Spring Mountain’s boys basketball players wanted to win a championship for their retiring coach, who wanted his players to have something to be proud of.
In the end, both got their wish.
Shakori Clark scored 24 points Saturday to lead the Golden Eagles to a 61-38 win over Pahranagat Valley at Orleans Arena for the Division IV state basketball championship. It was Spring Mountain’s first state basketball title.
“They kept telling me, ‘We’re doing this for you, we’re doing this for you,’ ” said Spring Mountain coach Ed Cheltenham, who is retiring Monday after 35 years working at Spring Mountain, a secure correctional facility for boys ages 12 to 18 who have been through the juvenile court system for delinquent acts. “I kept saying, ‘Do it for you. Most of the people that are out here think that you guys are failures. Do it for you. I want you to be proud of something that you’ve done.’ They said, ‘Well, we’re going to do it for you, too.’ ”
While many players struggled to adjust to shooting in the larger arena during the state tournament, Clark had no such troubles. He was 4 of 9 on 3-pointers Saturday after making 2 of 4 in the semifinals Friday.
“I call him Reggie Miller,” senior guard Steven Jones said. “He shot terrific. He shot out of the gym. I’m proud of him.”
Clark scored eight points in the first quarter to help the Golden Eagles (24-4) take an 18-10 lead.
“Shakori is our shot in the arm,” Cheltenham said. “He’s our adrenaline. We always know what Steve (Jones) is going to do, but when Shakori gets going, then everybody gets hyped up about it.”
Clark also crashed the boards from his guard position, pulling down a game-high 12 rebounds.
“I feel like I need to help my team every time I get on the court, and I just feel like I stepped up today in the state championship,” Clark said.
“He’s come a long way from the first day that I coached him, because I almost didn’t think I would keep him on the team because he was so incorrigible,” Cheltenham said. “Then he buckled down and tried to learn. From the first day to today, there was a major difference in that kid.”
Which, in the end, is the goal of the youth camp.
“These kids are so great,” Cheltenham said. “I wouldn’t trade those kids for anything. You could see how emotional I was when they all grabbed me.
“Some of them call me Grandpa. I have a great relationship with those kids.”
And those kids wanted to send Cheltenham out in style after 11 seasons of coaching basketball at Spring Mountain.
“He’s more than a coach to me,” said Jones, who had 13 points, seven rebounds and eight assists. “He’s more like a grandfather, a mentor, a role model. I just knew I had to get this for him.”
Contact prep sports editor Damon Seiters at email@example.com or 702-380-4587. Follow him on Twitter: @DamonSeiters.