Spirits were high during a pep rally in Cardinal Newman's John Fitzgerald Gym Friday as the school's basketball team prepares to face off against Pacific Hills High School in Saturday's state championship game.

Students, parents and teachers gathered in the stands for the 30-minute long event. The rally was originally planned to recognize all spring sports, but Newman's rise to the championships put the basketball team in the spotlight.

"With basketball qualifying, we kind of made it more about them and made a video," said Sinead Lafferty, a Newman senior and member of the Associated Student Body organizing committee. The video featured highlight footage of Newman's games throughout the season.

"It's pretty exciting, and the kids are so excited," said Debbie Ferreria, whose nephew Kenny Love is a senior on the team. "We're all heading up to Sacramento to watch."

School spirit coordinator Randall Palmer emceed the event, which also included a dance off, nominations for the school's "Mr. Cardinal" pageant and an obstacle course.

The highlight of the event occurred when Palmer called the basketball team to the floor, where they were blindfolded and told a cheerleader would bestow a kiss on their cheeks.

Each player's mom was snuck into the gym to give their sons a kiss instead, and the still-blindfolded players were asked to guess which cheerleader had kissed them. To the delight of the crowd, the first 15 players were completely stumped. It was only when senior Kyle King was asked did the answer come out.

"I think it was my mom," said King.

Around 100 students and parents will leave for Sacramento on two buses provided by the school early tomorrow morning.

"It's a big thing for our whole community," said Jerry Bonfigli, Newman's athletic director. "We've had alumni calling and other local high schools voicing their support."

Vice Principal Doug Kirk agreed. "There's a lot of energy. I think we'll have a strong turnout Saturday."

(Staff Writer Melody Karpinski can be reached at 521-5205 or Melody.Karpinski@pressdemocrat.com.)

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