SUGAR CITY — For some teams, looking back to the past can sometimes be overwhelming because it might too much to handle. Other teams however, use the experience to learn, grow, and embrace the tradition that their predecessors set.
This is the case for the Sugar-Salem Diggers, who honored the 1973 boys basketball state championship squad at halftime of Wednesday’s game against South Fremont. It is not every day that teams gather together to reminisce the good, the hard, and the process of becoming state champions.
There are moments when players start to believe they can win a state championship.. For former Digger player, Darius Rice, it began during a tournament.
“We had a lot of tough competition,” Rice said. “West Jefferson, we played them five times a year, and played them for the state championship. The final game we beat them by 20 some odd points. When we won the district championship, we thought we could probably win the state.”
For former Diggers head coach Ken Fillmore, it was about how to get a group of players to play as a team.
“It took a little while to start playing teamwork. When they realized that it was going to take teamwork to win state, and they knew they were good,” Fillmore said. “All of a sudden, they start playing together.”
Fillmore also brought confidence to play their game and use their strengths on the court. One of them was Donell Mortensen.
“I took him into the office and asked him how come he shot so well in practice and not in the game,” Fillmore said. “He (Donell) said I was not supposed to shoot last year. I said, well I will tell you what, if you do not start shooting, I am going to sit you on the bench. He only missed one shot the next night.”
Practices on the court could be intense and a lot of hard work.
“Coach Fillmore was a great coach,” Rice said. “He had us practicing the basics, and preached that if we got the basics down, the rest of it will come. We shot foul shot after foul shot. It sets a foundation in your life doing the right things all the time, and good things will happen.”
Fillmore was also honored as one the coaches who have a state title with the Diggers which in total have won eight state championships.
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