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Imperial boys hoops playing for the community in program’s deepest playoff run

Tigers headed off to first-round of state tournament after winning first CIF title

IMPERIAL, Calif., (KYMA, KECY) - When the buzzer sounded and the clock hit all zeroes on Friday night in Chula Vista for the CIF Division IV boys championship game - euphoria erupted the Imperial community.

There were intense hugs, there were smiles, and there were tears. For the first time, the Tigers were crowned CIF champions.

It was a long road for a program that has had several opportunities in years past, but could never get over that hump.

In 2023, it was this group's time to shine - etching their name in the record books and getting the chance to keep dancing on to the CIF state tournament.

"It feels great. These boys worked really hard all year long," said coach David Milan after the win. "I told them it was going to be a special year. They believed and we did it."

But just 48 hours later, the narrative shifted from the celebration of being CIF champs to "who's next?" as they awaited their seed and opponent in the state tournament.

The Tigers drew the No. 9 seed in the Division V southern bracket - setting up a trip to Torrence, California to play No. 8 North on Tuesday night.

While the feeling of a championship is still setting in, the focus goes back to the hard work on the floor so they can keep their run going.

"We wish we got a home game because we were champions, but we will see what we can do," said coach Milan. "We'll try to make some noise and try to ride this wave as long as we can."

As with every upcoming matchup, the Tigers are now eyeing the things they need to do to survive and advance. For Milan and the Tigers, it's all about continuing to do what they did to get them here.

"We just have to continue to play good defense and run our sets on offense. And try not to do things that we don't do," added Milan. "If we can do those things and execute on the both ends, I think we'll be fine. But we can't get out of wack."

Further than the game on the floor goes itself, it's a journey that is taking the entire Imperial community by storm - riding side by side with the run of the Lady Tigers, as well.

The community has rallied together and the Tigers are excited to represent, knowing how important something like this is.

"It's a big deal. I mean it's great for our alumni to see this group of kids do what they're doing. Especially the guys who had a chance but couldn't quite get there," said coach Milan. "It brings the community a bit tighter. It's a proud moment for these kids and the rest of the community and our program in general."

So while loading onto the bus Tuesday afternoon, the Tigers will know they have a whole community backing them as they hit the road to the state playoffs - something they could never say before.

Article Topic Follows: High School Sports

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Cole Johnson

Cole Johnson is News 11’s Sports Director.

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