MCIN file photo: The 1963-64 Mineral County High boys state champion team.

“We won. WE won. WE WON!!” was the chant heard through the crowd at the convention center in Las Vegas 53 years ago when the Mineral County High School Serpent boys basketball team were crowned champions of the Northern Nevada A Conference in a win over the Moapa Valley Tigers.

It would be the first state title for the Serpents boys basketball.

Then editor of the Mineral County Independent wrote, “Our Serpents upset all the pre-tournament dope sheets, shattered the predictions, and left the experts foundering in the aisles as they methodically cut down the favored teams and brought home their first state championship trophy in the history of the school.”

Just like today’s MCHS boys basketball champions, the semi-final game was won by one simple point. The 1964 team would pull off the win over the Boulder City Eagles 46-45.

It was reported that Boulder City used three men over 6’3” to build an early lead, however, Roger Williams would take Mineral County into the winning column for good with “a charity toss with a little over seven minutes remaining.”

The whole game was truly a team effort. Comprised of the following members, coached by Francis M. Clark; J.J. Brown; Roger Williams; Wayne Larson; Mike Lyle; John Madraso, Jr.; Pat Mulcahy; Florentino “Tiny” Cardenas; Jimie Griffin; Don Sarnowski; Lewis Williams and Brent Foshie, the team put all their effort into the game.

“This was a special group of boys,” John Madraso, Jr. of Hawthorne, said when asked to reminisce about the big win 53 years ago. “The main nucleus of boys, the team, grew up together. We played ball on the corner. Went on to Little League. We were one game away from the Little League World Series.”

This team would be handed a defeat prior to the season when their former coach, Bud Herion was “ran out of town”. Herion would go onto Stewart Indian School to coach. These state underdogs would go on to beat their former coach, a week prior to the state tournament. There, the boys vowed to win state for the coach that had been with them since the first day of their high school basketball season. And they held their promise.

Mike Lyle, who was described as the “stabilizer” of the Mineral County team and who now lives in Anchorage, Alaska, remembers the win like it was yesterday.

“We worked so hard. It was overwhelming. I had lost my dad about a month prior to the tournament.”

Lyle along with his buddy, Brent Foshie had made a bet with the former coach that they would win.

And win they did.

The Independent reported that after Roger Williams bucketed a two-pointer that “the black and gold continued to pull away like a hot version of a ‘409’ and lengthened their lead.”

Williams would be called “flashy” and “big gun” though he was smaller in stature than most of his opponents. He contributed 28 points to the Serpents win.

Madraso said, “We rode the high for the game and each other.” Madraso would contribute five points himself during that game, but his ball handling is what left the opponents and those in the stands shaking their heads. “His change-of-pace dribbling which has the appearance of a Barnum and Bailey circus act but leaves the opponents befuddled,” the Independent reported.

Foshie who now lives in Tempe, Ariz., agrees with Lyle on their wins. He remembers that Herion had laid the foundation down for the Serpent win the year’s prior.

He fondly remembers the winning parade after the state win. The mile-long “welcome home” parade on Sunday afternoon would have cars stretched from Hawthorne all the way to Mina, waiting to be the first to congratulate and salute their champs.

Foshie, Madraso and Lyle all congratulate the 2017 winners.

“I thought Hawthorne was going to win basketball this year. It was great watching the results. I was excited on game day. It was great to watch it on Facebook Live.”

“I was more excited for these boys and their coach than for myself,” Madraso explains. “It is a tremendous feeling to be part of this community (including Schurz and Mina). We have people who have gone on for a lot of recognition for their talents.”

When asked if he was upset about the 53-year record being broken, Lyle laughed and said, “All records are meant to be broken. It was good to see the kid’s work so hard. Pete [Summerbell] is an excellent coach and I think he should get his dues. Alamo [Pahranagat Valley] had a great coach but…Pete out-coached the guy.”

It must be noted that Lyle, Foshie and Madraso all stated that the win was a “team” effort. Not one of them spoke directly of themselves. They all spoke of the group as a whole.

When asked if the “Once A Serpent ~ Always A Serpent” rings true once you grow older, each answered with an enthusiastic, “Yes.”

Three Serpent players would be named to the honorary all-tournament A team. They would be Williams, Foshie and Mulcay (who was the “big defense”).

All three guys believe in the “Once A Serpent ~ Always A Serpent” philosophy. Each fondly remember their time as a Serpent and are proud to cheer for the youth of today.