Following a loss in his first season coaching Heritage Hall, Chris Hamilton was pulled aside by Centennial’s Scott Raper.
“He told me, ‘It’s gonna take three years. I know the program’s not where you want it to be right now, but give it time,’” Hamilton remembers.
Raper was in his fourth year at Centennial at that point, and later that season went on to win his first of two state titles.
Now in his fourth season at Heritage Hall, Hamilton sees what Raper was talking about. Hamilton’s team is in the Class 3A state tournament for the first time since 1977, opening play at 3:30 p.m. Thursday against No. 1 Okemah at Carl Albert.
“We’ve watched football win state championships, volleyball, cheerleading, tennis, and all these sports winning state championships,” Hamilton said. “And we want to be on par with them.
“Coach Raper gave me the most encouraging words that night. He said it would take three years and he was right.”
Last season, in Hamilton’s third year, the Chargers came one win away from state in Class 4A. This year in 3A, they got the job done.
“It’s been a goal that all of us seniors have wanted to reach for four years, and to finally get to that point is really amazing,” point guard Peter LeForce said. “It was a long offseason after getting so close last year.”
Hamilton played in two state tournaments as a high school athlete at Northeast, and most of his coaching staff experienced state as well. Now, his players get their first opportunity.
“This feels great, but we can’t be satisfied,” junior Lindsay Deline said. “This wasn’t our goal from the start of the season. Our goal was to get the gold ball, and that’s not where we’re at yet.”
For Hamilton’s son, Chris II, it’s the pursuit to fulfill a promise he made when his dad took the head coaching job.
“When I was in eighth grade, I told my dad I was gonna get him a state ring,” he said with a smile. “That’s what we’re after.”