DES MOINES, Iowa -- Ahead of North High School’s biggest varsity basketball game in 26 years, a proper send – off was in order.
On Wednesday, the high school gymnasium packed full of students for the school’s first state basketball tournament sendoff pep rally since 1991. The team rolled over Ankeny 88 – 68 to clinch a spot in the high school boy’s state basketball tournament last week.
“It’s been a long journey. When I started here at North 10 years ago it was considered the worst basketball program in the state so to get here it’s sweet,” says head coach, Chad Ryan.
The team’s success story has helped unify the student body and gained community support. More than 1500 tickets were purchased through the school and students say they have something to prove to their competition.
“When you’re from a Des Moines city school, the other suburb schools automatically look down upon you and they assume that your culture is bad,” says senior forward, Jal Bijek. “Today we’re showing that we can all come together and just make for a better cause to come together as family.”
That family mentality echoes across the Des Moines Public School District. In a Facebook post by the district, several schools showed their support by displaying “ we are all polar bears” on their school’s welcome signs.
During the pep rally, the school revealed the team’s state qualifying banner, a moment Bijek says he’ll never forget.
‘I`m going to have bragging rights for the rest of my life. They won’t be able to say anything to me. It just means a lot. I love it,” he laughs.
No. 7 North will face off against No. 2 West Des Moines Valley in the first round of the tournament. Ryan says he’s preparing his team as he would for any other game.
“They know it’s a big deal for the community but as far as basketball is concerned, they just view it as another game,” he says. “I think this could be a great game. I think the fans will get their money’s worth tonight.”
The game starts at 8:15.