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Garner celebrates Trojans’ win

Nearly a week after their state championship win Garner Magnet High was still buzzing.

Shortly after the bell rang Wednesday, hundreds of students began to file into Trojan stadium like herds to celebrate the school’s first ever 4A NCHSAA boy’s basketball championship. They were joined by school staff and a few community members as well.

The Garner boy’s basketball team beat Charlotte’s Ardrey Kell 70-64 Saturday.

As they passed by the players on the way to their seats, they gave them high-fives and told them good job. The players looked like local celebrities.

“A lot of people have been showing us a lot of love around the town of Garner,” senior guard Julius Barnes, the game’s MVP, said. “Even out of Garner, in Raleigh. It’s good seeing yourself and your team in the paper and on the news.”

Head coach Eddie Gray said the same.

“The town of Garner is a tight-knit community,” Gray, a 1970 graduate of Garner, said. “It is unbelievable the number of phone calls, text messages, emails – I don’t do ‘Tweeter’ – that I have received from kids that have been part of this program, part of this school for the last five decades. You try to keep things into perspective, but what I’m so proud of is the fact that this is one more thing that has brought this community together.”

He said he spent about five hours on his flip phone thanking people for the congratulatory texts and emails.

Those in the stands were nearly as loud as they were at the game. They shouted the “I believe that we will win” chant, but modified it.

“I believe. I believe that we’re state champs. I believe that we’re state champs,” those in the crowd chanted.

Gray said everyone that has been part of the program and any one “that calls themselves a Garner graduate,” can share in this championship.

“What it means to me is the fact that we have been able to touch so many lives with this school system,” he said. “I’m a big advocate of public schools and this is what public schools is all about.”

It is the fourth championship in the school’s history overall, joining the 1978 baseball and girls basketball teams and the 1987 football team. The team presented the plaque to Garner principal Carter Hillman to put on display.

He raised it and the crowd roared.

Hillman said he also received emails congratulating the school from as far as California.

“It’s great,” Hillman, who is in his first year at Garner, said. “These kind of things don’t come around very often. You always hope for them every year and everyone drives for them, but only one team ends up on the top every year of every sport and I’m just real happy for this school. I’m lucky that I’m here to have witnessed it.”

Hillman said the state championship win was really good for the school in many aspects.

“It’s not a shock. It’s not a surprise. But there’s almost that gasp of ‘Wow! Look what we did. Look what can be accomplished,” Hillman said. “And that’s something that can be passed on to any student in any classroom as motivation.”

Alexander: 919-829-4822;

Twitter: @GarnerCleveland