Manual Academy heads to state, and the school sent them off in style Thursday morning

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For the first time in 9 years, the Manual Rams are headed to the IHSA March Madness Tournament to play for a state championship.

The Rams have wone their last five games and plan to continue that trend Friday when they take on the East St. Louis Flyers.

Manual’s Boys Basketball program has an incredible legacy.  They were ranked the #1 team in the nation by USA Today in 1997, and won the state titles from 1994-97.  The team plans to make history this year once again.

“The tradition goes on, exactly.  And we’re gonna get better and better.  And build strong.  Like I said, it’s about the spirit, and about the kids that are going to support them,” said Manual Principal Betty Zilkowski.

The road wasn’t easy, but Head Coach Willie Coleman always believed in his team.

“A lot of people doubted us, they didn’t think we could make it this far.  But I always knew, I had faith in my kids, to continue to work hard and we ended up landing down state,” said Coleman.

At a pep rally Thursday, Coach Coleman remembered his time playing as a Ram, and the motivation events like this bring a team.

“Walking out that door as a player, It was a great feeling walking out that door, headed to Champaign when we played then.  I’m getting the chills now as we speak hearing that band playing, we are gonna walk out that door man and there’s now telling what’s gonna happen down at state,” said Coleman.

Making state means a lot for the team, but it’s also bringing a lot of energy into the entire school.

“We are growing, growing, growing more and more.  And just as we turn things around, it just shows the enthusiasm of our students.  And sometimes the public doesn’t always see us in a positive light, and this couldn’t be any more positive,” said Zilkowski.

The Rams play Friday at 11 a.m. at the Peoria Civic Center against East St. Louis, join us Friday for coverage on WMBD News at noon for some pre-game coverage.

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