Santo girls make first trip to Final Four in 57 years



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Posted on February 25, 2014 at 9:57 PM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 26 at 6:06 PM

Santo, Texas

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SANTO, Texas — The town of Santo is located 55 miles west of Fort Worth.

In the center of town, at All-Star Athletics, T-Shirts made for the girls' basketball team's trip to the Final Four are hard to keep in stock.

“They’re going nuts, they really are,” said Cecil Blackmon at the shop. “They’ve been in here starting Sunday morning at eight o’clock and we sold 150 shirts on Sunday.”

With a record of 24-8, the Lady Cats will play Plains Thursday morning in the Class A Division I semifinals.

Tony Raffaele is in his ninth year as head coach. He and his daughter Breeana have been to the Final Four many times, but never as a participant.

“We’ve been going down there and sat in the stands," Raffaele said. "It’s like, 'Dad, we want to be down there.' I said, 'You’re right, we want to be down there,' and it really came to fruition this year.

"None of us are touching the ground at all; we're flying!" said Breeana, a senior on the squad. “We have to remind each other, 'Hey, we’re going to the state tournament... we’re not dreaming at all!'"

Having a chance to play in the Final Four tournament is rare in this town. The last time the girls' team from Santo had that opportunity was 57 years ago. The year was 1957.

Linda Duncan was on that team 57 years ago.

“I keep thinking, 'Maybe they’ll go this time. Maybe they’ll go this time,'" Duncan said. "I’m excited, yes! I’m really looking forward to the game. Back in those days, we only played half-court."

“We always said we wanted to go there and wanted to get those rings, and now we’ve got the opportunity to," said Santo guard Payton Billue. "It’s nice!"

So now, these girls and a tiny Palo Pinto County town are getting ready for the trip of a lifetime.