DODGE CITY Assistant coach Cameron Parker leaned against a wall with his head down. Butler had just knocked off second-seeded Colby in overtime. Parker rose his head: "It’s not over. We still have work to do."
The Grizzlies have one more job to do as they play Coffeyville on Tuesday night inside United Wireless Arena for the Region VI Championship.
A region championship was not realistic when Kyle Fisher was hired back in April. Less than 11 months after Fisher was hired, the Grizzlies are on the verge of flipping the script and winning their first regional title since 2010.
"I would have never pictured going this far after playing with the team last year," Sophomore Juwan White said. "It’s definitely exciting."
The Grizzlies over the last two seasons won 30 games, including a losing season in 2017-18. While football and women’s basketball are the big dogs on campus, Fisher has set to change the mindset of the basketball team that had not won 20 games since the 2014-15 season.
"I want to win," Fisher said in a preseason interview. "I’m here for one reason and that’s to win a championship."
Fisher in October sat in his office, talking of winning a conference championship with a roster that experienced high turnover from a year before. It is easy to dismiss his goals as delusions of grandeur as a first-year head coach wanting the world.
Slowly, but surely Fisher and his coaching staff has turned around the men’s program into a defensive juggernaut that has started to steam roll opponents.
Since Feb. 1, the Grizzlies are 9-1, with their only loss being a 3-point set back at Coffeyville. Eight of the nine wins have been by seven points or more.
"Time and time again, we hung in there and battled back," Fisher said.
They have done just that. They responded to a 19-point drubbing by Colby with a 31-point win over Dodge City. After Barton rolled into the Power Plant and almost dropped a 100 on them, they came out four days later and beat Pratt by 24. Indy beat them by 40 and then less than 48 hours later, they went to Garden City and found a win.
This team responded after a 23-point loss to Cowley by rolling off six wins, with a double-digit win over the same Cowley team. They don’t let a single loss hold them accountable. They have toughness and resiliency.
"Toughness is what coach breaths," Shawn Hopkins said after their win over Colby. "We are just a tough team."
The culmination of one of the check marks Fisher set out in the beginning of the season can be checked off. First, they’ll have to go through the Red Ravens, one of the blue bloods of the Jayhawk.
The Grizzlies are not worried. They’re focused. As Parker said: "We still have work to do."