The Wilson season motto of “Believe” has never been more meaningful than today.

The Wilson season motto of “Believe” has never been more meaningful than today.

You won’t find many around the state who believe the Eagles can pull off an upset against top-ranked Millwood.

Well, except the Eagles.

Wilson enters the Class 2A regional game as district champion for the first time since 2002. The Eagles have exceeded expectations despite suiting up just one senior, battling sickness throughout the year, losing a player to an ACL injury and suiting up a team that many thought would take a step back without 2010 All-Ardmoreite players Theron Weaver and Weston Adams.

But the Eagles (18-5) are even better. Coach David McGuire dared to say that his 2011 team would be better than the 2010 squad that lost to Calera in the Class A regional round last year. And they have been.

For the Eagles’ hard work, they get the No. 1 team in Class 2A.

It gets better. The Falcons (17-6) aren’t just the top team in 2A, they won the 3A title in 2010. Wilson and Millwood tip off at 8 tonight at Rush Springs.

“It’s a huge challenge, they’re one of the best teams in the state,” McGuire said. “But everyone else (in the regional) is familiar. If we play our game, we’re not afraid of what’s in store.”

The winner gets Carnegie or Elmore City-Pernell in the regional championship Saturday. The loser gets the winner of Healdton-Navajo on Friday in an elimination game.

“We don’t fear anybody anymore,” Wilson senior Nick Runge said Wednesday at practice. “We go out and play every game with heart.
“We’re skinny, but we’re not afraid of anybody at all.”

Runge was only being honest when he said the Eagles were skinny. Runge, who stands 6-foot-5, is one of several players with long wingspans who hope to give Millwood’s senior-heavy squad fits.

What’s been most impressive about Wilson is the ability of its young players to step up all season. Sophomore Blayke Hunziker leads the team in scoring, averaging 18.4 points per game, and 6-6 sophomore Curtis Ramsey hit the game-winning free throws a week ago to beat Walters 39-38 in the district final. The same Walters team beat Wilson 69-47 earlier in the season.

With the district win, the growth of the Eagles was affirmed. Hunziker said it’s the team mentality that’s helped Wilson improve so much from last season to now.

“We depend on everyone, we don’t have one player that’s a go-to guy,” he said.

The Eagles have five players averaging five points or more, and three players averaging more than five rebounds per game. One of those players, junior Kale Brown, tore his ACL against Elmore City-Pernell on Feb. 11.

Panic could have set in with the Eagles losing a three-year starter. Instead, they won three of four games down the stretch. After a flu outbreak earlier in the season crippled most of the basketball program, all the way down to the middle-school teams, the Eagles know how to deal with adversity.

Runge said it, Hunziker backed it up and junior guard Hector Rodriguez (11.2 ppg) mentioned it, too: The Eagles aren’t afraid of anyone, or anything.

Good thing, because Millwood awaits.

“Millwood is a good team and No. 1, but we’re players just like they are,” Rodriguez said. “Defensively and offensively we’ve improved. Last year, we looked toward one player, but this year we have all the players involved.

 “At the end of last year, coach kept telling people that we’ll have a better season this year than last. I thought he was crazy, but we’ve had a pretty good season.”

Erik K. Horne