Cardinal Country rallies around state champs

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THORP, Wis. (WEAU)- The community of Thorp filled the Cardinal gym to welcome home their team. Fresh off the bus from Madison, the boys entered the packed gym to a standing ovation.

The Thorp Cardinals entered the state tournament with less wins than any other team, but left Madison as champions after defeating Green Bay N-E-W Lutheran 49 to 42.

“There is no better way to go out then with a gold ball,” senior forward Dakota Lindgren said.

“Emotions were out of the roof. Everyone was happy but sad but happy again because we won. Everything was just going crazy but it feels great to know your last game you took home the state championship ball,” senior guard Albi Maksuti added.

For senior players Lindgren and Maksuti, Sunday afternoon’s welcome home celebration and winning the Division 5 state title are bittersweet moments.

Sunday in the Cardinal gym the team that started off the season with a losing record talked about how they turned it all around.

“It was just a complete transformation from the way they started the season to the way they ended the season,” Thorp Athletic Director Aaron Brayton explained.

“When you go into a tournament like this with nine losses most people think you're not good,” Head Coach Rich Sonnentag said. “People don’t take into account the teams you played. The Western Cloverbelt is an extremely tough conference.”

For head coach and Thorp native, Rich Sonnentag being able to bring the gold ball back to his home turf is a dream come true.

“It’s a very humbling experience to just play at the state tournament and to have your boys perform well on a big stage like that is incredible,” Sonnentag added.

As for the gold basketball that brought an entire community out Sunday, the principal of Thorp middle and high school says they've already got a spot picked out for the newest trophy.

“It will be right in the basketball trophy case. We don’t have an open hole yet, we will have to move something but we will have it there,” Principal Brad Ceranski said.

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