Small town hoop dreams: Gibraltar gathers for team sendoff

Published: Mar. 17, 2022 at 9:55 AM CDT
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GIBRALTAR, Wis. (WBAY) - A small town’s basketball dreams are coming true.

On Thursday, the community of Gibraltar gathered to send off their boys basketball team to the State Tournament. This marks the first time the school has ever been to State.

The team left for Madison on a school bus Thursday morning, escorted by local rescue crews. Gibraltar has a population of just over 1,000 people.

“It’s a big thing for our seniors,” Carl Burgess, a junior on the Gibraltar boys basketball team shared. “They’ve done a lot for us and I think all of us are just trying to come together and just really make a state push this year because we know it’s their last year.”

On the menu at school Thursday, “it’s one of their favorite things today, popcorn chicken bites,” Gibraltar school nutrition specialist for grades K-12, Carla Marr, emphasized. “I should have given them some for the bus.”

Gibraltar plays Randolph in the Division 5 semifinals Friday at 9:05 a.m.

“Going into every class, everyone is wishing you good luck,” sophomore player for Gibraltar, Braden Sitte, highlighted. “It’s just unbelievable.”

“I call them my boys because that’s kind of what they are,” assistant athletic director at Gibraltar, Peggy Tanck, emphasized. “They’re my kids that I just love and care about. I’m here for them if they need anything.”

Head Coach Justin Burress says he likes being considered an underdog.

“All of a sudden about mid-way through our seasons, this year in particular, it was standing room only,” Burress shared. “You can see that it’s not the biggest gym in the world but it’s not small and we were packing it to the point where people were having to watch through the windows.”

“I just heard an interview from their coach the other day and they knew nothing about us. They haven’t even looked at our film yet. They didn’t even know that we have a big 7-foot player. I’m sure they’re scouting us a little more seriously. Sometimes being the Cinderella story or the under dog when you have nothing to lose, you can be pretty dangerous,” Burress said.

There will be no classes at Gibraltar schools Friday so the community can travel to see the team play. Fan buses will leave the school bright and early at 4:30 a.m. The school is already selling through their designated 1,000 tickets let alone separate online sales for their fans.

“I think we’re a really tight knit family and the energy right now is through the roof with all the fan support,” a junior on Gibraltar’s boys’ basketball team, Bela Salm, said.

There were also “Go Vikings” signs up in local businesses in Fish Creek supporting the Gibraltar boys basketball team. Some of them were even closing up shop for game day so they could go to Madison to watch all the action.

“We’re going tomorrow so we’re going to close the store,” Stephen Jones, co-owner of Fish Creek Market, highlighted. Jones has three daughters and two of them are in the Gibraltar school district. They will be going down to the game with he and his wife Friday morning. “Anything we can do to support them. This is really special.”

We have several other local teams competing at the State Tournament. Neenah plays Racine Friday at 6:35 p.m. in the Division 1 semifinal.

Ashwaubenon plays Pewaukee Friday at 1:35 p.m. in the Division 2 semifinal.

Brillion plays West Salem at 1:35 p.m. in the Division 3 semifinal.

Roncalli plays Marshall will play Thursday at about 6:50 p.m. in the Division 4 semifinals.

CLICK HERE for the full tournament bracket.

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