They got the message.
It’s about the team.
It’s about mindset.
It’s about determination.
The 2016-17 Broncos have been described as a team with a good inside and outside game. With five shooters, they were hard to guard. If the inside game was not working, they would switch to the outside. And the opposing team could not just double team the shooter, because they were all shooters according to the Golden Spread Coach of the Year, Brandt Lockhart.
“We had five guys that could score. Our strength was that our fifth guy averaged 9 points and our first guy averaged 14 points. We had different guys that would score 17 or 18 be the high point for different games and you just couldn’t load up on one guy.”
They were also a good defensive team. They may have occasionally made bad shots and bad decisions resulting in turnovers, but they always played good defense and many games were won because of that.
But as an interested outsider, I saw true teamwork. Not just from the starting five, but also from the bench. It was a quality visible to anyone willing to look.
With an impressive 30-3 season the boys’ basketball team came home from the state championship in San Antonio as the state runner up in 2A basketball. The determination to get there was born last season when they lost the Area game in overtime to Panhandle. It was a game that Coach Lockhart felt they should have won and which stopped their advance in 2016.
“We lost in overtime last year to a team that lost the next round in double overtime to Canadian and Canadian won state. We were close last year,” Lockhart stated.
Through the summer and fall of 2016, the boys worked hard to prepare for the new season. They played summer leagues, went to camps, spent hours in the gym shooting and conditioning, and watched hours of film.
For senior Marshal Johnson, the extra work became a habit, even while he was playing football. After suffering through his sophomore year with a broken leg, Marshal was motivated.
“I just wanted to be better for the team,” Marshal said. “I couldn’t get up and down the court. I couldn’t do anything and my leg was hurting from all the weight that I had on it. I went to the gym every day, ran about five suicides, did a little workout and then went home every day until basketball season.”
The hard work paid off when Marshal was named to the All-State team, the All-Region team, the 2-2A District MVP, and the 2A Golden Spread Player of the Year.
But winning is not just about the physical preparation. It is about the mindset.
Even though every player and coach knew the boys had a good chance of going to state this year, their focus was on the next game and the next opponent.
“Never overlook a team,” senior Chance Lockhart stated. “You’ve got to go into every game thinking that team can beat you so you have to play. Even if they’re not that great a team, you still have to go into the game thinking that to make sure you don’t lose.”
Chance was named to the All-Region, All-District, and the 2A Golden Spread teams.
Certainly, at the heart of this team was #3, Riley Shadle. After suffering a football accident which left him paralyzed in 2015, the Broncos had to adjust to his absence. For the seniors on the team, it is especially hard since Riley is their peer and has been a leader on the team since junior high.
“Riley is one of the best teammates you could have on the court. We had to adapt last year without him there. We had to adapt because even when he wasn’t in the game, he was a big leader,” Chance Lockhart said.
He is also one of their best friends.
But even though Riley was not on the court, he is still part of the team.
“One thing we always talked about and some of the players talked about, too, is that it is an honor to be able to play this game and be in athletics,” Coach Lockhart explained. “Think about Riley, he would have loved to be right there with us. He was still with us, but not in the locker room with us.”
The boys carried Riley with them every time they stepped onto the court and they will continue to do so in the years to come according to Marshal Johnson.
“I wanted to play because I wanted to make him happy. He motivated me to do better,” Marshal said.
The quality that makes Riley such a good teammate and leader is the way he encourages others.
“In the playoffs after every game, we would send him a message or something,” Chance said. “Then before the state game he sent [a message] saying ‘One more.’ When we lost, we kind of felt sad. He messaged us saying ‘Good job.’”
Perhaps the best way to describe the effect Riley has on the players comes from the 2-2A Defensive MVP and member of the All Region team, senior Bryce Grahn, who first met Riley in the summer of 2015 before football season.
“Everybody asks if Riley is the motivation to your season and to your work ethic. I don’t think he’s the motivation. I think everybody on the team, the Great 8, has a drive, a want, a desire to be good. We all have this drive, this passion, to be great, to be excellent, to be a team.
“But being able to put on a jersey and to know that Riley is going to text you after the game; and being able to send Snap Chats and videos of us on the charter bus at state saying, ‘Hey, we just beat Thorndale;’ to get texts from him, ‘Hey, y’all keep playing;’ you just kind of realize Riley puts things in perspective. That basketball is not life.
“It’s really just being able to have that connection with him, to go over and take him his state medal and go over and tell him about the team, talk to him, have articles written about him.
“For us it’s not really the motivation. Riley is a bigger than life person. He keeps us humble.”
The Journey to San Antonio
After winning the Area game, the Broncos were on their way to Regionals at South Plains College on March 3. There they would face their toughest opponent to date, the Anthony Wildcats. A suburb of El Paso, Anthony was the favorite to win, but the Broncos held them off in a nail biting win of 68-64 in the Regional Semi-Final game, a game that stood out in the minds of the players.
