CHAPEL HILL — Pisgah fans have an enormous amount of dedication, pride and passion.
Hundreds of those fans showed their dedication by traveling the four hours to Chapel Hill to make the noon tipoff on Saturday. About 100 of those fans arrived at Pisgah High School at 6 a.m. to ride one of two packed fan buses to Dean Stadium.
Pisgah fans showed their pride by donning their black and red from head to toe. They showed their passion by relentlessly cheering on the girls during the game.
When asked what made him get out of bed so early on a Saturday morning, John Holland of Canton said, “There’s not too many chances to see a state championship. It may not happen again.”
John and his wife JoAnne Holland are both Pisgah High School alums. Their daughter is a sophomore at Pisgah and plays on the junior varsity basketball team.
“We hope she’ll make this same trip next year,” John Holland said. “Pisgah’s always had a lot of pride in their ball teams… all of them.”
JoAnne Holland, who graduated in 1985, played a number of Pisgah sports while in high school, including volleyball, basketball and softball.
“We go to all the games,” she said. “Our son plays baseball and football. We’ll be bored when they graduate, and we don’t have anywhere to go.”
Tammy Leatherwood of Canton and her children rode the fan bus to the game. She said she was a Pisgah fan because, “It runs in the family. I went to Pisgah, my husband went to Pisgah and my kids go to Pisgah.”
Kevin Leatherwood was a senior the last time the girls’ team went to the state championship in 1989. Their son Sawyer Leatherwood, a 2012 Pisgah grad, served as the basketball team’s manager all four years in high school.
“It’s a big deal,” Tammy said. “These girls have worked hard and came together as a team to get here.”
Gerald and Alice Fisher of Canton said they were Bear fans simply because they live in Canton. They make it to all the home games and went to the boys state championship in 2005.
“All of our kids and grandkids went there,” Gerald said on the ride to the game. “This is exciting. It hasn’t happened in a long time… they have a good chance.”
Pam Johnson of Canton is a Pisgah fan because her daughter, sophomore Sarah Johnson, is on the girls basketball team.
“And I’m her biggest fan,” Pam said with a camera in hand and a smile on her face. “We lived in Leicester and came to see the boys’ teams when they were here (at the state championship) and she said ‘I want to go there, momma.’”
Pam said it was the fans’ spirit and support at the game that made her choose Pisgah.
Being at a Pisgah game, “It’s just a whole other feel,” she said.
Suzanne Messer of Canton drove to Chapel Hill Friday night for the game Saturday.
“This is an opportunity of a lifetime for these girls,” she said. “I’ve watched them all grow up. We’re a close-knit community, and we have a lot of support.”
While she graduated from Tuscola High School, her children attend Pisgah.
“I support all Haywood County teams when they aren’t playing each other,” she said. “But I have to go with Pisgah where my kids are going.”
Fans were disappointed to walk away without a win, but they were still proud of how far the team has come this season.
Don Storer said he’s always been a fan, but has attended more games recently than he did while in high school since moving back to the area a few years ago.
“They started out good, but they got intimidated pretty quick,” Storer said of the championship title game.
“I think they’ve had a terrific year, and I’m very proud of what they’ve accomplished,” said Mike Wood. “They had the ‘never give up’ spirit, but unfortunately they came up a little short.”