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‘VK Nation’ shows love to St. Elizabeth boys basketball team, and feeling is mutual


Dialog reporter

NEWARK – There’s a proud sports history at St. Elizabeth High School, where generations of students have suited up in the maroon and gold over the years. The school also has a loyal and devoted fan base comprising students, alumni, parishioners and community members.

“VK Nation” showed up in force at the Bob Carpenter Center on March 10, and they went home a happy bunch as the boys’ basketball team defeated Smyrna, 60-49, for the program’s first state championship. The players almost immediately ascended into the end-zone bleachers where their schoolmates had cheered themselves hoarse, soaking in the atmosphere.

Nate Thomas (partially obscured) and Ryan Hockenbrock (25) enter the bleachers where their schoolmates awaited following the Vikings’ victory in the boys’ state basketball championship game. (The Dialog/Jason Winchell)

The crowd included longtime former coach Dick Rago, who attended many games this season, and Frank Aiello, who had tremendous success with the Vikings’ girls program. There were lots of pictures, hugs and smiles, and probably a few tears.

The support was definitely noticed and appreciated by the players and coaches.

“That’s family right there,” said junior Justin Money, gesturing toward the student section. “We did all this for them. We haven’t even been to the semifinals ever. This is our first year we ever did it.”

His teammate, senior Nate Thomas, noted that the girls’ basketball program has had a lot of success. The girls have won five state championships, the last in 2013. One of the players on that team was his sister, Alex.

“This means everything, definitely, for St. Elizabeth. We’ve been known for girls basketball. This is great for the school, great for the community and definitely for the boys’ program. First time in history,” he said.

Coach Matt Rubincam spent many years as an assistant to Rago before taking the top job at Charter School of Wilmington. He succeeded Rago prior to the 2016-17 season. Rubincam said his phone buzzed nonstop during the days leading up to the final, with many of those messages coming from members of VK Nation.

“The support has been tremendous,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons I went back to St. Elizabeth. It’s a small community atmosphere, and that’s what I love about it.”

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