HOT SPRINGS -- Maumelle coach Michael Shook has gotten close before.
In his 10 years being the boys head basketball coach at the school, he has led the Hornets to nine state tournament appearances and three state championship games.
The last of which was Saturday night here in Hot Springs.
In all three appearances, Maumelle has come up short.
Against Jonesboro, the final was 58-56, and in the loss, Maumelle never led during the game, but cut the margin to just one point before the game’s final two seconds and Riley Wade’s three-pointer that would have won the game went wide.
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Shook’s first state title game was in 2015, and that was a 9-point loss to Little Rock McClellan. The next one was that next year, and in that one, it was 82-82 at the end of regulation against Forrest City. The Mustangs went on to win, 91-85, in a wild shootout that’s best remembered for R.J. Glasper and Shawn Williams shooting toe-to-toe.
Glasper was the Forrest City star, who plays this weekend for Oral Roberts in the NCAA tournament, while Williams’s college career ended this season at Nicholls State in Louisiana.
Williams finished with 44 in the game, while Glasper had 40 in the win.
“We've established a winning culture for the most part or a runner up culture,” Shook said, trying to laugh after a bitter loss.
“The seniors, you know, they've set the tone for us all year,” Shook said. “Just extremely high character kids, hard workers. And we knew that because they've set the tone and these juniors here have followed suit and they've been bought in.”
Shook said a mid-season win against Little Rock Parkview provided the inspiration for Maumelle as they trailed 16 at the half against Jonesboro.
“W we were down 17 to them and we came back and beat them,” Shook said. “We talked about that at halftime. We knew that, just settling down, getting back to playing the way we play and that we would have a chance.”
As for the players, “ we left it all out there,” junior guard Carl Daugherty Jr. said. “I know we all played our hearts out and tried.”
Despite crowd restriction due to the ongoing pandemic, Maumelle still brought a sizable chunk and they made a difference as well.
“We've got tremendous fans,” Shook said. “They did a great job this morning, when we left they gave us a sendoff. Had the police and fire department escort us out of town and everybody was there … they showed up.”
The motto on the shooting shirts Maumelle wore before the game was “We > Me” and, “we talk all the time, like a lot of other programs do, about it being a family … the community, they bring so much energy for us and that's definitely a big part of it.”