The Rogers High School drum corps boomed its way through the school halls this morning to stir the too-long-suffering Pirate pride.
Its underdog boys basketball team was about to embark on a journey to the state 3A championship tournament in Tacoma, the first time that Rogers has gone to state in basketball since 1975.
“It means everything,” said Jacob Partridge, a senior forward and one of the team leaders.
His father, Mark Partridge, joined a morning send-off rally.
“This is great for the kids. It’s good for the community,” he said.
The Pirates take on Vancouver’s Columbia River High School at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Tacoma Dome in the first round of the 16-team tournament. Shadle Park High School, which also qualified, plays Franklin High School at 9 a.m.
What makes Rogers’ journey more remarkable is the fact that the team posted a losing record of 9-11 during the regular season, dropping five of its last six league games, and then went on a three-win tear in the regional playoffs, including a victory over Shadle Park.
“I’ll tell you, we went through a lot of games where there were close calls and the kids fought all the way,” said D.J. Potter, a Rogers alum and coach of a Hillyard-area AAU program that helped the players develop their skills over the past five years.
“They’ve been playing hard and knowing how to win for a period of time, and it actually showed down the stretch,” Potter said.
He was among the volunteer coaches who took the players to games and tournaments week after week in the spring and summer in an effort to bring some success to Rogers basketball.
A sign hanging from the second-floor mezzanine of the school’s year-old cafeteria summed up the attitude: “Why Not Celebrate Success. Congratulations Pirates.”
Eron Foote, also a youth basketball coach, said the new building additions and renovation of the historic high school have made a difference as well.
“Change of environment and a new school have definitely helped,” he said.
Sam Fletcher, a junior who plays on the junior varsity basketball team, said the team’s secret is tenacity. “They are hard-working players,” he said. “They don’t want to lose. They took out Shadle Park because they are sick of losing.”
Coach Tim Wood said going to state is something his players have talked about since they were freshmen. “We didn’t think it was out of the question,” he said.
Senior cheerleader Kathie Ross, wearing one of the bright uniforms donated to the cheer squad last summer by two Rogers alums, said going to the state tournament will be one of the high points of her high school years.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “It’s really cool to be a senior and have this much happen.”
“Winning is not something we are used to, but (now) it’s something that’s expected.”