Hurt says breakfast helped get Vanoss to state

Apr. 27—Vanoss girls basketball coach Jonathon Hurt was minding his own business, doing a little shopping at Walmart, when he was approached by a "fan" near the midway point of the season.

It was after he and his Lady Wolves had the nerve to NOT win the Pontotoc Conference Tournament championship — a tournament in which Vanoss has had a lot of success over the last decade.

"When we lost in the conference tournament, I heard the birds chirping," Hurt told The Ada News. "I even had a random lady at Walmart ask me — while laughing — what happened to the Vanoss girls team this year."

Well, what happened was the Lady Wolves got healthier, strung together five straight playoff wins and made the program's seventh consecutive state tournament appearance. Vanoss finished the season ranked No. 6 in Class 2A and won 28 games. That feat led to Hurt being named the Oklahoma Girls Basketball Coaches Association East Coach of the Year and the 2024 Ada News All-Area Girls Coach of the Year for the fourth time in the past five seasons.

"I could have never dreamed of making the state tournament seven times in a row. For all I know, we will never go again," Hurt said. "It takes a lot of things to go right to be at the Big House in March. I always said I wanted to coach in the state tournament one time in the Big House when I was younger."

Vanoss was sent to Apache High School for the Class 2A Regional Tournament and an unranked Walters club shocked the Lady Wolves 32-29 in a winner's bracket game.

The Lady Wolves then started their five-game playoff win streak with a pair of lopsided regional tournament home wins before heading to the Class 2A Area Tournament at Chickasha High School. Vanoss had to defeat local rival Latta (32-28) in an epic elimination game on the first day, exacted some revenge on Walters (30-20) and push past Calera (31-29) to sneak into the state tournament through the back door.

"I think anytime you go to the state tournament, it is special. I have had some really good teams that did not make it. I have to admit this one meant a little more," Hurt said. "The margin of error this year was really slim. The majority of the year, we had eight kids at practice and we really struggled to score. When you're scoring 30 points per game most nights against good opponents, it's hard to think you can win doing that five times in the playoffs, but we did."

One of the keys to the gutsy VHS playoff run was Hurt's implementation of "Breakfast with Jonathon".

"We lost to Walters in that first found regional game and that was a gut check," Hurt said.

"We re-focused and put in some extra time every morning before school and did what we set out to do. I'll always think that breakfast changed our course this year," he explained. "After the loss, I started taking orders for breakfast and getting up around 5:30 a.m. every morning to go get them breakfast. We would meet at the gym early for extra film sessions before school started. I think it helped us reset and be more prepared mentally."

That mental game was tested to the max in the area tournament showdown with Latta. During that contest, Vanoss nearly blew every bit of a late 13-point lead before an incredible LHS comeback bid fell just short.

"(After the loss to Walters) I also knew that meant we would probably be playing a local rival in a win-or-go-home game in a week. That's not ideal, especially considering how good they were," Hurt said. "That is when you find out what kind of kids you have. I try to be really hard on my kids throughout the year so when they are faced with adversity they fight back even harder than before."

Hurt said he's thankful for the memorable moments he's had coaching the Vanoss girls for the past eight years.

"We have had a lot of special young women come through our program. Their hard work and dedication have enabled me to live out some of my dreams," he said. "It's crazy to think a bunch of 14 — 18-year-old girls can impact a grown man or a whole community as much as they have. We have been spoiled in Vanoss with not just great basketball players, but also great kids."