HERMITAGE, Pennsylvania (WKBN) – Following Monday night’s thrilling win over Lincoln Park in the Western Final, Hickory is on the verge of a major milestone.
The Hornets are heading to state for the first time since 1961. They are heading to Hershey with the goal of winning the first basketball state title in program history.
“This really feels surreal,” Senior Peyton Mele said. “We’re trying to soak up this experience as much as we can. And like I said, it feels surreal.”
“Slowly it’s getting there, but I still can’t believe that we’re heading there,” Head Coach Chris Mele admitted.
Advancing to the state championship game has been a year-long process. Last season, the Hornets saw their tournament run abruptly cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is disappointment that has fueled the team throughout this season in a journey they call the revenge tour.
“We want to get revenge for last year,” Mele added. “We had a great run and a great team last year cut short by COVID. So, not only do these kids want to win it for this group, they want to win it for last year’s team. So, that’s been our motto: “The e revenge tour.”
“We got cut short. That feeling, it was in all of our guts. We all felt that,” Senior Matt Cannone said. “We just knew that if we kept our head down, worked hard, and didn’t listen to any of the outside noise, and just played our game, that we could make it, and here we are.”
The Hornets’ recipe for success has been defense, allowing opposing teams to score an average of just 43 points per game.
“I feel like that’s our identity. Defense comes first, and then offense. We’ve been preaching that defense is gonna win championships,” added Mele.
“Guys are bought in defensively. We’ve had games where we haven’t been great offensively, but we’ve been able to turn up the heat defensively,” Mele explained.
At 23-4, Hickory has already made program history this season. The Hornets becoming the first in school history to win three consecutive District Ten Championships in basketball.
“Now, our name is gonna go up there in immortality. No one has won a state title. So, that’s our next piece of history we’re hoping to get,” Mele said.
Hickory will face Allentown Central Catholic in the PIAA Class 4A State Championship on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the Giant Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
“It would be a great achievement. We haven’t even been to the state final in 60 years. It’s just an amazing achievement, and I think we can get it done and bring it home,” added Cannone.