WILSON — The Wilson boys basketball team locked up its second straight state championship before it even hit the court.

For the second year in a row, the Eagles have dominated Oklahoma when it comes to community service. They’ll be rewarded tonight by the Oklahoma City Thunder, who are bringing the Thunder Experience back to Wilson as part of the High School Basketball Community Challenge.

This year, the Eagles went beyond last year’s winning total of more than 700 community service hours, logging 1,025 hours removing tree limbs, painting, repairing fences and cleaning litter around Wilson. For the boys game against Bray-Doyle (starting at 8 p.m.), the Eagles will be presented a Thunder-themed experience, featuring the Thunder Girls, Storm Chasers and Dunk Team.

The game will also include game-night music and Thunder-themed introductions for the players.

“We’re excited to give something back to this team and this community for their hard work,” said Christine Berney, Director of Community Relations for the Thunder, via a team-issued statement Monday. “The Wilson High School boys team has truly shown its full commitment to the community.”

The Eagles are so devoted to their hometown that they nearly bypassed their reward. The Thunder initially offered the team to come up to a game in Oklahoma City, where the Eagles would be treated to food, transportation and acknowledgement at halftime.

According to coach David McGuire, the first question that came up was “What about the community?” The Wilson boys came together and decided to politely decline the invitation and rewards.

“We felt our community played a big part in our success in winning that,” senior Brian Bond said. “We felt that if we went up there (Oklahoma City), our community would kinda not get the recognition for our part in that.”

“The community was the main part of it,” junior Keedric Emerson said. “If we were to get recognized at the (Thunder) game, our community wouldn’t even be able to see it.”

A few days after the Eagles informed the Thunder of their decision, the Thunder called McGuire back, letting him know that the Thunder Experience was returning to Wilson.

“It was very much a relief,” McGuire said of the change. “Everybody has been talking about this from the time in February, from when they came in here and how great it was, and the possibilities of them coming into our new facility.”

Bond said everyone around Wilson is more excited about the game this year, especially since they know what to expect. The new Wilson gymnasium will also be able to pack in more fans for what may be the highlight of the Eagles’ season.

McGuire’s guys just couldn’t stand to have that highlight without their faithful fans.

“I think it says we’re very much high character,” McGuire said of his boys’ decision. “It was tempting, but at the same time, when we do the community service, it’s not that it’s so much fun. It really is for the community. It is for these people.

“It says a lot about their character, a lot about their heart. Their hearts are not self-serving; it’s about serving others.”

Admission is $5 for students and adults. A portion of the admission will benefit the St. Jude Children’s Research Center.  

Erik K. Horne