FAIRVIEW — Coach Mike Barton has been slowly building his girls basketball program up for the last 12 years, and he finally got the big return on his investment last month.
Barton, The Oklahoman's Super 5 Coach of the Year, led Fairview to its first state championship since 1974, beating Northeast 38-36 in the Class 2A title game.
Barton's team lost to Northeast in the area final just days before the championship game, but he said that loss was valuable.
“I'm not sure our girls knew for sure if we could play with them,” Barton said. “After that first game, we realized that we could play with them.”
Northeast held a 7-point lead late in the fourth quarter of the championship game, but Barton's team didn't panic, closing the game on a 10-1 scoring run.
“Northeast is really up-tempo and athletic,” Barton said. “I told the girls before the game, whether we get up 10 or down 10, we've still got to keep playing.”
Fairview also had to rally from two different 8-point deficits in its first-round win over Oktaha.
Barton has consistently had Fairview in the area finals or the state tournament for the past five years, and it's because he built the program from the ground up. He worked with the junior-high program for years, and this year, he became the girls basketball coach for 7th-graders through seniors.
“We've got really good stability right now,” Barton said. “Being in the gym with them helps because when they come in as freshman, they know what the program's about.
“It starts with the younger kids. We have great parents. ... It goes back to the whole community. I'm not sure it's anything I've necessarily done. They make my job really easy.”