Charleston Collegiate School’s varsity basketball team had a lot to play for over the final couple of months of the season.

The Sun Devils, one of the favorites in the South Carolina Independent School Association (SCISA) Class AA, not only were gunning for a state title, they were trying to honor the memory of a super fan and his wife.

Gary Dulin, who died Jan. 10, and his wife, Dianne, of Easton, Md., vacationed at Kiawah and Seabrook islands for many years.

When their nephew, Scott Dempsey, and his family moved here and enrolled their daughter, Angelina, at Charleston Collegiate, the Dulins decided to take in a game and became hooked.

They fell in love with the school and the school fell in love with the Dulins, who sat on the front row at every game and even began riding the players’ bus to away games. The Dulins also established the Gary Dulin Leadership Scholarship.

Dulin, who worked for the Maryland Department of Transportation before retiring, suffered a stroke 13 years ago and had another one in June.

He had some balance issues, Dianne said, but the students and parents did their best to let him know he was loved and appreciated.

“The kids were wonderful to him, giving him high fives,” said Dianne, who returned for the SCISA playoffs following her husband’s funeral.

Dulin was hospitalized after a fall Jan. 8. His wife let the people at Charleston Collegiate know they would be unable to make that night’s game, and the school responded.

“We knew they had limited family in the area. It was amazing to me to watch what our community did,” said Charleston Collegiate head of school Hacker Burr.

Charlotte Smith, head of the booster club, arranged for all the school’s players to sign a basketball and took it to the hospital for Dulin.

“(The basketball) was an idea that really originated with the team members,” Burr said. “Getting down there all together would be difficult, but that was something to do to put a smile on Dianne’s face, to let her know she was loved and supported at a difficult time.”

The team dedicate the rest of the season to Dulin and began wearing blue T-shirts that had “In Memory of Gary Dulin – 1944-2013.”

The Sun Devils came up just short of their state championship goal, losing in the semifinals for the second straight year. But they were certainly champions with their No. 1 fans, the Dulins.