They packed into Mulligan's, Bub's, Bruski's and innumerable other local bars.
They frantically signed up for 21-hour rides on fan buses.
They took sick days, vacation days, paid leave days or I'm-just-not-showing-up days.
They drove around aimlessly just to be near a radio during the final maddening moments.
They held their breath again
And they rejoiced again
They are the Warrior nation, the purple-clad characters emerging from the woodwork all over Winona to support the Winona State University men's basketball team on their unlikely - and stress-inducing - road to the national championship game in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Four times in two weeks the Warriors have fallen behind by double digits in the second half of their playoff contests.
Four times in two weeks they have stormed back, riding gutsy performances by Smith, Flowers, Henderson, Malvik, Robinson, Ingvalson, Whipple, and, of course, Zellmann.
Twenty-one times in a row, they have won.
Never before have they achieved so much, in terms of victories, playoff accomplishments, statistics and, above all, community support.
And now, with the eyes of the nation watching, Winona presents a product overflowing with so many proud stories that a good number of those eyes might moisten a bit as the Warriors take the court.
Jonte Flowers, Quincy Henderson and Curtrel Robinson: A trio of high school buddies from Madison, Wis., reunited to propel the goals of a new community across the Mississippi.
Zach Malvik: A gutsy point guard with a broken leg who, quite literally, elevates his game to improbable heights.
John Smith: An Everyman center with a simple name who rejects every man opposing him and carries every man sharing his colors.
David Zellmann: A local legend.
With these stories and the heart-driven excitement of an entire community on display, there can be no loss for Winona on Saturday, even if the buckets ultimately fall in favor of Virginia Union.
We have already won.
The Winona State men played Virginia Union for the Men's Basketball Division II National Championship after our deadline on Saturday, March 25. The game was televised live to the entire nation on CBS. Hundreds of Winonans traveled to Springfield, Mass., for the game.