Making it to the state tournament is a goal for every team that laced up the sneakers at the start of the school year. Only four teams in each division realize that dream.
Justin Northwest and Keller – schools in 5A and 6A respectively and just under 15 miles apart – each achieved that goal this season.
With hundreds of media questions pointed their way leading up to and following their state semifinal losses, we posed just five questions to each head coach, Northwest’s Mike Hatch and Keller’s Randall Durant.
1. You’ve said your team had achieved more than you thought from the very first practice. When was it you thought this team had turned the corner toward a deep run?
Hatch: When we beat (Saginaw) Chisholm Trail the first half of district.
Durant: When we came from 27-9 behind to beat a good Northwest team over Christmas (in a) tournament, I knew we had some fight in us. After the second round win over Permian, I could see confidence grow, and our kids welcomed the chance to play North Crowley.
2. What was the biggest surprise of the season?
Hatch: The amount of games we won. Thirty-two is a lot. We had no idea we would do that.
Durant: Surprise, maybe the play of (senior) Brady Boyd. He really found his niche with this team. Tough defender and rebounder, he played inside all year at the 6A level at six feet tall. Huge heart!
“This accomplishment was laid in the foundation on expectations of players from previous years along with their milestones and heartaches. I think they call it tradition.”
- Keller head coach Randall Durant
3. How does this experience build for the future?
Hatch: Hopefully we have instilled in all of our kids in the program how to be successful. Our returning players have to hold the younger guys to this standard.
Durant: It’s great. It lets all our younger kids know it can happen! The stands had dozens of teenage and younger kids watching their team play in the state tournament and dreaming of their chance to do the same.
4. What did you say to the team after the loss?
Hatch: I wanted them to get their heads up and be proud of what they accomplished. Nobody likes to lose, but it’s going to happen to every team but one. I wanted them to know how proud we, as a staff, were of them.
Durant: I told them the pain they were feeling wasn’t because they lost, it was because of the love the have felt towards each other. Now that special time seems like it’s over, but it’s not, it will be in their minds forever. Thirty years from now they will still be teammates, no one can ever take that away. That is what team sports are about.
5. What does it mean to have set the bar for the school’s program?
Hatch: It’s a great feeling knowing we did something no other boys basketball team has done. It will be more important to keep it going. It’s extremely hard to maintain this level. Hopefully we can take that step with our next team.
Durant: Expectations are what allow you to achieve. This accomplishment was laid in the foundation on expectations of players from previous years along with their milestones and heartaches. I think they call it tradition.
Each coach was also given the opportunity to add personal thoughts not previously addressed, and both expressed appreciation for the support they received.
Hatch: Our program, coaches and players would like to thank all the people that supported us on this magical ride. The parents, our administration and Northwest faculty and our student body were fantastic!
Durant: We just want to thank our fans, parents and community for their support! In my 12 years at Keller, our basketball family and fans have been amazing!