EAST LANSING, MICH. -- Tedaro France knows just how long the New Haven community has been waiting for its first state championship in boys basketball.
Basically, it has felt like forever.
France has been the head coach of New Haven for nine seasons now but before that, he was a player for the Rockets. France graduated from New Haven in 1997, having won two league and district titles.
With New Haven heading into the Class B state championship game, France knew exactly what was on the line.
Twenty district titles. Five Region championships. Zero state titles.
When the clock ran out in the fourth quarter and New Haven had won a defensive battle over Ludington, 45-36, the wait had ended.
Moreover, the weight had ended.
"It means a lot," France said, who was shedding tears of joy out on the Breslin Center floor just moments before. "All the fans here, it just means so much to our school and to our town, the Village of New Haven. It's like the sport here is what a lot of people live through."
The New Haven community came out in the thousands to support the team at the Breslin Center, passionately booing and cheering along with the highs and lows of the nerve-racking game. After the players hoisted the championship trophy and gathered for their state championship photo, the players rushed to the stands to thank their supporters.
For the New Haven fans, basketball is more than just a sport. It's a pastime for the entire community.
It's also an escape.
"I had a family come to a game this year -- they've been coming the last two years -- and what I didn't know was they were sick," France said. "The wife is dying. They said that they come each year to watch these kids play. When they come, they don't feel pain. They don't feel stress for that hour and a half that they're there. They're just there to watch these kids play. These kids bring so much pride to them.
"It's like that for so many people I've talked to. They see these kids play and how hard they work and they take pride in that."
It is only fitting that a hometown product of New Haven coached the Rockets to its first state title. The fact that France has lived the relationship between the basketball team and the community first hand, the current players can't help but develop the same sense of appreciation and pride for New Haven basketball.
"He's been here for 10 years now and I think he's one of the best coaches I've ever been coached by," New Haven senior Eric Williams said. "He knows what to do. I think he's just a great leader for the community. This is the first New Haven ever had so, for coach to get that, it's just a blessing for him and the community."
Day in and day out, coach tells his athletes to "win the day," which is basically his way of developing better players and better young men.
"I tell them, 'You're not just playing for yourself. You playing for more than just you,'" France said. "These kids get that."
France often occasionally gets calls from members of the community, expressing thanks for a good deed that a player had done for them. For the players, it just a way of giving thanks for all of the support they get.
"It's a great community," New Haven sophomore Romeo Weems said. "They came to every game, even Flint. It was far but they still came. Here, they still came. Everybody in the city just supports us. I like the community. I love the community."
With the basketball team reaching new success and the community continuing to give its unwavering support, France has remained the glue that keeps everything together.
"It's crazy," Weems said. "Coach loves us, man. It's more than basketball with him. He loves us, really. Even if we're just outside playing, he'll come hang out with us. He's a great guy. If we need something or if we're in trouble, he'll get us out of it. He got us tutors this year. It's more than basketball with coach."
For France, it is always about more than just basketball.
"For me, I'm blessed to be able to teach life lessons through the game of basketball," France said. "For me, I think that me building character (in the players), they become better basketball players because they become better young men."
On Saturday, France shaped them into champions too.