Making the Class 4A state basketball tournament last year did one thing for Harrah this season: build confidence.
The Bethany Classic was a demonstration of exactly how much confidence the fifth-ranked Panthers possess this season.
They were completely dominant, running through three top-20 teams in Class 5A for the championship, and in turn putting on display a talent level reminiscent of the 2010 team that finished as Class 4A's runner-up.
“The resiliency is obviously a big part of it,” Harrah coach Curt Knox said. “We were 5A for a long time, and stepping back down, these kids didn't necessarily believe, I think to the certain point, what Harrah basketball is all about because of those two years (we missed the state tournament).”
Following the 2010 heartbreaking loss to Cache, Harrah found itself on the outside looking in the next two seasons. It returned last season, only to fall to Cushing in the quarterfinals.
But the entire time, players such as Blake Blessington and Darian Hill were maturing.
Now, they're the leaders of a team turning heads.
“We learned to work together and get more confidence in us, because honestly I think we had a lack of confidence,” Hill said. “Now, our confidence is boosted and we really trust each other.”
Knox said he's purposely created a tough schedule for his team, including scrimmages against Class 6A teams Edmond Memorial and Mustang, while also scrimmaging Redlands Community College.
It's worked to near perfection, with the Panthers' eight wins all coming against top-20 teams in various classes. Their one loss is to Class 6A No. 10 Choctaw in December.
Last weekend's tournament, though, was perhaps the most impressive, and the trio of victories over Western Heights, Piedmont and Class 5A defending champion Deer Creek only had Knox fully confident his team is destined for greatness.
The players are starting to believe, too.
“It's really high,” Blessington said about the team's confidence level. “Going into the tournament, it was good. Now, it's really high.”
And when asked about the similarities between this team and the 2010 team, Blessington didn't hold back.
“I think we're very similar to the 2010 team,” she said. “We have lots of the same positions, but I think we're more athletic.
“I think we can get farther than the 2010 team.”
Further means just one more win and a gold ball.