SM North coach says his players “weren’t going to be denied” a state championship

Avante Williams rushes to the stands as the game ends. All photos by Mariah Stadel.
Avante Williams rushes to the stands as the game ends. All photos by Mariah Stadel.

“They weren’t going to be denied,” SM North coach Steven Stitzer said of his now state championship team.

“I’m proud of these kids,” Stitzer said Sunday, reflecting on the team that the night before had brought the school the first boys basketball championship in school history. He also complimented the community and fans.

“When I came to North, I could see what we had,” Stitzer said. He credited Principal Richard Kramer’s persistence in recruiting him with bringing him and the North team together. He said he told Kramer it would take him at least three years to put his program in place. This is his third year.

“We worked our tails off,” he said the of players and coaching staff. But, he said, “the kids had fun. The kids like playing my kind of game.”

Stitzer didn’t know anything about his star twins, Michael and Marcus Weathers when he took the job. “I’m just glad I had three years with them.” But he noted how other players stepped up, like Avante Willimas in the finals.

“Early in the season, we couldn’t find ourselves,” Stitzer said. That changed by the time the Indians rolled into the tournament. One scare came Thursday in the three-point win over Wichita East. “I was cringing pretty hard,” Stitzer said. A last second three-point shot by Wichita missed after Michael Weathers hit two foul shots.

Defense was a hallmark of the Indian attack along with the transition offense. “Our defense is locked down tight,” Stitzer said. “They haven’t played against our defense,” he remembers telling interviewers who asked how the Indians would fare against some of the Wichita stars.

“We had some brutal practices.” That kind of defense takes a lot of conditioning, Stitzer said.

It is spring break this week, but the entire school gets a chance to celebrate together when it is back in session – and Stitzer is looking forward to it.

Danny Bradley shares the state championship trophy with the crowd.
Danny Bradley shares the state championship trophy with the crowd.
Junior Will Schneider drives to the basket as Coach Steve Stitzer watches on the sideline.
Junior Will Schneider drives to the basket as Coach Steve Stitzer and the team watch on the sideline.
Avante Williams goes airborne to score.
Avante Williams goes airborne to score.