~ by Tommy Wells
Even though the Ranger College men’s basketball team was playing more than 400 miles from home this past weekend at the 2019 NJCAA Division I National Basketball Championships in Hutchinson, Kansas, they weren’t without their share of fans.
Thanks to a large group of Kansas elementary students, the Rangers played in front of a large – and loud – fanbase as they made their marched their way to the championship game. In all, more than 200 students from Lincoln Elementary School in Hutchinson “adopted” the team and turned out to cheer the team on during its win over top-seeded Northwest Florida State College on Thursday in the Hutchinson Sport Arena.
As part of their effort, Lincoln Elementary students in grades 2-6 filled the upper deck of the arena to cheer on the Rangers as they pounded out a 66-63 victory. Many of the students waved signs and purple pom-poms that were given to them by a large contingent of RC fans.
Cheering for Ranger was also a form of sweet revenge for many of the students, said Lincoln Elementary teacher Leslie Specht. A win by RC eliminated the biggest rival of their favorite team, Eastern Florida State.
“It (adopting Ranger College) was kind of two-fold for us,” said Specht. “One, we needed a team to cheer for, and the students liked Ranger. Also, because we have special connection with the Eastern Florida State Titans. We know Northwest Florida beat them in the state championships, so we wanted to show up and support Ranger to knock them out.”
“They (the students) were excited. They got to come support a really good team.”
“We were thrilled to have the Lincoln Elementary School students come out and support our team,” said Ranger College President William J. Campion. “Having them come out was one of the highlights for our team and fans during a very exciting time. Words cannot express how happy and pleased we were to have them cheering for Ranger.”
“I think each of them are honorary Rangers,” he said.
Eastern Florida State also did well in the tournament. The Titans advanced to the quarterfinals before being knocked off by South Plains College.
Ranger went 3-1 in the tournament and advanced to the national championship for the first time in the institution’s 93-year history. The Rangers finished as the 2019 national runner-up after dropping an 87-77 decision to Vincennes University.