“[My favorite memory] was beating Anthony at the Regional Semifinal. We weren’t supposed to win that game,” Chance Lockhart said. “We were supposed to get beat by them pretty good because they were the big dog of our region.”
Bryce Grahn credits his teammates for the win.
“The last five minutes I was fouled out. I’m sitting there watching Keandre and Chance and Colt handle the pressure, which I’ve done all year. And I watched them do it on the biggest game we played so far and they handled it fine. We won the game,” Bryce said.
Next came New Deal for the Regional Championship where the boys defeated the Lions 75-56. With the win, Clarendon was on its way to the state tournament in San Antonio and the Alamodome for the first time since 2011.
Bryce recalls the moment.
“There was about three minutes left and I’m dribbling the ball down the floor. The whole game Coach Lockhart just kept saying, ‘Keep finishing, keep playing, keep finishing’ even though we were up 20 at the half time. At about three minutes we finally realized that this thing’s over and it’s in the bag. I walked down the court and I’m like shaking my fist and I’m looking at Chance and I’m looking at Colt and I’m looking at Marshal and the bench and the crowd and everybody is just smiling. Because we all know it’s over and the San Antonio bound is about to become a reality for us.”
With a stop at Southwestern University to practice shooting in a gym with pull-out goals, Coach Lockhart and Coach Alton Gaines prepared for the next game. And on Friday, March 10, the team arrived at the Alamodome for the late morning game.
“Walking into the Alamodome was probably the best part,” Marshal Johnson said.” We haven’t been to state in a while and it was nice to finally change that.”
The Broncos faced Thorndale and dominated the Bulldogs by shooting over 50% from the field to win 59-35.
For the first time in 47 years, Clarendon would be in the State Final game. Their opponent, top ranked Muenster.
Muenster was in the state tournament for the third time in as many years, but had not won the championship game. They would be hard to match up with the Bronco defense since all their players were tall and could score from inside or outside.
From the beginning, the Broncos had a hard time competing with Marshal Johnson sitting out most of the first half.
“Going into the game we had a matchup problem,” Coach Lockhart explained. “They were tall, but they were all five guards. Their 6’6” kid brought the ball down or would post up. We put Marshal on him because of the matchup and Marshal got into foul trouble.”
But the problem was more than just the matchup. The Broncos were having a hard time making their shots in the first half.
“I didn’t expect them to come out on fire as much as they did,” Chance Lockhart remarked. “It threw all of us off. When we saw their semifinal game, they didn’t shoot the ball that well and when they came out against us they were just hitting everything. It surprised us. We were off.”
From the bench, All-District Honorable Mention and senior Keandre Cortez saw something unusual from his team.
“They were just beating us up and we weren’t trying to fight back, we were just taking it,” Keandre explained.
The Hornets walked away with a 73-45 win and the state championship.
“I guess my biggest regret is not being completely prepared mentally for that state championship game,” Bryce Grahn said. “I felt like we as a team were thinking, ‘We’re pumped to be here,’ when Muenster was there saying, ‘We’re going to win this thing.’ And so, two different mindsets.”
Clarendon came home as the State Runner Up with a memorable season.
“Not many schools or people can say they get second in their lifetime at state,” Keandre stated. “That’s a big deal in the state of Texas. That was very exciting.”
Words of Wisdom
“When people doubt you, just prove them wrong,” Marshal Johnson stated.
Going into the season, Clarendon was ranked 5th overall in state. There were several times that the Broncos were not expected to win, especially against Anthony, but the boys just kept advancing.
But there is a surprising consequence to winning in the playoffs.
“You get more nervous every game. That was hard,” Chance Lockhart said. “You get a lot of butterflies before every game and every round.”
But perhaps the best lesson is for the guys on the bench.
“Just wait your turn and whenever you get in just play the best you can,” Keandre Cortez advises. “Make a difference while you’re in the game no matter what. If you go in for two seconds, do something really good that two seconds.”
In the end, it all comes back to an exhibition of true, unselfish teamwork, mindset and determination.
Keandre said it best.
“You just have to suck it up. We win as a team and lose as a team no matter if you’re a starter or not.”
Servant leaders lead by serving others and helping them be at their best. Anyone can lead by service at home, work, school or in the community. Servant leaders put the needs of others above their own, respect everyone, are a positive influence and are courteous.
This year Superintendant Mike Norrell continues a district wide program of Servant Leaders where one student from each grade level is chosen by the teachers to be the month's student leader. The concept of servant leaders is to recongnize students who are exhibiting service to their peers and to their teachers. It is also designed to encourage other students to be servant leaders, too.
"True leadership is rooted in the service of others. Because our school, community, nation, and world benefits from selfless behavior, we need to teach and encourage our students to think of others and learn that we all can accomplish many things, even great things, when we are inspired by a purpose beyond ourselves. Therefore, to promote this concept and build a servant culture, we want to recognize the generous and noble actions of our students." said Norrell.