Rufus King’s basketball team got an enthusiastic sendoff from hundreds of students and faculty members Thursday as players psyched themselves up for the state tournament in Madison over the next few days.
The team will face Mukwonago High School in the semifinals, but the pep rally fast-forwarded to the championship game, which King supporters hope will be a rematch against Germantown High School. The King Generals were narrowly defeated by Germantown’s Warhawks in last year’s WIAA Boys Division I championship game.
“We know that last year we were almost there,” said Principal Peter J. Samaranayake. “We felt that we were robbed at the last minute by just three points. We are out for revenge, we are out for blood,” he said. “We don’t want second place or third place — we want number one.”
Rufus King International School, at 1801 W. Olive St., had a 22-4 record going into the tournament, to be held at the Kohl Center in Madison. Mukwonago also went 22-4 during the regular season.
Forward Montrell Hobbs, the team co-captain, could hardly believe the team is going to Madison for the second year in a row. “I’m really excited. The feeling of going to state again is surreal,” he said. “It makes it that much more important to win it because it’s my senior year.”
According to Austin Malone-Mitchell,team co-captain, the rally demonstrated that “our school is behind us and that they support us. They are just as excited about the game as we are.” Malone-Mitchell’s father, Marc Mitchell, played on several teams that won state championships when he was in high school. Marc Mitchell is now a coach for King.
MPS Superintendent Gregory Thornton told the team that it’s not just the school that supports them: “As you get on that bus — as we all get on that bus — you’ve got the whole city of Milwaukee behind you.”
At one point during the rally, it may have felt as if the whole city was on the stage. King’s team members, mascot, cheerleaders, band members, principal and the MPS superintendent all jumped on stage for a raucous version of the Harlem Shake.
“Just making it to state is cool and all,” said Hobbs, “but we definitely want to win.”
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