WILSON, Mich. (WJMN) – This season we saw various accomplishments across the board in High School Basketball. Major upsets, additions to the 1,000 point club at schools across the U.P. but there was one thing no other team was able to accomplish this season but one.
“You used to hear this saying ‘We’re just Hannahville’, they used to say it all the time,” Joshua Eagle, Coach for the Nah Tah Wahsh PSA boys basketball said. “We would get beat by 100 by Bark River, you get beat by a 50 by every other team in the U.P.”
The Soaring Eagle’s success this year started long before the basketball season was even in sight.
“We were pretty much here in the summer almost every day,” Damon Sagataw, senior with Nah Tah Wahsh PSA boys basketball said. “For three hours or four hours just working.”
“I started coining the phrase that you have two legs, two arms, lungs and they work,” Eagle said. “So you’re gonna have to get in the gym and it happened in the offseason. We had about five or six guys that were consistently in the gym six or seven days a week. They were working on every skill, game-like shots so that gives you that opportunity to kind of separate yourself from the competition.”
And it wasn’t just strength that they worked on in the offseason. The team developed skills that were on full display in later months.
“We’re going to get up and we’re gonna run the floor,” Ross Rahoi, Coach for the Nah Tah Wahsh PSA boys basketball said. “We’re gonna fast break, we’re gonna shoot a lot of three’s but we’re also going to press you and make you uncomfortable.”
“We are going to run the floor,” Eagle said. “It’s an up-tempo style and they share the ball extremely well. I don’t think we had a time where we are really worried about one guy worrying about scoring too much, it’s always been a different guy every day and they talk well. There are some things always that you have to improve on but I think we run the floor really well and I think we are a great team. There isn’t really any animosity.”
All of that hard work finally paid off. Nah Tah Wahsh capped off their 18-0 undefeated regular season, the first-ever in school history, and took home hardware after being named the 2022 Northern Lights League and Conference Tournament Champions.
“To be honest, I lowkey wanted to cry but I didn’t because I was just so happy and excited,” Mequon Jackson, senior with Nah Tah Wahsh PSA boys basketball said. “I have waited five years for this moment to happen and it finally happened.”
“It was good and we put a lot of time in,” Gage Sagataw, senior with Nah Tah Wahsh PSA boys basketball said. “Especially to do this with the guys that I have grown up with since we were very little it made it even more special. We all felt very accomplished and proud of ourselves even though it was for the community because it hasn’t happened here so it was really nice.”
“The atmosphere was awesome,” Rahoi said. “Being over at Maplewood [Baptist Academy] it’s not a huge gym but it is super loud so the atmosphere was really cool. We had great community involvement in that game and our guys worked their butt off the entire game. There were times when I stopped yelling some things on the court because they couldn’t even hear me over some of the guys to my left. They were up and were yelling something for our defense, or in our press, or on offense. It was just super cool because for the last couple of years we’ve had opportunities in our conference championship game and we’ve unfortunately blown a couple of second-half leads. So for them, from start to finish in that game, we knew what we wanted to get to, and doesn’t matter what the score is at any point in the game. We’re going to keep pushing and we’re going to play the game the right way. Then after the game to see fans rush the court and to see our guys rush to court, it was a lot of fun.”
“I was like what did they just do?” Marilyn, the Nah Tah Wahsh PSA boys basketball mom said. “I really wanted to cry.”
A feat that all say wouldn’t have been possible without the help and support from the community.
“It was really cool and we have never had a bunch of fans like that at our games before this year or even the past couple of years and this year they came to almost every game so it was really fun,” D. Sagataw said.
“It’s a driving force,” Eagle said. “It’s a battery, right? When they show up, you have more of a battery and you have a huge reservoir to draw from. You have people that are there for you and they’re supporting you and you know that you can just play harder, you play more confident, and it’s nice to have that community. They’ve been to every game with us and that is so that’s huge. There are places we have to go that are like three and a half hours away. They are coming and they are dedicated and our boys see that. They look up and know that even though this game may be a smaller game, they are here and they want to see it and they are willing to sacrifice for it and I think that’s a beautiful thing and the boys feed off of that.”
“It is a lot and sometimes when I am out there I can’t even hear myself talk,” Jackson said. “They go to a lot of places with us, even like Mackinac Island and it is pretty cool. I like that and it makes me want to play harder.”
“This community has a big, big heart and they’re willing to do whatever they can for anybody,” Rahoi said.
The Hannahville community has been there every step of the way to show this team just how proud they are.
“I was on the bus ride waiting to go home and we passed the stop, then the next thing you know there are a bunch of cops escorting us and a bunch of cars behind us,” Jackson said. “I really liked it because it was fun and a cool experience.”
“When we came home we got escorted with fire trucks and police cars, the boys were eating it right up and loving it and I was like ‘You guys deserve it. You put the time in and this is what happens,” Eagle said.
“They didn’t even know anything about the parade,” Marilyn said. “When we were all leaving I talked to Josh and Josh said ‘What about this parade?’ and I said ‘It’s in the makings!’ just a couple phone calls and before you know it when we got closer to home people kept telling me ‘Call me when you get to Rapid’, ‘Call me when you get to Escanaba’, and the last time I called was when we were in Hyde on the bridge I said ‘I just passed Hyde bridge and the boys are maybe 20 minutes behind me. We’re coming home and we are coming home with the trophy.”
And even with their historic season, to coach Josh Eagle, his reason for coaching extends far beyond the hardwood and the trophies.
“I use this platform with this game to give these kids an opportunity to become better people,” Eagle said. “As long as I put my time in, and I work as hard as I can that when you develop that trust that he possibly knows what he’s talking about, or that he can help us get there. Then the other part is you slip all that character development in there as much as you possibly can and that it is bigger than this game. This is just a game and it’s going to fade away someday and most of you guys probably won’t do anything in the game. As far as like going on with your future, but hopefully you take things to your careers, to your families, to your loved ones, to your husband, to your wife, something and we’ve done our job if I if we can do that for the kids.”
“They achieved that goal and they made the community proud,” Marilyn said. “Not only the school but the staff, their parents, and especially me. I am very proud of them.”