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NORMAL - Flanagan Lady Falcon basketball fans agreed it's more than hard work that carried the team to a fourth-place finish in the state tournament.

"These girls have been playing together since junior high," said Phil Conner, a Flanagan High School football coach. "And now they're getting their reward for staying together over the years."

Hundreds of Lady Falcon fans - nearly all of them wearing bright orange - packed section M at Illinois State University's Redbird Arena Saturday afternoon to watch the team in the state semifinals. Flanagan lost to Okawville in the afternoon and Carthage in the evening.

"It's been a work in progress. Like anything else, the ingredients (for success) are hard work, time and a positive attitude," said Jerry Farris, Flanagan High School principal.

Peggy Forney of Graymont said the girls on the team support each other whether they're playing or on the bench.

"They're always cheering each other on," she said. "They're each other's biggest cheerleaders."

Forney said she's been to almost every game this season because her daughter, Meganne, a junior, plays on the team.

"The girls just excel. They focus on their goals and achieve them," she said. "And they're good students and all-around great kids."

Forney said the team has seen a lot of support from the communities of Cornell and Flanagan, not to mention the student body and teachers.

"This feels like a big old family event," she said of Saturday afternoon's game against Okawville.

Phyllis Smith of Flanagan said both towns have the school's colors, black and orange, everywhere.

Lisa Leonard of Cornell said she knows people in Pontiac who stand behind the team.

"I work at the hospital (in Pontiac) and everyone that comes in says they're rooting for the Lady Falcons to win," she said.

Leonard's daughter, Brittany, is a senior on the team.

"The great thing about the team is there's no individual standout. They all just mesh really well together," she said.

Smith added that the girls have learned how each other plays.

"They just know where the other person's going to be when they're about to pass. They can just feel it," she said.

But Leonard believes the success of the team was built on the fundamental skills they learned when they were young.

"Every coach they ever had worked on fundamentals. And that's given them a good foundation to be able to get here," she said.

"This team is the talk of both Flanagan and Cornell," Phil Conner said. "For the school, it's the most exciting thing that's happened in a long time."

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