Belleville was sure proud about their 1965-66 Maroons boys basketball team. Fifty years after they finished third in the state, the city feted them in 2016 as the best the school ever had.
That changed Saturday.
Fifty years from now there will be a group of hometown heroes shuffling into a gym to be celebrated for becoming the best in the state. Belleville West High School for the first time in its 101-year history on Saturday saw its boys basketball team become state champions.
To the players, the coaches and the many who supported them, "well done." For this to come just two years after Althoff Catholic High School boys blazed the path from Belleville to the state basketball title creates remarkable milestones after more than a century of city hoops.
But special thanks go out to the Chaminade Red Devils. They beat the Maroons on Jan. 20.
"The Chaminade defeat was so good for us," said West coach Joe Muniz. "I'm not sure we win this game ... I'm not sure we're here if we don't lose to Chaminade. At that time of the season we weren't practicing really well, and we were kind of believing we were special. That loss woke us up, and those kids came to work every day and got better."
You fall down, you get back up. You work harder. You believe in yourself. Perfect life lessons for these youngsters.
"From day one, we always told each other if we put the work in, this was going to happen," said senior Malachi Smith. "For this type of thing to happen, it takes a team to believe in it. We made everyone believe. Now we're state champions."
We believe they are not just champs, but winners.