FAIRFIELD, Ohio - UC and Xavier fans aren't the only ones excited about basketball in the Tri-State right now. There's a lot of excitement in the city of Fairfield as well. That's because the Fairfield boy's basketball team is in Columbus to play in the state basketball semi-finals. Also known as the "Final Four," this is the first time Fairfield has ever made it to the state semi-finals.
Several thousand students, parents and community leaders attended a rally for the team Thursday afternoon, just before the team boarded a chartered bus for Columbus. Fairfield will face Pickerington Central in the Division 1 semi-final game Friday evening at the Schottenstein Center on the Ohio State University campus.
"I'm a graduate of '81 in Fairfield," said Mary Beth Brown. "I'm excited they're able to do it. It's so exciting."
Students and fans were asked to wear red in support of the team. A number of students wore "Final Four" T-shirts which on the back had the phrase "I believe."
The high school band and cheerleaders led the way for the basketball team as it made its way to the front of the school for the afternoon rally. Several students told 9 News why they believe the Fairfield Indians can win the state championship.
"I think the main thing is team chemistry," said Fairfield junior Alex Potunas. "We're obviously not a very athletic team. But, chemistry's carrying us all the way."
Fellow classmate Matt Wiencek agreed. "We've got the energy and they got us behind them...We help them out and they do it for us on the court. That's why I believe."
Watching the team make it to the semi-final tournament in Columbus is especially exciting for school principal Billy Smith. His son plays on the team and Smith played basketball for Fairfield years ago when he attended the high school.
"The atmosphere has been amazing," said Smith. "I've never seen our student body so united and not just our student body but our entire community as well."
Some businesses around Fairfield have added acknowledgements of the team to their outdoor signs. The city of Fairfield has set up a mobile digital sign on Route 4 to congratulate the team.
"Thanks to the community that's been awesome all week," Coach Tim Austing told the crowd. He also thanked the school administration and "the largest student section in the state of Ohio that's been with us this whole time," which led to the crowd erupting in cheers.
Team co-captains James Turner and Devon Barlow also had comments for their fans.
"We just want to thank you guys for coming out to the games," said Turner. "We're going to treat this like a business trip. And, we're going to try to come back with a championship trophy for you guys," Turner continued as the crowd again cheered.
The students and supporters were then led in a school chant of "I believe" as the team members made their way to the chartered bus.
High school students will be released early on Friday to give them time to make it to Columbus for the game.
Stay with 9 News for updates on the Fairfield Indians in the state basketball tournament.