Mike Langley knew his Stuart team had a tough road ahead from the beginning.
"Our goal at the beginning of the season was to try to make it to the state tournament,” Langley said. "We had set a preseason goal to take it one game at a time. (Our schedule) was really loaded with ranked teams.”
The Hornets began to perform like they had planned — one game at a time, on the way to a 26-6 season.
When it came time for the Pitt 8 Conference Tournament, Stuart upset Kiowa in the semifinals to set up a championship battle with Canadian.
It became a back and forth battle, where Stuart would eventually become runners-up. Langley knew his team had potential, and they continued on their path to the playoffs.
In the postseason, Stuart was met with adversity. After a loss to Kiowa in the regional championship, the Hornets battled their way back in the consolation bracket. Langley said the toughness of his team showed they weren’t going to go down without a fight.
A buzzer-beater victory to reach the area consolation finals, and a decisive win the next night to punch Stuart’s ticket to the state tournament. Langley mentioned that those outcomes were due to the quality and work ethic of his players.
"I was extremely happy for the boys,” Langley said. "It was, I think, mostly satisfying. I felt really good for them.”
Next came the state tournament, which brought about its own set of new challenges. A quarterfinals meeting with Ft. Cobb-Broxton ended in a thrilling buzzer-beater finish, which would soon go viral around the state of Oklahoma.
"I thought they hung in there. That game could have gone either way. I know there was some controversy, but that was like a hundred other calls in the game,” Langley said. "That was just awesome. The next game, I still to this day think that we could have come out on that one."
Langley believes that had it not been for some of his players feeling under the weather, his team could have found a way to win. It wouldn’t have been the first time his team leapt over hurdles thanks to a little steadfastness and leadership from the Hornet seniors.
"That’s the way that shaked out. There were several games that we were behind and came back,” Langley said. "They’re one of the reasons why we made it as far as we did."
At the end of the day, the Hornets coach said he’s been grateful to be by this team’s side. He was brought to Stuart when his son desired to play there in 2014, and went to his first state tournament with the school.
Since then, he’s loved being a part of the green and gold community.
"We have the best, and I mean that sincerely, fan base and school support group just about anywhere,” Langley said. "They are good players, they’re good kids. They’re really good, young men. That doesn’t happen."
Contact Derek Hatridge at email@example.com