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Vidalia gets state championship rings at dinner banquet Saturday

VIDALIA — The wait was a little long, but the Vidalia High School state championship basketball team finally got what it was waiting for.

Saturday evening at the Vidalia Conference and Convention Center, the Concordia Parish School Board and the city of Vidalia honored the Vikings players at a ring ceremony and appreciation dinner.

Among the honored guests were Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland, school board superintendent Loretta Blankenstein and the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Vikings head coach Robert Sanders said the wait for the rings was worth the constant questions from his players.

“This is very special for us. We’ve been waiting for a few months, and every week they were asking me where the rings were,” Sanders said.

“I texted them last week to let them know they were here, and their response was, ‘It’s about time,’ so we’re all excited tonight.”

For Vidalia High School principal Rick Brown, the night signified what the players for the state championship team could take with them years down the road.

“All of this just emphasizes what everyone said about the class of these ball players,” Brown said.

“That started at home, and they showed class all year, win or lose. That’s what will carry on with this team, being able to carry themselves with class. They deserve the recognition.”

And even though there was some question as to how the rings would be paid for, Brown said whether the players would get them was never in question.

“It wasn’t going to be an issue. The kids were going to get the rings, and they were going to get them the way they wanted them to (be constructed). These players deserved them, and no matter what we had to do, we were going to get them their rings,” Brown said.

For graduate Gary Stewart, the ring will serve as a reminder of all the memories he had with his teammates for years to come.

“This means the same thing as winning the championship. It’s proof that we won, and we can look back after the long years have passed and say, we won this as a team,” Stewart said.

For fellow graduate Torrey Dixon, when to wear the ring will depend on the situation, he said.

“I’m going to wear it, but where I’m going depends on when I’ll wear it. It definitely won’t just sit in a display case though,” Dixon said.

Dean Bowman, Dixon’s cousin and a former Vikings player, said the moment was special for him as a fan and alumnus.

“It’s been lovely seeing Torrey and the rest of the guys on the team bring home that trophy,” Bowman said.

“It’s been over 30 years since we enjoyed it, and we’re enjoying it to the fullest extent. We also have a good chance to go back next year.”

But Sanders cautioned those hungry for a repeat, saying his returning players have their work cut out for them.

“We’re going to have to work a lot harder than we have the past two years. We don’t have the height we had before,” Sanders said.

“We’re good at the post and decent at guard, but we’re going to have to work a little harder against certain defenses.”

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