GIRARD — After three consecutive top-three finishes at the KSHSAA State Tournament from 2006-2008, the Girard Trojans looked to be on the cusp of winning their first boys state title in school history.
The Trojans dominated the CNC during that stretch, going 24-0 against league opponents.
However, after falling to Basehor-Linwood 53-48 in the state championship game in 2009, the Trojans fell into a lull, before returning to the state tournament 2013-2014 season after winning the sub-state championship.
Girard has continued to improve since then, culminating in this season’s amazing state tournament run, ending in their first 3A Boys State Title.
“It still feels unreal. Our whole team dreamed of just making it to state, and to win it all is a dream come true. I keep going back and watching the game and I can’t believe it.” said Girard senior Caleb Muia.
“Im very proud of our kids,” said Girard head coach Rod Wescott. “They showed lots of character and perseverance throughout the season and that paid off big in the playoffs.”
“I could not be happier for our players, fans, school, and community.” added Wescott.
Heading into this season, Trojan expectations were high, having captured three CNC titles in the past four seasons.
“Every year before the season, we sit down as a team without coaches and discuss our goals. Our main goals were to go undefeated, win the CNC, Sub-State, and state titles.” said Muia
“As a team we sat in a classroom and discussed our goals. We all had a common goal and dream which was going undefeated and winning state.” said senior Ryder Worrell.
While some teams struggle in the early season, Girard excelled, winning their first ten games.
“We started off strong because we all knew what roles we had to play to be a winning team due to the work and time we’ve put in the gym.” said Worrell
The team lost their first game against Baxter Springs, the first of three games this year against a tough Lions team.
Girard dropped three games in the middle of the season, but the Trojans regained their footing, capturing the CNC title after defeating the Lions in OT in their final regular season matchup.
“Struggling from losses made us hungry and motivated to push back and secure the league title.” said Worrell.
“We grew up playing basketball with each other, and I feel like that helped us to work really well as a team. We all have dreamed of making a good run in high school and I think we just wanted to do anything to make it happen.” said Muia.
Girard had to battle back from adversity at the Sub-State tournament, falling behind double-digits in the final quarter of their semifinal to Caney Valley.
The team rallied back, storming to a double-digit win. Girard defeated Baxter Springs for the second time in the Sub-State finals, before having to come from behind in all three of the state tournament games.
“We had to keep our composure and realize all good teams make a run, so we would just take it play-by-play. We have good leaders on our team, which helped us keep our composure when behind, and it helped us win a lot of games.” said Muia.
Beloit jumped out on the Trojans in the championship matchup, with Carson Cox putting on a dazzling shooting display, going 7-7 from the field, including six three pointers.
Girard found themselves in a position that they have been in before, down at halftime against a talented foe, this time with the 3A state championship hanging in the balance.
“Down at halftime with the odds against us, I told my teammates we can cry in loss or cry in victory.” said Worrell
With Muia dealing with double and sometimes triple teams, Worrell displayed his penchant for hitting big shots, nailing four three-pointers.
Worrell’s fourth three-pointer tied the game with inside of five minutes remaining in the game.
“Once the clock hit zero in the state championship game and I saw we were up, it was hard to process what we accomplished because in the end we achieved the ultimate goal we set out for at the beginning of the year.”
Seniors Carter Doherty and Evan Troike also played key roles for the Trojans throughout the tournament. Troike, after leading the tournament in both rebounds and assists, joined Muia and Worrell on the All-Tournament team.
“It was the most fun I’ve had playing basketball.” added Muia.
“I’ve dreamed of playing in the state tournament since I was in seventh grade watching my sisters compete at state. It’s such a great environment and I loved every second of it.”