Without the coronavirus pandemic, coach Darin Reese knows that the day the Mavericks basketball team faced their opponents at Broadmoor World Arena, the stands would have been filled with orange-clad Mavericks fans.
The team got a glimpse of the crowds they’ve been missing this season on Friday, as more than 100 residents gathered along County Road 7 on Friday to celebrate the historic victory of the Class 4A State Championship from the men’s team in a celebratory parade.
Teachers, students, family members and fans stood outside Mead High School. They wore the team colors of burnt orange and black and waved shiny signs and pom poms as they clapped.
“We love these children to death,” said Mark Basson, who was among those who wore orange.
Led by police, firefighters, cheering and dance band and teams, the basketball players marched through County Road 7 past Mead High School to cheers from family, friends and peers.
Last year, the team were on track to meet their championship goals – a hope that was dashed in the Final Four, when the coronavirus pandemic led to the cancellation of the season.
This year, however, the team were fortunate enough to secure this victory.
On March 21, the Mavericks defeated Montrose 68-44 at Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs, winning their first men’s basketball championship since 1957. The victory is the first tag team title in any sport since the opening of the new school.
The celebratory parade was originally scheduled for early April, but was delayed when Mead’s team had to be quarantined, due to a ‘coronavirus situation’.
For Mark Basson, seeing the city lined up for the squad felt like a continuation of the support he has long seen from the players and the city.
Mark Basson’s son Nick Basson, 16, a second-year shooting guard, suffered a blood clot and stroke on March 12, just nine days before the championship game. The teenager survived the health scare after undergoing life-saving surgery, the Denver Post reported. The players didn’t let Nick Basson forget he was part of the squad and their path to victory.
The Mead team during the pre-game wore warm-up shirts with “Bassoon” on them, Basson recalled. During the championship game, Nick Basson was able to sit on the bench and cheer on his team.
As he watched the City of Mead queue on Friday, Mark Basson felt it was a long time coming.
“Finally, the moment will set in as far as they won,” said Mark Basson.
Mead resident Mo Charlo said he believes the team has even stronger motivation to win for Nick Basson. Charlo and his wife, Alisha Charlo, and their 4-year-old daughter, Zendaiya, who waved an orange and black pom pom, also lined the road to celebrate the victory.
“They are a great unit, very knit on and off the court,” said Mo Charlo. “To see this success was incredible.”
Mo and Alisha Charlo’s nephew Elijah Knudsen plays on the team. Knudsen was named BoCo Preps Player of the Year and CHSAA 4A Player of the Year.
“It’s just a great bunch of boys,” said Alisha Charlo.
As Reese walked alongside his team, despite the mask on his face, there was a smile in his eyes.
“It’s just great to have everyone here,” Reese said. “They have supported us so well over the years, no matter what sport, team or activity.”
Separating from his team for a while, Knudsen echoed that sentiment.
“The Mead community has always been there for us,” Knudsen said.
Thinking back to the team’s victory on March 21, Knudsen described it as “the best sensation in the world.”
“It was a long way there, a lot of bumps in the road, but we’re a tight team and we took on all those challenges,” he said. “Without the contribution of each member of the team, we would not have been able to do this.”
A ceremony in the gymnasium for the players and their families further celebrated the moment.
Mead High School principal Rachael Ayers and athletic director Chad Eisentrager praised the team’s accomplishments.
“Behind every great team is a great coach and a great coaching staff,” Ayers said. “They recognize that winning, while great, isn’t everything. (Great coaches agree) that winning is about uplifting young men and women to be the best they can be. … Darin is one of those coaches.
Ayers added: “Winning doesn’t happen by accident – it happens with strategy.”
While the timing was historic for Mead, Eisentrager said he believed the team had led the way.
“This won’t be the last time this happens in Mead High School history.”