At most family gatherings for the last 20-plus years, Okarche basketball has been a standing topic of discussion when the Grellner family gets together.
Five of Marion Grellner's sons played basketball at Okarche. One of her sons — Dan Grellner — played on the Warriors' 1979 Class A championship game.
All but one of Marion Grellner's 16 grandchildren played basketball at Okarche. All but two have played in the state tournament.
Thursday at Oklahoma City University, Okarche's girls team opened the Class A state tournament with a 57-47 win over Sterling.
Three of Marion's grandchildren — cousins Madi, Rae and Kenadey Grellner — were in the starting lineup for the Lady Warriors.
Madi, a junior, can't remember the first time she went to the state tournament to see one of her cousins play for Okarche.
“I've been coming to the state tournament for as long as I can remember,” she said. “It's definitely different than what I imagined it would be like. I remember thinking those girls were so big when we'd go to watch them.
“I don't feel that big now.”
She came up big Thursday though, scoring 19 points in the win, hitting six 3-pointers.
Having a starting lineup made up of three family members has done wonders for Okarche's chemistry.
“We're all so close to our cousins,” Rae said. “We grew up watching them play and now we've been playing together for so long.”
Okarche coach Cherie Myers said that can go the other way too.
“You never know if having a group like that will be a good thing or a bad thing,” Myers said. “But they've been playing together so long that they always have a pretty good idea of what each other is going to do and they feed off each other.”
Each has their role.
Kenadey's older sister, Kelsey, played point guard for Okarche, and the sophomore has taken over as the Lady Warriors' floor leader. Rae, a junior, is the team's defensive stopper. Madi is the 3-point shooting specialist.
“Earlier in the year, we said if you put us all together, we'd be one pretty good player,” Rae said.
Individually, though, they go pretty far toward making Okarche a pretty good team.
The Lady Warriors finished as runners-up a season ago and the team that beat them in the championship game — Frontier — was knocked out of the tournament Thursday by Turner.
There is a certain amount of pressure in the family to not only make the tournament but to win while they're there.
“It's a relief once you make it,” Kenadey said. “It's definitely a disappointment if we don't make it. Everybody's made it before so you feel like you've got to live up to that.”
But every trip is still special.
“This is so much fun,” Rae said. “It's the best week of the year. We get treated so well at school this week.”
There will be two more years of Grellners at Okarche, but Kenadey will be the end of a generation.
“She's it,” said Dan Grellner, Madi's father. “Basketball has always been the centerpiece of what we do through the winter.
“Okarche basketball means a lot to our family and a lot to the dedicated people in this whole community.”