Red Raiders fans from across the community gathered at La Crosse Central High School to welcome the state champions back home. A fire truck escorted the team bus to the high school.
"It's very exciting. So, I feel like it will hit me a little bit later. It's kind of surreal right now," said Kobe King, senior at La Crosse Central.
With the gold ball in hand, players and coaches made their way to the podium in front of the crowd.
The pep rally was emotional with senior player. Bailey Kale. tearing up during his speech.
"I don't mean to cry," Kale said. "It's happy tears. Don't worry about it. I'm just so happy we could do this for not only our team and the coaches but our families and for the community and this city. You know, we brought it back guys."
The pep rally marked the end of a high school basketball career for some.
"Winning a state championship, that's a dream for like all of us," said Mitchell Lash, senior at La Crosse Central. "We've always been dreaming about that for like forever. Us seniors--fifth grade. That was our first state tournament, and I mean we lost. But ever since then, we've been trying to win a state tournament."
Others will get another chance at a state tournament.
"It's a great feeling," said Jonathan Davis, freshman at La Crosse Central. "It's an even better feeling to know that we're going to be back though."
This group of guys was more than a team. They became a family.
"I'll know those boys forever, and they're going to be my brothers forever. I've been with them since I was a little kid so it's been a great journey and this is the best way to end it. So, I love all them," King said.
Some team members took family one step further.
"My son's a sophomore on the team, so he didn't play a lot this year," said Tony Servais, assistant coach for the basketball team. "But, he was still part of the team. He was still with us every day at practice working hard. And just to have my son on the team with us is just special, a memory we'll both have together forever."
The players said they were thankful for the community support.
"We had so many fans. I remember talking to Coach Padesky about it," Kale said. "I was just like, look at all that red in the section. There was so many of you guys. You can't put into words how amazing it is to look up there and see everyone cheering for us."
The team now looks toward the future.
"Hopefully, I can bring some winning ways to Wisconsin," King said. "Make some deep tournament runs and make some even bigger memories."
Members of the team said the pep rally was a great welcome back to La Crosse, but after spending the weekend on the court, they plan to go home and relax.