Their eyes are on the prize as they prepare for Thursday's trip to Columbus

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CLEVELAND -- A Cleveland sports team has great chance to bring home a championship.

The boys basketball team at East Tech High School is heading to the state tournament for the first time in 42 years.

Their eyes are on the prize as they prepare for Thursday's trip to Columbus -- but not just for the school, for all of Cleveland.

"We're the last public school left. We're carrying the whole city on our back," East Tech head coach Brett Moore said.

That's because a CMSD school hasn't been to the state semifinal since 1985, and for East Tech, it's been since 1972. This year's seniors have stepped up and are rising above the challenge.

"We still have a lot to accomplish," East Tech senior guard K.T. Taylor said. "We made it to Columbus, but we ain't finish the job yet."

Monday's practice was focused but relaxed. The team is soaking it all in but not letting it go to their heads.

"It's bigger than me, bigger than the guys back here," East Tech senior guard Johnell Free said. "East Tech is just a legacy, and I want to keep building on it."

That legacy has community members showing their support now, too. Word Church members raised money for uniforms and hope to help some of the players' families with hotels and transportation to Columbus, as funding at East Tech can sometimes fall short.

"I'm an East Tech Scarab for life. I graduated here in 1989. I grew up across the street in poverty," Word Church pastor R.A. Vernon said. "I want it so desperately not only for them, but for their parents, for this area. I just want to see them win."

The Scarabs face St. Edward on Thursday, and they're not afraid of being the underdogs.

"We're going to bring our slingshot, and we're going to make sure we do our best 'David,' and we're going to give you guys a game," athletic director Joe Dallas said.

This is Moore's eighth year with the team, and his vision for East Tech basketball is finally coming to fruition. He said it's surreal.

"I'm blessed to be able to coach and do this with this group of kids," Moore said. "This is what I signed up to do. I signed up to win, and I signed up to win big."

Moore said he got a text from the Chicago Bulls assistant coach expressing his support. If you want to show support, there's a pep rally at East Tech this Thursday. Alumni and city leaders are expected there as a sendoff to the team.

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