MERCER COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — The Campbellsville University-Harrodsburg men's basketball team celebrated their National Christian College Athletic Association, Division Two national championship Monday evening.
The Pioneers beat Crown College to claim the championship on March 12. It was the first national championship for the school, whose basketball program was formed only a few years ago.
"We went from nothing, playing at Mercer County High School, not really having too many fans, to having our own gym, our own facility," said Antoine Darby, a senior shooting guard.
Darby said the people of Harrodsburg rallied around the program.
"It doesn't just only mean something to me and the team, but for this community. This community hasn't had a team, a college-level team in quite some time now, so to just be able to bring this city a championship, it feels amazing," he said.
Toni Hopkins and Conni Riney are retired neighbors and said they went to their first game a few years ago on a whim.
"I saw on Facebook that they were having a grand opening for the athletics center, so I said 'Hey let's just go up there and see what it's like,'" Hopkins said.
The two have become die-hard supporters, following the team all over.
"We go out of state. We've been to Miami, we've been to Michigan, we've been to Indiana, Nashville, Ohio," Hopkins added.
25-year-old head coach Austin Sparrow said the team could feel how much their success meant to the fans.
"Being able to do this in return for the support that they’ve given us the past three years has been truly amazing," he said.
The players tried to return the favor as best they could.
"These men will come up and hug us, tell us they're glad we're here and they can hear us screaming from the sidelines - two old ladies with their pom-poms going at regionals," said Riney.
A national championship banner now hangs above the Pioneers' home court. Coach Sparrow said the team would relish the celebration Monday night, but Tuesday morning, they will get back to work. He said he expects a strong season next year, with 14 of 16 players returning and three big transfers coming in.