SOUTH HOLLAND | Autonea Evans, a Seton Academy junior from Riverdale, is among the students excited about their high school's boys basketball team's trip to Peoria on Friday for a shot at its second state championship in four seasons.
Yet Evans has had a unique perspective on this past season and the team's 28-4 record.
Evans is the girl inside the school mascot costume. She's "the bee" who helps to get the student body more excited during Seton Sting games.
"If I weren't in this costume, I'd be sitting in the stands getting all excited about this," she said. "This is a really important thing for people here. It is making many students very happy."
Evans even did her thing Thursday during a pep rally at the Catholic high school, meant to get the just more than 200 students revved up about Friday night's game between Seton and Breese Central High School to be played at Carver Arena in Peoria.
The winner of that game plays the winner of University High School in Normal versus Lutheran High School in Rockford for the Class AA state championship.
Basketball coach Brandon Thomas said he is looking forward to the upcoming weekend.
"We have two more games to win," he said, adding while pointing to a picture on the gymnasium wall of the school's 2009 championship team. "In about a month, we will have another one of those pictures hanging there."
The 30-minute pep rally included introductions for not only the boys basketball team, but also for the girls team that nearly qualified for the state tournament.
"We almost had two teams qualify, which hasn't happened in 15 years," said Seton guidance counselor James Thornton.
Meanwhile, students could be seen doing the cheer they call the "roller coaster," in which they stomp their feet, wave their hands around and scream loudly as if they were riding on a carnival ride.
Village officials also were on hand to pay tribute to the team representing their community, including Village President Don De Graff, who said it is "exciting" but also said he is more pleased that Seton maintains high academic standards.
"A state championship would be nice, but it would be like the ice cream going along with the cake," he said.