BRADENTON -- When the crowd gets loud, it rattles the other team and energizes the Bradenton Christian School boys basketball team.
That was the resounding theme BCS players brought back with them, as the school held a pep rally in the gymnasium to celebrate the team's runner-up finish in the state Class 2A tournament. Although the team lost 87-63 to Boca Raton Grandview Prep on Wednesday, the school celebrated the season with fanfare after school. The sounds of the drumline, the cheerleaders and screaming fans filled the gym on Thursday, mimicking the racket the student section created during every home game.
"We play for you guys," senior JT Noellert
said. "You drive us to play a lot better."
For the students who watched the run to the state championship from the stands each game, getting loud and supporting the team made them the sixth man.
"We did so many chants; it was just really fun to be here," 16-year-old sophomore Nick Swaagman said. "Every game that we cheered for them, it really influenced the other team in how they played. That's really what the whole crowd was, the sixth man to the team."
Swaagman said it was upsetting the team lost, and that even though the program was graduating a lot of seniors, he hoped future teams would continue the success started this year. Bradenton Christian is losing its entire starting five, which earned the program's first trip to the state title game since 1997 and first final four since 2009.
The team's success had a huge effect on the atmosphere at the school, said Hannah Hamilton, a 14-year-old eighth-grade student and a cheerleader.
"The whole school was going crazy," she said.
"We were just all hyped," 17-year-old junior Bryanna Calhoun, another cheerleader, added.
And even though the team lost, with the help of the fans, it felt like the team won.
"You guys definitely made it feel like we were first," said Jake Lister, a senior on the team.
But as much as the team attributed its success to the fans, the fans turned it around and said they wouldn't have been at the games if it weren't for sure a great team.
"We wouldn't be there if it weren't for their talent and their incredible season," 16-year-old sophomore Winston Spencer said. "It was a gift to us to watch them."
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.