By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Seeing the Kremlin-Hillsdale boys walk off the court after a 42-30 win over Timberlake in the seventh-place game of the Cherokee Strip Tournament, one wouldn’t have sensed the Broncs had just broken a 62-game winning streak.
There was no jumping up and down, just a few smiles as they shook the hands of the Tiger players going to the dressing room.
“We were trying to act like we have done this before,’’ said junior Connor McCullough. “We went out and performed, and that’s what it’s all about.’’
It may be what sports is supposed to be about — not whether you won or lost, but how you played the game.
“It’s pretty exciting,’’ said Broncs first-year head coach Brad Hawkins. “These kids have worked hard and put some time in, and it’s finally seeing it pay off. They played together and worked together, that’s what we have been talking about all year.’’
The Broncs, through an 0-19 season, had worked hard and maintained a good attitude, Hawkins said. A win just helps reinforce those things.
“I think they’re going to be excited to go back in the gym and try to do things better than we did today,’’ Hawkins said.
Quitting was not in the vocabulary of these players, 62-game losing streak or not. Kremlin-Hillsdale’s last win had come against Ringwood, 46-41 on Nov. 30, 2010.
“We all have a good time and work together in practice,’’ McCullough said. “That’s what keeps us going. It was discouraging. I’m trying to be a team leader. A leader is helping everybody else through it, even though it’s tough on yourself. One of my goals, one of Lee Olmstead’s and one of Tanner Sweetwood’s goals have been to trying to help each other out.’’
McCullough and Olmstead are the only two juniors seeing significant playing time. Sweetwood is the lone senior and only member left of the 2010 team which won the Cherokee Strip Tournament.
Sophomore Jacob Pekrul said his teammates and Hawkins kept him up.
“It just feels great now,’’ he said. “We have worked so hard in practice, day in and day out. As soon as the final buzzer sounded, all of the emotions kicked in, but we tried to stay humble.’’
Sophomore Hayden Bonine said the team’s youth kept him up.
“We have a lot of games left,’’ he said. “We know we will get here one day. I think this will boost our morale. It’s going to keep us working hard. We have been waiting for this for a long time. We have been working hard in practice every day.’’
Sophomore J.J. Stubblefield, who became eligible the second semester, led the attack with 13 points, including seven points in the first quarter when Kremlin-Hillsdale raced off to a 13-7 lead.
“It’s a sense of relief,’’ he said. “There was a lot of pressure on us to win. We went out and performed like we should have all year. I think we were a little more relaxed today. We went out there thinking we were going to win.’’
Sophomore Andre Lizar said he had like the win “was a sense of the future.’’
“We’re going for state one day,’’ he said. “After losing so much, you just want to know what it feels like to win. It feels amazing. We’re ready for more. We’re not satisfied with just one win.’’
The streak brought the Broncs closer together, Lizar said.
“We were tired of hearing about it,’’ he said. “I think this will get us more respect. I know we’ll show up every day for practice for two-and-a-half hours to do our best.’’
Defense, Hawkins said, made the difference Saturday. The Broncs have had their two best defensive efforts of the season back-to-back. Kremlin-Hillsdale lost to Deer Creek-Lamont, 31-24 Friday in the consolation semifinals.
“We controlled the offensive and defensive boards,’’ he said. “We played well together.’’
Bonine attributed the win to taking care of the basketball. The 42 points was Kremlin-Hillsdale’s second-highest offensive production of the season.
“We didn’t turn it over as much,’’ he said. “We got some good stops and kept them in check.’’
The Broncs led by as many as 13 points (23-10) in the first half, only to see the Tigers score 10 unanswered points to cut the lead to 3 at intermission (23-20).
Having a lead was something Kremlin-Hillsdale wasn’t used to.
“I always tell them there are times in games that things don’t go right,’’ Hawkins said. “They made it close, but it’s good that we hung in there.’’
“We felt a little pressure,’’ Pekrul said, “but we kept our composure tonight. Coach had a good halftime speech and it kept us going.’’
Bonine remembers “feeling great’’ at 23-10, but knew there was a lot of the game left.
“We just had to keep working hard,’’ he said. “We got a little nervous and a little shaky with free throws, but it was just exciting. It’s finally here. We need to keep this feeling going.’’
The Lady Broncs had beaten Ringwood 56-54 the game before in the girls seventh-place game. It was the school’s first sweep since that Nov. 30 night at Ringwood.
“Oh man, I think the morale of the school just doubled,’’ said K-H superintendent Jim Patton, a former coach himself. “I think Monday is going to be a different day around here. It’s good for everybody ... coaches, players, community ...’’
Campbell is a News & Eagle sports writer.