Their school was destroyed, but they still made the state tournament
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After flooding destroyed their high school in West Virginia last summer, the Herbert Hoover boys' basketball team spent the season practicing and competing in unfamiliar places.
They'll also end it in a place they've never been before: the state tournament.
Herbert Hoover struggled through the regular season with a losing record. Then the team put together four straight wins in the postseason, including a double-overtime thriller in the regional final, to advance to the 104-year-old tournament for the first time in school history.
Now the Huskies are ready for what they hope will be one final incredible road show.
With the destruction from the floods still weighing heavily on the community, the Huskies (13-13) opened tournament play March 16 at the Charleston Civic Center. They were to play defending champion Fairmont Senior.
"Nobody expected this out of us," senior center Chase King said.
Playing basketball was an afterthought last June in the community of 1,200. It is about 20 miles northeast of Charleston. The Elk River rose 10 feet high in some buildings. It destroyed bridges and ripped homes from their foundations. Six people in Kanawha (KUH-naw) County died. Statewide, 23 were killed.
Herbert Hoover coach Josh Daniel said every student was directly affected or had a relative whose home flooded. Members of the basketball team joined other volunteers to help in the community.
King, who said the floods got into the second floor of an uncle's house, spent a week removing furniture from a woman's home. He pressure-washed and sanitized other places. Senior guard Kody McGraw went with a church group to clean up storm victims' homes and remove debris from the school's mud-caked baseball field.
Principal Mike Kelley was among the few who walked the hallways of the school after the flood. That was before the school building was condemned.
Daniel and the basketball team never got to see the damage to the school. They weren't allowed back in. They only saw the buckled floor of the gymnasium from photographs.
"Just seeing those pictures, so many memories washed down the drain," King said.
Those memories are being replaced by greater ones.
When school started last fall, Herbert Hoover students assembled in a temporary home. They attended afternoon classes at a middle school nine miles away. Donations poured in for uniforms and equipment for the school's sports teams. And parents carpooled the basketball team to morning practices at a YMCA in Charleston. Their home games were held at the middle school gym.
"Our kids don't complain about it," Daniel said.
Daniel said he hasn't mentioned the flood to his players since the season started. King said the devastation "was just more motivation to go out and show everybody we may not be the best team that you're going to play, but we're definitely going to be the toughest."
Getting to the tournament "just seems surreal, really," McGraw said. "A lot of people want to see us do good."
That includes Diane Chandler. She is the owner of an income tax and bookkeeping service in Clendenin, where the floodwaters rose more than 5 feet up the walls. It took four months for her to clean up and reopen her business.
"I think it's wonderful that they've rallied back like that," Chandler said. "It makes us say that if they can do it, anybody can do it."
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why was the building condemned rather than repaired?
Write your answers in the comments section below