The Saratoga Sun -

Pouncing their way into history

Saratoga Panthers win State Championship for first time in school history

 

March 11, 2020

Joshua Wood

Senior Menphis Smith leaps into junior Noah Rimmer's (44) arms following their 52-42 win over Farson-Eden on Saturday night.

When the Saratoga Panthers began their season, they did so believing they had something to prove. The year before, the Panthers had just barely missed the chance to make it to the 1A West Regional Tournament. This year, they ended their season by standing on the podium at the 1A State Tournament as State Champions. 

Point proven.

The way this season ended was much more than just proving that the Panthers could be champions. It was a history making end to the season. Since 1988, Saratoga had only placed at the State Tournament four other times. In the entire history of the program, the Panthers had never been able to come home as State Champions.

While the win was certainly one to celebrate for the current Panthers, it was also one for previous players as well. While many of the current players had the State Championship as their goal since middle school, it had been attempted by many before them and they appeared to be just as proud as if they were standing up there themselves.

"Congrats to you young men, that is awesome," said Brian Willford, a Saratoga High School alumni. "Thought we were going to get it done in 1983 with: myself, Bounty Hunter, Marco Martin, David Jones, Rob Pigg, Shawn Bridewater, David Forester, Tom Mahon, Greg Herold. We fell short, so what a great accomplishment for the team, school and community!"

"We came close in 1965. Players: George Patton, Tony Seahorn, Carl Hansen, Butch Buff, Rick Luchsinger, Tom Runner, Joe Glode, Gary Elliott," said Tony Seahorn, another Saratoga High School alumni "Congratulations 2019/2020 Panthers!"

"This for the Valley. This is for the community of Saratoga," said Jason Williams, head coach of the Panthers. "These guys did it. This is all them, this is their hard work. They put in hours and hours over the summer and hard work pays off. I'm just so proud of these guys on so many levels and, obviously, this is a big one."

That feeling of coming home as State Champions is still a surreal one for the two seniors that helped lead Saratoga to the Championship Round.

"It's an unreal feeling. You want it to happen but it just takes a bunch of hard work and it just all paid off at the end," said Logan Seahorn. "All those open gyms and just shooting the ball around. It just feels great, honestly. The best feeling ever."

"Feels great, it's almost unbelievable. It's all that we've been working for last year, the year before that and the year before that but this year we actually made it happen," said Menphis Smith.

Despite the late return of the Saratoga basketball team, they rolled through town around midnight, they were greeted along the streets by friends, family and fans. The support was something not lost on the team.

"I appreciate all the support for us getting back so late. A lot of people from the town came out and showed their appreciation for us," Seahorn said.

"I appreciate that also. Being a team that didn't even make regionals last year to winning the State Championship this year, I think the community had a lot to do with that. Our parents, everything," Smith said.

In the years to come, the Saratoga Panthers may have more opportunities to return home as State Champions. For the 2019/2020 Panthers, however, they have the distinct honor of being able to say that they were the first ones to do so.

 

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