POPLAR BLUFF - Just after University of Missouri coach Quin Snyder talked about perseverance at the 44th annual Poplar Bluff Letter Club basketball banquet, the Mules were rewarded for theirs.
Poplar Bluff picked up their SEMO Conference title, John David Pattillo was named coach of the year and Tyler Hansbrough was honored with the John Gibbs Award given to the league's most outstanding player.
A night after the team celebrated the school's first state title, the party didn't stop. In fact, the only award the Mules didn't pick up Tuesday night was the free throw award.
"It showed what great fans we have," said Hansbrough of the celebration at Peters Gym on Monday. "We didn't even have a game and the gym was almost packed. That was great."
So were the Mules who ran the table in the SEMO Conference, winning by an average of 25 points. Three players - Hansbrough, Anthony Gilberto and Devon Brown - were first team All-SEMO selections while Ben Hansbrough, the only underclassman honored, was on the second team.
Charleston's Marcus Biles and Ashton Farmer were named to the All-SEMO first team with Ryan Delph of Cape Central, Jackson's Tyler McNeely and Bryce Willen of Notre Dame.
Hansbrough, who shared the Gibbs Award with Charleston's Kewain Gant last season, was a unanimous choice this year after averaging 24.9 points a game in conference play. The junior is the only Poplar Bluff player to win the award established in 1984 for former Mules coach who help start the league in the late 1950s.
Cape Central's Megan McDonald was given the Bob Gray Award as the most outstanding female player in the SEMO Conference.
"I didn't think I'd even come close for a basketball award," said McDonald, an all-state player in softball. "It was a very big surprise."
McDonald averaged 16.5 points a game in SEMO play as the Lady Tigers finished 1-5 in the conference. The senior, who will finisher her career with 12 varsity letters in basketball, soccer and softball, hit 73.8 percent of her shots during the season.
Poplar Bluff's Frances Kalich and Tierra Johnson joined McDonald on the All-SEMO first team while Nicole Johnson was named to the second team.
Notre Dame's Sommer McCauley, the conference scoring award winner, and Ashley Bartles of Jackson were also named to the first team.
Jackson's Kate Loos and Jack Puisis won the free throw awards at the annual event at the Poplar Bluff High School.
Snyder, the keynote speaker, talked about the importance of perseverance.
The coach used his own team as an example saying when the Tigers were 9-10 a friend gave him a poster of Abraham Lincoln's failures. The team took the poster with them on a road trip as a reminder and won six straight games.
"On this night when all of you have achieved so much, just remember that when it gets hard - because it always gets hard, it's relative whether you're 9-10 or sometimes when you're 25-0 and you lose your first game, it's hard," Snyder said.
"When it gets ha
rd just remember to persevere because... people will know you not by the good times of your life but by the difficult times."
As one speaker pointed out, the Mules went through some difficult times.
In his first year coaching at his alma mater, Pattillo was 4-20 but the team has won more games in each year until this season when they won one less game than 2003 but brought home the state title.
Pattillo was also named coach of the year in 2001 when the Mules last won the SEMO title, sharing it with New Madrid and falling in overtime at Charleston last year. After winning or sharing six of the first 10 SEMO titles, the Mules have won just four since 1969.
"There have been a lot of great players that have come out of this conference," Pattillo said during his remarks. "I'm just proud Poplar Bluff is a part of the SEMO Conference."
While the Mules won the Class 5 title, Charleston placed third in Class 3 for the second straight season.
Two girls teams also reached the quarterfinals - Poplar Bluff in Class 5 and Notre Dame in Class 4 - while two others played for district titles.
"I think Southeast Missouri definitely showed which corner of the state basketball is played in," said Poplar Bluff superintendent Randy Winston.
Three Rivers coach Gene Bess and UM-St. Louis coach Chris Pilz attended the banquet.
While Snyder was making his first appearance, he's not the first Tiger coach to make the trip.
"It's been my pleasure to be down here," said Synder, who was joined by his wife Helen. "I'd have to admit I'd rather be in St. Louis or Phoenix coaching in the NCAA tournament but hopefully there'll be more time for that."