It’s been three months, but it feels like yesterday to Brian Gibson.
Perhaps that’s because the Landry-Walker coach often watches the Class 4A state championship game, his team’s thrilling 37-35 victory over Salmen.
He watched it yet again on Wednesday, shortly before attending a ceremony where his Charging Buccaneers were presented championship rings (Super Bowl-looking rings) for a second straight season.
This year’s team, with the addition of 6-foot-9 East Jefferson transfer Blake Paul, was bigger than last year’s.
And so were the rings.
“My hand felt heavy,” said Paul when asked what it felt like when Landry-Walker Principal Mary L. H. Laurie slipped the ring on his finger.
And these rings should have been better, especially considering what the team went through to get them.
They did it without star point guard Tyree Griffin, this newspaper’s Player of the Year in 2014, who is now playing at Oklahoma State.
They had to deal with the senseless death of two members of their junior varsity basketball team (Johan Kenner last summer and Tokyo Palmer in January).
Then Romalus Walker, a transfer guard from Carver who scored 75 points in a game last year, tore his ACL during football season and missed the entire season.
So putting on ring No. 2 was extra special for Gibson.
“I think its affirmation,” Gibson said. “The first time was validation that we could do it. The second time is affirmation that this is a true program. And that’s what I’m most proud of. This ring represents everybody that comes through this program.”
The school is now 2 for-2 in basketball titles, winning titles in the first two years of the L.B. Landry-O. Perry Walker merger that many thought wouldn’t work.
“It feels good to get another ring,” said forward Keytaon Thompson. “They didn’t think we would get the first one, and they definitely didn’t think we would get the second one, especially with Tyree leaving. We had a lot of doubters.”
But the Charging Bucs didn’t doubt themselves, although they had every reason to in the title game.
They struggled most of the night, trailing 18-11 at halftime and 26-21 heading into the fourth quarter.
They rallied and scored at the buzzer when Thompson rebounded and scored on a putback after a desperation heave from Lamar Peters.
“People still bring that shot up,” Thompson said. “It was just a natural reaction for me.”
Paul was standing on the other side of the play.
“I thought the game was going to overtime, but luckily I had a teammate that was thinking differently. I didn’t even know what to do. I just started jumping up and down. It was one of the best feelings I have ever had.”
The game probably should have gone into overtime. Replays showed that the clock started a bit late on the inbounds play before Peters’ desperation shot from near half-court.
“What’s for you is for you,” Gibson said. “In order to get to that last 3.9 seconds, we had to make four defensive stops in a row, and that’s a credit to our defense and our team paying attention to details.”
Gibson and his squad are already looking to add to their bling-bling collection with a third ring in 2016. The team is moving up to Class 5A next season.
“We like where we are,” Gibson said. “We are humble and we know it doesn’t happen without hard work. It’s championships or bust with us. If you don’t think you can win it, you have already lost. You have to believe first.”
And there is plenty of reason to believe.
Lamar Peters, a sharp-shoooting guard who just committed to Mississippi State, returns. So does Thompson and guards Kahlil Williams and Lamont Berzart.
“I’m going to get a third one,” Peters promised before correcting himself. “WE are going to get a third one.”
Peters could be right.
Scary as it sounds, Landry-Walker’s team could be even better next year.
The rings probably won’t be though.