Pap feeling déjà vu in SWC’s run to state tourneyEDGERTON — Jamie Pap has walked in the shoes that the Southwest Christian boys’ basketball players have been walking in this season.
EDGERTON — Jamie Pap has walked in the shoes that the Southwest Christian boys’ basketball players have been walking in this season.
Now the coach of the Eagles squad, Pap spent his high school days wearing the black and gold of SWC as well.
And as the coach prepares to lead his team to the state tournament this week, he can share tales of an eerily similar experience he had in 1999, his senior year of high school.
That year, SWC won its first of four-consecutive state titles and now the Eagles are hoping to do the same thing this year.
And for Pap to have the chance to experience the state tournament as a player and now as a coach is something he’s always dreamed of.
“It’s a dream come true to be in this situation,” Pap said. “To be able to have these kids experience what I did when I played and to be able to take them to Minneapolis to vie for a state title is amazing. I’m real excited, it’s everything I could hope for.”
What makes the experience even more exciting is how similar the 1999 and 2012 seasons are to each other.
For starters, in 1999 SWC entered the state tournament with a 27-1 record, the team’s only loss coming to Worthington.
This year, SWC enters the state tournament with a 26-1 record and the Eagles’ only blemish was a 79-78 loss to the Trojans on Jan. 6.
But the similarities don’t stop there.
To punch their ticket to the state tournament this year, the Eagles defeated Dawson-Boyd 73-55 in the section championship. And SWC’s closest playoff contest this year was a 61-58 victory over Hills-Beaver Creek.
In 1999, Pap and his teammates defeated the Blackjacks in the section championship in a 78-53 contest. And the closest playoff game that season was a victory over H-BC.
And the similarities could continue if the Eagles make it past the quarterfinal round of the tournament. In 1999, SWC faced Rushford-Peterson in the semifinals.
This year, R-P is the No. 3 seeded team in the tournament and if both SWC and R-P win their quarterfinal games, they would face each other in the semifinals again this year.
“There are so many similarities between my senior season and what has been going on this season,” Pap said. “We can only hope the similarities continue all the way through the championship game.”
While SWC understands that all eight teams in the state tournament are in the same boat and are all fighting for a state title, Pap said the team isn’t going to be satisfied playing just one game. The team is on a mission and the Eagles hope to find themselves in the championship game Saturday.
Although Pap knows what the team is getting itself into because he was there 13 years ago, there will be some new things he will experience this year as well.
“I think the biggest thing I’m looking forward to going as a coach is to see the payoff,” Pap said. “Each team is different, but to get so close last year and having the season end in disappointment was tough. To see the guys reach their goals this year and have all their hard work pay off is something I’m really looking forward to.”
The Eagles will take on Fossom at 3 p.m. at Williams Arena on Thursday in the quarterfinal round of the tournament.
With experience at the state tournament under his belt, the athletes are turning to their coach for advice on how to handle the bright lights on the road to the championship game.
“I think it calms their nerves knowing that I’ve been there and I’m not going to get caught up in the awe,” Pap said.
“When my team won in 1999, I think it took me three weeks after the championship for it to actually set in that we won. I’ve just been telling the kids to enjoy it. This week is going to go by faster than they think and they need to soak in every moment.”
Daily Globe Sports Reporter Jocelyn Syrstad can be reached at 376-7335.