STILLWATER, Okla. —
PAWNEE — In the history of Oklahoma high school basketball, only 13 teams have won three-straight state championships.
On March 13, Pawnee became the 13th.
Pawnee completed its three-peat with a thrilling 56-55 overtime victory over Talihina.
“It hasn’t fully sunk in,” senior Ralston Moore said.
Moore’s free throw with three seconds left in overtime sealed the win for the Black Bears.
“People see me everyday and they still congratulate me about winning,” he said. “It’s a great feeling that you’ve won three state championships, because not many people have done that in the state of Oklahoma.
“That’ll go down in history for the rest of our lives.”
Moore also talked about the moment after his first free throw attempt rimmed out.
“It was kind of nerve racking,” Moore said. “It is kind of hard to not think about it when it’s in the crucial moments of a basketball game where it could decide if you win or lose.
“I tried my best to stay calm, and make sure I made at least one of them.”
There’s no doubt this team has achieved rock-star status in this town of 2,149. Senior David Nungester, who works at a pharmacy in downtown Pawnee, gets a daily reminder of how important the team is to the town.
“I have a lot of people when I’m checking them out, that they all say how proud they are of us,” Nungester said. “It’s cool to be noticed, driving down the road and have little kids waving at you and stuff like that.”
With the championship fresh in everyone’s mind, the team is already looking to next year — especially juniors Tate Beer and Desmond McCosar. Beer and McCosar will be the key ingredients to Pawnee’s bid for a fourth-straight state championship.
Beer and McCosar recognize the opportunity before them.
“I would probably be speechless (if Pawnee wins a fourth-straight title),” Beer said. “It would be one of the most amazing things to ever come through my life. Hopefully, Dez and I can come back and four-peat.”
Added McCosar: “It would just be an honor to be in that category. It’s a good feeling that we’re part of history, and that no-one can take that away from us.”
Pawnee’s championship was a triumph of the human spirit. To get back to the state tournament, Pawnee had to win three-straight games in the Area tournament after losing in the regional championship game.
It was also a trying time for coach David Page in more ways that one. Page’s father suffered a stroke during the Area tournament, so Page visited his father in the hospital while coaching his team back to the state tournament. Page’s father passed away a few days ago.
Pawnee also dealt with injuries that could have easily derailed the Black Bears’ championship aspirations. A month before the playoffs, Beer broke his foot, sidelining him for five weeks. While Beer was out, Moore — the team’s other starting guard — took over at the point but rolled his ankle and was out for 12 days. And just when Beer and Moore were ready to come back, Adam Bruns broke his foot in practice.
Page’s first six seasons at Pawnee have been nothing short of remarkable. Under Page, Pawnee has won four state championships in five title game appearances. Page’s one loss came at the hands of Oklahoma Christian School and former Oklahoma Sooner great Blake Griffin.
“Being a state champion in basketball is awesome, and we’ve achieved that by having good players that are coachable,” Page said. “You have to be very lucky. A lot of lucky things. Maybe them missing a shot or us making a shot, a foul here, a a foul there or something like that. There’s a lot of luck involved, and we’ve been very lucky and very blessed.”
Page laid out his team’s chances of four-peating next year.
“Tate and Des will be good enough players that can get us to the state tournament,” he said. “If we have some other kids that develop, which we have a lot that could, we can get back and compete for a state championship. I really believe that.”