Prep Girls Basketball

Supporters ready to follow Mustangs in pursuit of more glory

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Feb. 23, 2017 12:05 am Updated: Feb. 23, 2017 12:21 am

MENDON, Ill. -- One of the first things the Unity administration did Tuesday morning was cancel classes Friday to allow students, teachers, parents and fans the opportunity to flood Redbird Arena with support for the girls basketball team.

One of the first things all of them did Wednesday morning was get out a map.

Redbird Arena won't be the only stop the Mustang caravan makes this weekend.

Hours after the Unity girls make their first state tournament appearance in program history with a Class 1A semifinal game against Hardin Calhoun at 1 p.m., the Unity boys will be playing for a regional championship in Astoria. It's about a 90-minute drive from Illinois State University to South Fulton High School, giving the Unity faithful plenty of time to enjoy the state tournament experience, grab a bite to eat and be on time for the boys' tip.

"A lot of people will make an entire day of it," Unity principal Bill Dorethy said. "The support our kids get is great."

Right now, it's unwavering.

"When you win, there's a lot more support," Dorethy said.

The Mustangs are winning more than they ever have.

Since the start of the 2010-11 school year, Unity has collected eight regional titles, three sectional crowns and three state appearances while also capturing the only state trophy in school history. Prior to that, the Mustangs won 17 regional titles and six sectional crowns, with the volleyball program responsible to 10 of those regionals and two of those sectionals.

Prior to the boys basketball team reaching the state tournament in 2014, the 1986 volleyball team was the only one to ever reach the state quarterfinals.

Three of Unity's nine playoff appearances in football have come in the last seven years, and the only playoff victories occurred in the last two seasons.

It truly is a new era of success.

"We're fortunate to have good coaches in the right spots," said Dorethy, who coached boys basketball at Sturgeon, Mo., before moving into administration. "They've been committed to their programs and done things to help our kids improve."

There's been a wealth of talent, too.

This senior class will graduate with a portion of the trophy case to call its own. In the last four years, the Mustangs have won a regional, sectional and super-sectional in boys basketball, two regionals, a sectional and a super-sectional in girls basketball, and two playoff football games.

"We've been blessed with a lot of talented kids coming through at the same time," Dorethy said.

The Illinois High School Association's decision in 2007 to expand the state tournament series to four classes is a factor, too. No longer does Unity have to fight through a regional or sectional that includes the likes of Quincy Notre Dame, Pittsfield or West Hancock.

It has evened the playing field and led to sustainable success.

And in the case of the girls basketball team, it's led to an historic run.

"Our girls have done something incredibly special, and everyone wants to be a part of it," Dorethy said. "The gym at Illinois-Springfield (for the super-sectional) is pretty big, and that side of the gym was filled with our fans."

It would take more people than the Mendon-Ursa-Marceline-Lima communities have to offer to fill one side of Redbird Arena, but the Unity faithful will be heard.

They will carry their fervor along U.S. 136 to Astoria as well.

"It's going to be a fun weekend," Dorethy said. "It's going to fun for the whole community."

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