Horizon senior Darren Carrington holds up four fingers after the Panthers won the fourth boys basketball state championship in school history last month.
Championships, and the trophies that go with them, create special moments for a player, the school, the alumni, parents and the entire community.
Nothing, however, rivals winning a state championship — in any sport.
The San Diego Section has crowned a few state champions in its 63-year history. Some of the more memorable ones include Point Loma’s four straight girls basketball titles in 1984-87; Cathedral Catholic’s football bowl title in 2008; La Jolla Country Day’s girls basketball team that won it all in 2012 as well as 2001 and ’02; the USDHS boys basketball team that claimed a state crown in 1998; Lincoln’s boys basketball team that was the best around in 2010; Poway’s wrestling crowns in 1986, 1999, 2005 and ’09; and Horizon’s boys basketball teams, which won state titles in 2002, ’03 and ’06.
When Horizon won this year’s Division V championship on sophomore Ethan Underwood’s buzzer-beating shot against Alameda St. Joseph Notre Dame, it was simply the next time for the Panthers.
For St. Augustine, which won the Division III championship with a 59-52 win in overtime over San Francisco Sacred Heart Cathedral, it marked the first time in their 91-year existence that the Saints were the best in basketball.
What neither coach anticipated was the effect the state championship trophy had on everyone around them.
“That trophy brings a lot to this school,” Horizon coach Tyrone Hopkins said. “These players uplifted the entire school and everyone who ever went here.
“Our trophy is going to get dust on it and people will forget how we won it, but we created memories that will last a lifetime.
“Over spring break, I kept the trophy in my car trying to catch some of that energy off it. I’m sure Mike did the same thing.”
Mike Haupt, who was in his second state finals with St. Augustine, has come to understand just how valuable this one trophy is for the Purple Gang.
“Our school is so big on community and tradition anyway, but you throw this championship onto the pile and it further cements a bond with every guy who has ever graduated from here,” said Haupt, the former San Diego Section Co-Player of the Year in 1984 at Mira Mesa. “I never put much thought into winning a state title because I believe it’s all about the process and you never think you’re going to get there, especially the little school on Nutmeg Street.
“Only a couple of schools have done this in basketball. I got a lot of texts and emails from other coaches after we won and that was very gratifying for me. I’m sure the kids have heard from alums, too.
“I’m a firm believer in relationships and how awesome is it that every player and coach made sacrifices together to reach this moment. The whole experience is priceless.”
So is having a state basketball championship trophy hanging around.