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Leesburg basketball state champions honored with parade and ceremony

Leesburg High School’s 2017 boys basketball state championship team was honored with a parade through downtown Leesburg followed by a celebration in the Leesburg High School gymnasium.

The Yellow Jackets won the Class 6A state title on March 4, beating the Cape Coral Mariners 57-53.  

The school won a state championship in 2011 and its first in 1977. Four members of that 1977 team participated in the March 23 parade and ceremony, but the spotlight was on the 2017 team, which celebrated 16 straight wins before winning the championship game.

Crowds gathered along Main Street to applaud the team as they rode in on a float, led by a marching band, the team mascot and cheerleaders. Shortly after the parade, the crowd gathered in the gym to offer official congratulations, take pictures and watch the players ceremonially cut down the net.

“Despite individual hardship and hostile environments at some away games, you were always there to support these guys and it made a difference,” Principal Dennis Neal told the excited crowd watching in the gym.

Some of that individual hardship involved a player tragically losing his home in a house fire just before the big game. The team rallied around him and supported him like a family.

“I thought I couldn’t have been more proud of you until I heard that story,” Superintendent Diane Kornegay told the boys as she highlighted the strength and character they displayed toward one of their own in his time of need. She also spoke highly of their volunteer work in the community, including visiting a group of boys at Leesburg Elementary School recently to encourage them to do well in school.

“You are their champions on and off the court,” Ms. Kornegay said.

Leesburg Mayor Robert Bone thanked the team for “bringing pride to Leesburg and bringing a positive outlook to the city.”