Jeremy Jordan remembers noticing something missing from the gymnasium wall during one of his first practices as Grafton High's new boys basketball coach two years ago.
"I told our players, 'There are no championship banners in here for boys basketball,' " he said. "I said it would be our goal the next couple of years to hang a banner."
The Clippers reached that objective by upsetting district champion Tabb 46-34 in the district tournament final.
"To break through takes the monkey off of our backs," Jordan said. "Now we know what we're capable of and want to take the next step."
The next step would be a district championship. That will be a huge challenge, because Tabb — which has won five of the past seven district titles — is good again, while Bruton is deep and talented.
But the Clippers (17-10, 11-7 district last season) are a rare district team with two potential college players, supplemented by a strong supporting cast. Elijah Moore, a 6-foot-6 junior who averaged nearly 12 points and seven rebounds last year, is coveted by regional Division I mid-majors. Barnes, a 6-2 senior, is being sought after by some Division III schools.
Jesse Santiago, an athletic 6-3 junior, can play in transition, rebound and defend very well. Blake Ream (8.0 ppg), a capable shooter, should fare better than he did playing on a knee sore all of last season.
Joey Miller and Tyler McMillan give the Clippers two solid options at point guard. Jordan is curious to see what kind of help Jacob Mazgajewski, a 6-6, 255-pound football lineman, can provide in the paint.
It's a good group, but good enough to make the Clippers only a slight favorite to hang another banner.
"The district is wide open," Jordan said. "It's anybody's race.
"Staying healthy will be important."
LAST SEASON: 14-9, 11-7 (T-2nd)
COACH: Scott Joyner
THE BUZZ: Joyner thinks this team is his deepest in about a decade. All-district guard Brent Spencer (12.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg), quick point guard Maine Baker, shooter Leo Legaspi (6.8 ppg) and do-it-all scorer Marcus Carter (7.1 ppg) lead a 10-man rotation full of athletes, shooters and hard workers.
LAST SEASON: 21-8, 15-3 (1st)
COACH: Doug Baggett