Tim Keating is from the Northern Section, which stretches from Sutter County to the Oregon border.
The Pleasant Valley High School basketball coach can speak of the pride of small-school athletics where the town mood can be influenced by team success and lofty sporting hopes and dreams.
But this? This is rarefied air.
Keating celebrated a milestone achievement for the section, the city of Chico and Pleasant Valley High, the fifth-year coach pushing all the right buttons and making all the right adjustments that triggered a 70-65 victory over Notre Dame of Riverside in Saturday night's CIF State Division II championship at Golden 1 Center.
The Vikings (33-3) started the day motivated by a tweet from their town's most famous athletic product, Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers, who got his quarterback start at Pleasant Valley. The All-Pro congratulated the girls and boys team for becoming just the second Northern Section school to advance its boys and girls teams to a state final in the same season.
Pleasant Valley won a CIF State football championship in 2016, and the boys soccer team has enjoyed record winning streaks, so the school has done its job in shedding light on the section.
Though the Vikings girls fell to Redondo Beach earlier in the day 57-42 in the D-II finals at Golden 1, the boys made sure it ended as a Chico celebration.
"I'm from Corning, and a Corning boy doesn't think about this level, anything beyond a league and section championship in sports," Keating said. "The kids climbed the mountain. It was a great feeling to see a sea of blue in the stands. I told the guys they deserved to be here. This is the big one. This is the prom."
And the Vikings came to dance. They withstood the full-court pressure defense of Notre Dame in snapping that team's 25-game winning streak, making it just the third state boys championship in Northern Section history. Colusa won the D-V championship in 1990 and Central Valley of Shasta Lake in 1989 in D-III.
Pleasant Valley started the season with a taxing schedule, including competing in the St. Hope Classic in Sacramento, and it ended the campaign with a 19-game winning streak, including an 8-0 showing in the postseason. The Vikings made 51 percent of their shots—not an easy thing to do in such a spacious venue with nerves also working against you.
The headliner for the Vikings has been Kevin Kremer, a 6-foot-4 senior guard who has skills and tenacity and a rising recruit profile. He had 28 points, 13 rebounds and iced the game with free throws.
"I'm ready to talk to recruiters," Keating said. "On a big-time stage, he's a big-time player."
Jake Rick had 14 points, Peyton Schneringer 12 and Treyson Keating eight. Pleasant Valley found success by sharing the ball and hitting backdoor cutters, and it outrebounded the Titans of the Southern Section 41-33 while holding them to 35 percent shooting.
"We wanted them to go 1-on-1 against us, and some of them did, turning and spinning and hitting shots," Notre Dame coach Robert Robinson said. "That's a really good team."
The Vikings downplayed any big-stage jitters, with Kremer insisting with a straight face, "It's just another gym." A moment later, he said, "I was pumped. It was an awesome experience."
The core of the team grew up together, the norm for public schools as compared to the private-school powers from the south that have become a haven for transfers.
"A lot of these kids have been playing together since they were in the seventh and eighth grade," Keating said. "I'm just so proud for the city of Chico. Football was amazing for our community (winning the state title), and we called this Mount Everest."
Chico administrators are already planning a city proclamation next month and a downtown parade in May.