COLUMBIA — High-pitched voices ring off the walls of Hickman High School's gym before every girls basketball home game.
Shortly after the buzzer sounds to signal the end of Hickman's pregame shooting routine, the Kewpies form three separate lines, with the seniors in front. They begin sliding back and forth, clapping their hands once at the end of each two slides. Then, they gather in a circle in the middle of the court. They lock their arms and sway back and forth. Junior forward Cherish Walton enters the middle of the circle.
To the crowd, it's hard to hear what they are trying to chant. But Kewpies players know it by heart.
Walton yells, "Let me hear say Kewp dogs." The rest of the team returns, "Kewp dogs." Finally, the huddle finishes up with the whole team screaming in unison, "Get hype, get hype, get hype."
The chant started well before the current Kewpies players began their careers at Hickman. Former Hickman player Lauren Harris, who was a sophomore at the time, first came up with the idea in 2001, coach Tonya Mirts said. She said the chant has been used off and on during home games ever since.
"They really have to be a pretty special group to use that chant because who started it took us to the final four (in the Missouri girls basketball state championship) twice," Mirts said.
The Kewpies used the chant to establish an emotional edge in their 64-44 win over Rolla on Monday night. Mirts said it was the first time the Kewpies used the ritual this season since Monday night was the team's first home game.
Freshman Emily Miller, who led the Kewpies with 19 points, said the ritual gets the team in the right mindset before the game starts.
"Right when we do that little huddle, it kind of means game time. That starts it for us," Miller said. "It's kinda cool to think that almost every Kewpie team has done that."
Hickman (6-1) plays next at 7 p.m. Friday at Staley.