Kapaun Mt. Carmel hadn’t won a state championship since 1981, when Greg Dreiling played for the Crusaders. On Saturday, it won two.
Kapaun boys coach John Cherne III told his team all season that it’s nothing but peaks and valleys. There will be highs and there will be lows in the season, and Saturday Kapaun Mt. Carmel was on top of the world.
The Crusaders took care of business against the Hawks from KC Harmon to the tune of a 68-57 win in the 2012 state championship game.
“Who would have thought Kapaun Mt. Carmel would be state champs?” said Kapaun’s Nick Cook after the win. “We’ve been known to go into panic mode before, but going into the fourth, we relied on each other and battled together.”
Cook led all scorers with 21 points.
Kapaun and Harmon traded shot for shot. The entire first half was back-and-forth. Both teams were in rhythm, but Kapaun held the eight-point advantage going into the break.
It seemed as though everything Harmon threw at Kapaun, the Crusaders had an answer. Something Cherne credits with playing in the Wichita City League.
“Ever since I got to Kapaun, everything has been a whirlwind,” said Cherne. “You have three weeks to practice, then you play 24 games. We had to go through the city league and that’s what got us ready for this (tournament). I can’t thank the city league coaches enough for helping get us ready for what we would face.”
There were times when the Kapaun lead would shrink and the momentum would shift to the Harmon side of the floor, but the Crusaders stayed calm and collected and continued to play ball.
The dagger came in the final quarter when Michael Martin got the steal and tossed a no-look pass to Jeremy Lickteig, dunked the ball home. It was two of four points on the night.
Martin finished his state championship with seven points, five rebounds and four assists. It wasn’t his stat line that was necessarily impressive, but instead his demeanor on the court.
He was almost always quiet, just doing his job. He saved every bit of emotion for after the state championship win.
Harmon post player Michael Carson led his team with 19 points.
This was Cherne's first year as Kapaun head coach.
Kapaun girls win first championship since 1979
After Kapaun Mt. Carmel’s semifinal win Friday, girls coach Marvin Estes asked his team if it thought it would be playing for a state championship at the beginning of the year. None of the girls raised their hands. All of the coaches raised theirs.
“The secret to coaching is to make the kids believe in themselves,” said Estes. “The secret is getting people to believe they can accomplish something extraordinary.”
The last time Estes coached basketball, the game didn’t have a three-point line. He won his last championship at Kapaun in 1979. In his first year back, he coached the Lady Crusaders to a 51-44 win in the 2012 state championship game over Blue Valley Stilwell.
“Those kids were so patient with me throughout the season,” he said. “There would be times I tell them to do one thing and they’d look at me and say, ‘We don’t do that anymore, coach.’”
Kapaun came out of the gates with a plan, and they executed it to near perfection. From the tip-off, Kapaun was methodical in its dealing with the Lady Tigers from Stilwell.
Kapaun’s Courtney Gahagan was the team leader for the night. Time after time, she would make a pass or a shot that would put the momentum in Kapaun’s corner. She was perfect from the field, going 3-for-3 and made her lone three-point attempt. Gahagan finished with 13 points, five rebounds and four assists.
To lead the team statistically was Samantha Bachrodt. She finished her state championship with 16 points and eight rebounds.
Kapaun led 38-28 midway through the final quarter, but was able to revert back to the fundamentals Estes had preached all year. It made free throws. Kapaun’s last 13 points came from free throws.
“We have faith that we’re going to make free throws,” said Estes. “There for a while, our faith wavered a little, but that’s our game.”
The Lady Crusaders played the same game Saturday it’s played all season long.
“We want to get the lead and hold that lead,” said Estes. “That’s been our game secret all season long.”