Former Okarche coach, players gather on 40-year anniversary of state title
Among the dozens of banners hanging in the Okarche High School gym is one representing a state championship in boys basketball.
The Warriors defeated Turner 65-61 in overtime in the 1979 Class A championship game to give the storied program its lone gold ball.
On Sunday, April 7, all but four members of that state title team returned to the Okarche gym to commemorate not only their historic season, but celebrate their coach as well.
“It was such a great time catching up,” said Bob Carter, coach of the title team. “There were such great people here.”
Carter was the center of attention for the gathering as nearly 70 former players, their own family members and other friends returned to reminisce on “the good ol’ days.”
“We had a great turnout and most of us commented on how we could not believe it has been 40 years since our championship run,” said Nick Kretchmar.
Kretchmar made a pivotal basket in regulation against Turner when his baseline jumper with five seconds to play was seemingly the game-winner as it gave the Warriors a 59-57 advantage.
However, the Falcons advanced the ball and called a timeout with three seconds left. After the timeout, their standout, Marvin Gaines, banked in a 35-footer at the buzzer to force overtime.
Gaines finished the game with 42 points and 14 rebounds, but his touches were limited in overtime when the Falcons turned it over four times against Okarche’s defense.
“Coach stressed defense and making free throws, which obviously will win you a lot of games,” Kretchmar said.
Turner had 24 total turnovers in the contest.
Nick Annuschat got the Warriors out to a 63-59 lead in overtime with a pair of field goals and then Okarche held on when Kretchmar nailed two free throws with one second to go, capping a 27-5 season.
Kretchmar scored 14 points in the game.
Annuschat and Kevin Rother, who went on to earn All-State for Okarche, scored 20 points apiece.
All three were named to the all-tournament team.
Other team members included Dan Grellner, Clay Hufnagel, Ron Annuschat, Steve Coffey, Dale Voss, Kevin Coffey, Bob Hufnagel, Francis Gilles, Ed Krittenbrink, Jeff Baustert, Jeff Berry, Greg Cronkhite, Alan Voss and Tim Bomhoff.
“One of my best memories from the season is the fact it wasn’t one or two players responsible for our success,” Kretchmar said. “We played great together as a ‘team’ both offensively and defensively and I believe that is the reason for our success as state champions.”
Okarche just missed out on back-to-back titles, but was dealt a heartbreaking 63-62 loss to Fairfax in the 1978 title tilt.
It appeared Turner was in command in 1979’s championship, but a 10-0 spurt to start the fourth quarter gave Okarche a four-point lead that it held until the final buzzer.
Carter came to Okarche from Tyrone prior to the 1969-70 season. He had interviews and offers from multiple other school districts, but ultimately brought his family to Kingfisher County.
He coached there for 15 years before taking a job at Cheyenne.
Larry Annuschat’s brothers were a part of the championship team and he later played for Carter.
“When he left, I felt like I lost more than a coach,” Annuschat said. “I lost a mentor. He meant a lot to me and this entire community.”
Kretchmar said Carter’s hard-nosed style helped mold the talent on the floor.
“I believe Coach Carter had a great influence on our success,” Kretchmar said. “He could be hard on us in practice at times, but he just wanted us to give it our best in order to be successful.”
Annuschat was a fixture at his brother’s games in the championship season and remains so, not just at Okarche games, but those of other Kingfisher County teams.
“I couldn’t help but think of that (1979) team when I watched Kingfisher play this year,” Annuschat said. “There were a lot of similarities. I hope in 40 years they can get together like this and relive what they were able to accomplish.”
Coach Carter now lives with his wife, Mary John, in Hammon.
His son, Dean, was about 6 years old when his dad won a championship.
He brought his own family to Okarche years later and both of his sons - Wyatt and Weston - eventually graduated from there.
Dean and the Annuschats helped organize the event to honor his father and his team.
“He had a blast,” Dean said of Coach Carter. “He enjoyed getting to see and talk with all his old players again. He’s still talking about it.”