HUTCHINSON — Fifth grade was when this Collegiate senior class began its dream.
All five boys directed all of their training, playing and breathing basketball in hopes of playing in a state championship game their senior year.
"We've been talking about this game with this group our whole lives," Collegiate senior Ty Fiegel said of Saturday night's Class 3A championship. "We've been playing together since we were little itty-bitty kids and wanting to play in this game."
But no one could have imagined the Spartans' 72-32 victory over Minneapolis, tying the state record for widest margin of victory in a championship game.
Those fifth-grade boys grew up on Saturday night, fulfilling their final goal and becoming the first team to repeat as Class 3A champions since Salina Sacred Heart did it in 1979 and 1980.
"I think at every program, at every level, there's a group or team that sets the bar," Collegiate coach Mitch Fiegel said. "And from that point on, any team or group that will come along will be compared to that group. That's where we are tonight."
Fiegel has established Collegiate as a state contender every year, but it's hard to argue that this season wasn't the pinnacle of the Spartans' success.
In the state tournament, Collegiate outscored opponents 206-100. The Spartans held Minneapolis, which had shot 61 percent in its two wins, to 9-of-34 shooting and forced 16 turnovers.
A particularly demoralizing moment came when Minneapolis scored with 4:57 left in the second quarter. Seven seconds later, Blake Jablonski was on the other end swishing a three-pointer.
"We want anyone that has paid to come watch us play basketball to walk out of the gym and say, 'Wow, did you see that team?' " Fiegel said. "That's exactly what we did. We put the wow factor on full display tonight."
Four of these seniors played pivotal roles in Collegiate's state championship football team last fall. Compiling their middle school, freshman and sophomore teams and last two years of varsity leaves this senior class with a 124-2 basketball record.
"It's crazy," Collegiate's Tre Bailey said. "I can't believe what we've done in the last year. In 364 days, I've won three state championships."
Reflecting on eight years together is difficult for the group. It's hard for them to put their success in perspective — it's all they're used to.
"We got in the huddle before the game and no one knew what to say," Jablonski said. "It's our last game together, so it was kind of like just soak it in right there."
They even invented a word, or at least gave "gum" a new meaning. Another part to add to their legacy.
"Before the Kapaun game, it just kind of came out," Ty Fiegel said. "It's just another word for cool. We just made it up and it just stuck and we went with it."
Their final moments together will be remembered on a perfect lob from Bryce Cornejo to Brett LeMaster for an alley-oop dunk. Afterward, LeMaster said it put the exclamation point on their careers.
"I'm sure 20 years from now, this will be amazing," LeMaster said. "It's hard to realize how special this really was for us."
Twenty years from now, there might be another group of fifth-graders that come along and dream of state championships. But now, they'll be dreaming of matching the group of Cornejo, Fiegel, Jablonski, LeMaster and Bailey.
"There's a big difference between potential and reality," Mitch Fiegel said. "The thing that's always set this group apart is their ability to reach deep and turn dreams into reality."