this tournament season.
The seniors came to the podium and Jenna Burdette, manager Abby Hawley, and Maddie Rigsby all spoke to raucous cheers and multiple standing ovations.
The Lady Eagles even signed autographs for fans young and old afterwards and conversed with the community. It was a grand moment for the Eastern High School community and the area, and an opportunity to celebrate something they could all look upon fondly and produce hope for future generations.
“I’ve always believed in these kids,” said John Burdette. “They’re a group of hard workers.”
Burdette also credited past teams and coaches in the program that had laid the foundation for the state championship run.
“The older girls always pushed and pushed and pushed, and that’s what we have to do in our program, because I don’t want this to be the last.”