The Claremore Christian Warriors claimed a pair of Class 1A HCAA regional basketball titles on Tuesday, Feb. 9 at Wright Christian Academy in Tulsa.
They both had convincing victories over Cornerstone Christian of Sperry. The girls rolled 52-8 while the boys cruised 69-37.
The defending champion Warriors (10-7) will face Bradford Christian of Pryor in the quarterfinals Tuesday, Feb. 23 at 2 p.m. at Lakewood Christian in McAlester.
The Lady Warriors (13-2) will play an opponent to be determined Friday, Feb. 26 at 4 p.m. in the semifinals at Destiny Christian in Del City. They got a bye in the quarterfinals for winning the regional.
The state tournament was originally scheduled to be completed Saturday, Feb. 13 but was pushed back due to the wintry weather.
The Lady Warriors finished runner-up to Liberty Academy the past two seasons. However, that won't be the case this year as the Eagles moved up to Class 2A.
Junior guard Hannah Schulze and senior forward Kaylee Blair have played together for eight years and will lead the charge in hoping the third time is a charm.
Schulze averages double figures in both scoring and assists and also has about seven steals per game. Blair leads the team in both scoring and rebounding this season. Blair also passed 1,000 career points in the regional final victory.
“(Hannah's) passing ability is by far one of the best around," said Claremore Christian coach Katie Schulze, Hannah's mom. "Kaylee is a pure shooter. She can play inside and outside, which makes her hard to defend."
The Lady Warriors graduated three solid seniors last year, but a trio of freshmen have stepped up in Darcy Vineyard, Katelyn Fisher and Grace Partney.
Vineyard and Fisher are both solid defensively while Partney has been particularly strong 3-point shooter.
"Darcy and Katelyn never quit and give it their all every game," Schulze said. "Grace is the hardest worker on the team, and it shows with how much she has improved in a short amount of time.
COVID-19 played havoc with the Lady Warriors. Their first four games of the season were canceled, so they were able to play only twice prior to Christmas Break.
Even with the frustration of wondering if and when they would play, the team remained patient, and the 2021 portion of their schedule saw minimal games called off.
"The biggest obstacles have been the constant up and down and keeping the girls motivated," Schulze said. "They wanted to play games. There were tears a lot of times when I told them another one was canceled. I told them every time we play, to treat it like it's a championship game. We didn't know what the season would look like, so be thankful for every time we got to play. I'm proud of this team and the growth. They have put in the work despite the challenging circumstances and kept positive attitudes."
Sophomore Logan Picolet leads the Claremore Christian boys in scoring and has shown the willingness and unselfishness to play any position necessary for the team.
The junior trio of Peyton Abbott, Aiden Phillips and Eric Titsworth are formidable and have all embraced any role to fuel further success.
"All season long we have prioritized team play and maximizing our skill sets," Claremore Christian boys coach Jonathan Eslick said. "The commitment and hard work led us to a 1-seed."
Another player that has stepped up is sophomore Deaken Abbott. Eslick described Abbott as a "Tasmanian Devil" on the defensive end.
"(Deaken's) effort, hustle and skill have allowed us to be a defense-first team that opens up the floor for our scorers and some exciting transition basketball," Eslick said.
COVID-19 also impacted the Warriors with postponements and cancellations. Eslick even had to miss one game, but assistant coach Bryan Bell stepped in and led the team to a victory.
"We had a full quarantine week which took away valuable practice and conditioning," Eslick said. "Our guys worked so hard to stay in shape, remain high on energy and stay focused even with all the hurdles and precautions throughout the year."
The Claremore Christian boys do not have a senior on the roster. As a result, Eslick is confident they can continue this run for some time.
"We plan to win state for a second time this year, a third time next year and a fourth time the following year with almost all of these same players," Eslick said. "The future is established for CCS boys basketball, and we feel it's time to update our trophy case."