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The Rolling Meadows High School girls basketball team is on its way to history.
The team bus left the suburbs early Thursday morning with a police escort as the athletes and coaches headed to Bloomington for the school's first appearance at the state finals.
The 13 girls on the team were welcomed to school on Thursday by faculty and students lining the halls before the school's cheerleaders and drum line boosted excitement for the send-off rally.
"It was awesome. It's good to know we have so much support," said Jenny Vliet, junior forward and one of the team captains.
Fellow captain and junior guard Alexis Glasgow said she was feeling confident and excited -- not nervous -- as the buses were about to leave Rolling Meadows.
"Knowing we have a community that's proud of us already we just want to make them more proud," Glasgow said.
Thursday night both Glasgow and Vliet will participate in a 3-point competition, where each will take 15 shots in 45 seconds.
The team opens the playoffs at 6:30 p.m. Friday in Redbird Arena at Illinois State University against Huntley High School.
Buses of student fans will leave Rolling Meadows High School at 3 p.m. Friday to head to Bloomington for the game, said Lisa DaRocha, assistant principal of athletics.
If Rolling Meadows wins, the team will play for the 4A championship at 8:15 p.m. Saturday. If the Mustangs lose Friday, they will play for third place at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. All games will be streaming live on the Illinois High School Association website at www.IHSA.tv.
Win or lose the team will be welcomed back to school with a celebratory assembly on Monday, DaRocha said.
Michelle Kay, whose daughter Sami is a junior guard, said she thinks the team is staying focused on the games ahead, but that the rally was a great way to start the weekend.
"It's a great send off," agreed Head Coach Ryan Kirkorsky. "Having the community behind us just makes this experience that much more special."
For the only senior on the team, Morgan Keller, this weekend marks another milestone -- the end of her basketball career.
"I told her two nights ago that I've been washing basketball uniforms for 10 years and this is the last time I had to do it," said her mom Stephanie.
Driving up to the school on Thursday, Morgan told her mom she didn't think anyone would show up early for the rally and she was surprised to see the enthusiastic crowd.
The weekend is even more special for Morgan, who will be on the track and field team at Illinois State University, because her future ISU coach and teammates are planning to come watch her play in her last high school basketball games.
"I don't think it has really hit them what a big deal this is," Stephanie Keller said. "But I'm crying already."