FLANAGAN - It looks like more than half of the town of Flanagan may be in Normal tonight, wearing orange and black and cheering on their girls. Flanagan High School Principal Jerry Farris said the high school has sold more than 650 tickets to tonight's Class A girls basketball quarterfinals at Illinois State University's Redbird Arena in Normal. The population of the rural Livingston County town is about 1,000 people.
"It's not just about the team, it's the entire community," Farris said. "Everyone is supportive of the girls. The student body is all behind the team. There's just real excitement."
Tonight's game against 10th-ranked Spring Valley Hall marks the first time the Falcons have advanced to the Elite Eight for girls basketball.
Flanagan also is the only girls team in the Midstate Conference to advance to the state finals, according to Coach Jeff Sprouse.
Flanagan advanced to the Elite Eight after defeating ninth-ranked St. Joseph-Ogden on Monday. If they win tonight, they will play again Saturday in the semifinals to try to advance to Saturday night's championship.
On Thursday, the school hosted a send-off ceremony for the girls, who have been thrilling the entire town with their hoops all season. Going into the quarterfinals, Flanagan has a 28-3 record.
The team's captains thanked the student body from both Flanagan schools and the community for their support all season.
Teachers and students practiced cheers for tonight's game, and the trophies the team had already won were presented.
Farris said that when the girls are in town, the school's gymnasium is packed with fans.
"The community is really behind us," he said. "When there is a game, it's like the entire town is here."
Judy Jacobs, owner of Flanagan Florist and Garden Center, said she has spent the last few days delivering orange-and-black bows, balloons and corsages to the team and supporters.
"Everybody is just so excited," she said. "It is a small community, and we are just hoping they go all the way. Everyone around town is talking."
Most businesses were decked out in orange and black and sporting signs and flags. Earlier this week, students from the school helped to paint business windows and post banners praising the girls.
Senior Jackie Masters is looking forward to cheering on her classmates tonight. She said it has been an exciting season.
"We get dressed up all crazy and all wear orange and black," she said. "To get this our senior year is just pretty cool."