Trent Storts just doesn’t lose state tournament games.
The Latta High School boys basketball team has won three of the past five Class 2A state championships, and Storts has been along for the ride each time.
He was a Panther sharpshooter when Latta won it all in 2013 and was a graduate assistant when Latta repeated as champs in 2014. Saturday night, Storts watched from the bench as Latta’s assistant coach when the Panthers defeated Christian Heritage Academy for the 2017 Class 2A state championship inside the State Fair Arena.
“I’m just lucky. These guys worked so, so hard for this,” Storts said amidst the postgame celebration. “I couldn’t be more proud for our guys for the work they put in every day — all the way down to the practice players that work hard to push everybody. That’s what makes this great.”
The Panthers won an emotionally charged semifinal contest against the Merritt Oilers and their head coach, Donnie Husband, who was the head man at Latta during those two special seasons in 2013 and 2014.
When talking to current Latta head coach Matt Bryant — who was Husband’s assistant during those title run — before that big semifinal matchup, he joked that Storts was his wild card.
“I have Trent Storts on my side,” he said.
In a brief visit with Husband before the matchup, it was pointed out that Storts could be Latta’s secret weapon.
“Trent Storts doesn’t lose up here,” Husband suggested.
As it turned out, we were all right. If my math is correct, Storts is 9-0 in state tournament appearances as a player and coach.
All kidding aside, Bryant was thankful to have Storts help this season.
“Coach Storts really has a great basketball mind and has a very good relationship with our players. We definitly wouldn’t have accomplished all we did this year without him,” he said.
“As a head coach, I can’t explain how much help a good assistant can be,” he continued. “Practicing with 25 guys isn’t easy, but having someone backing you up that knows what to do and how we want to do it was a huge help this year.”
Storts admitted playing Husband and his Oilers made that matchup a bit different than a normal state tournament game.
“Having him over there was a special moment. All his kids are great kids, and they deserve it too. I was happy for him to get this far,” he said.
“Coach Husband has taught us so much. He’s been such a role model for me and coach Bryant,” Storts continued. “It was tough beating him out, kind of bittersweet. I was happy for our guys but sad for him and his guys at the same time.”
When asked to compare his winning a state title as a player and now as a coach, Storts didn’t hesitate with his answer.
“I was thinking last night that if we won this, it would be the best moment of my basketball career,” he said.
During his playing days, Storts was one of the top 3-point shooters in the area. He says he’s still got it.
But who would win a 3-point contest between him and Latta junior Trent Smith, one of the team’s top shooters this season?
“Me. Definitely, me,” Storts said.
How could you bet against him?