Created: 03/20/2014 6:40 PM KAALtv.com
By: Dan Conradt
(ABC 6 NEWS) -- It’s a spirit that has brought several small southern Minnesota communities even closer together:
"It's just electric", “full of excitement", and “really chaotic" are just some of the descriptions.
From New Richland to Hartland and Ellendale to Geneva, “Panther Fever” is running rampant.
"This week it's been really hard to concentrate," said NRHEG senior Hannah Light.
“You'll be sitting in class and you'll be trying to focus and you can't, you're just too excited for everything," senior Carson Field added.
It’s March Madness, Minnesota style.
"Everyone wants to talk basketball, and it's just been fun," said Linda Wagner, who has three granddaughters on the NRHEG girls’ basketball team.
“I think it really does pull the community together," said Sheila Adams at the New Richland drugstore.
“I think small schools do tend to have a bigger pride for both their team and community,” said NRHEG senior TJ Schiltz.
On Friday, the NRHEG girls play their second game in the 2014 state tournament.
"The whole team, they grew up together, nice girls, they're smart, they're good role models," Sheila Adams said.
“They're all athletic and good players and they play well together," said proud grandmother Linda Wagner.
“They truly are top notch students and just wonderful kids in general," added NRHEG secondary principal Dave Bunn.
It’s the Panthers third straight trip to the state tournament; last year, they walked away with the title.
"I think we're watching something very special here," Linda Wagner said.
“This, I think is even more special with the fact that we have five or six really talented seniors going out for it," senior TJ Schiltz added.
At 6 o’clock Friday night, NRHEG plays Howard Lake - Waverly - Winsted for a trip to the 2014 title game.
"People love to show up for this stuff, and I think it's awesome" senior Carson Field said. “Everyone will be there. Going to be sweet."
You'll be able to watch that game on KAAL 6.2.