About seven years ago, Jeff Coleman – already a hall-of-famer as a player and a state title-winning coach in Oklahoma – journeyed here to Kilgore to try and turn around a Bulldogs’ program that hadn’t been to the playoffs in nearly 30 years.
Coleman and the Bulldogs climbed that mountain, and then some, getting to a regional tournament in his fourth season. Coleman left Kilgore for Tyler Lee, and spent a year coaching at Gladewater before getting an opportunity to return to KHS – this time as the head girls basketball coach.
How’s it going? Well, Coleman’s Lady Bulldogs got a buzzer-beater from Jamaria Thomas Tuesday night at Spring Hill, beating the Lady Panthers, 30-29, and keeping a share of the District 15-4A lead.
Later in the night, the Bulldogs dropped their game at Spring Hill, 42-27.
Both Kilgore teams were to host Gladewater Friday night, after the deadline for this issue of the News Herald. See how those games turned out now on kilgorenewsherald.com.
Tuesday, both Kilgore teams are home again, hosting Chapel Hill.
Coleman didn’t seem to be surprised that his team is doing so well, in just his first season back, and very first as a girls basketball coach.
“I’m a basketball coach,” Coleman said, with a laugh. “I coach basketball to young people. Is the boys game somewhat different? Well, yes, athletically it’s different. But as far as getting your point across as a basketball coach, it’s still similar. It’s the same thing. I didn’t come in and adapt my philosophy, and change what I do because I’m coaching girls. I’m just coaching basketball to girls. That’s all it is.
“When I came here, I knew there was some talent here, but didn’t know what extent, or what real shape,” Coleman said. “We knew if we worked hard, we could have success. We’re having success, but now, we’re not district champs. We’re in a situation where we can make it happen, but we still have to play well. We’re playing well, especially on the defensive side of the ball, and that’s been the biggest contributor to our success.”
The low-scoring game at Spring Hill was a back-and-forth battle, especially late. Spring Hill re-claimed the lead with 47 seconds left on a basket by Ashlee Blake, only for Kilgore’s Tianna Holland to grab a rebound and put-back basket for 33 seconds left.
Spring Hill had one more punch left, though – Jayla Landrum scored with 11 seconds left, and fans reacted like the game had ended.
Coleman elected to not call a time-out, and it paid off – Thomas ran the floor and scored the game-winner, just before the final horn.
She finished with 11 points, and Jada Abercrombie added eight.
Coleman said the Lady ‘Dogs are doing well because they’re working hard, and listening. And he wants them to learn how to win – and to realize it’s a two-way street.
“Sometimes, being able to handle success is just as hard as being successful,” Coleman said. “Does that make sense? They’re working hard and doing the things they have to do, and I’m pleased with their effort. But they have to understand that once they get to a certain point, everybody is wanting to beat you, like you want to beat them.”
“We’ve got to learn to be ready for big moments,” Coleman said. “We knew it would be a big moment when we played at Bullard. We didn’t play well early. But we did play well late. Bullard is used to being at the top of this district, along with Gilmer. We’ve got to get used to those big moments, and be ready for them.”
Coleman is a former longtime Oklahoma high school basketball coach – in 2005, he won a state championship at Idabel, where he coached 20 years. He’s a 35-year coaching veteran.
As impressive as Coleman’s basketball resume is – he’s also a hall of famer at East Central University, in Ada, Okla. – what he did at Kilgore for the boys program a few years ago might be his best coaching job.
When KHS athletic director Mike Wood tapped Coleman to fix the Bulldogs’ basketball program, it was a mess. The Bulldogs were always competitive under outstanding coaches like Jimmy Williams, but for many reasons, the playoffs eluded Kilgore for almost 30 years.
And Coleman’s first year wasn’t a cakewalk. But Coleman vowed to be here at least long enough to turn things around.
He did it. Coleman eventually got Kilgore back into the playoffs, and in his fourth year, he guided the ‘Dogs all the way to the regional tournament in Commerce.
Now, he’s back.
So if times get hard for the Kilgore Lady Bulldogs in the coming weeks, and their backs are against the wall, they do have an ace up their sleeve – it’s the tall, slender gentleman standing near their bench, who simply does not know how to lose.
Spring Hill 42, Kilgore 26 (boys): This was a tough blow for a Kilgore team who’d been 2-1 in district play coming in, and all three very close games – Kilgore’s three district games had totals of a combined five points before this loss at Spring Hill.
Coach Jerry Timmons’ Bulldogs are still 2-2, though, with the second round of district play about to begin Tuesday. He’s trying to get the ‘Dogs back to the playoffs – they’ve missed them the last two seasons.
The most surprising thing about Kilgore’s loss might’ve been the low score.
“We had lots of opportunities to get points,” Timmons said. “Nothing was falling. They did a good job of executing the offense.”
Seth Thomas led Kilgore once again with 11 points.
Sabine 60, Cumberland 47 (boys): The Cardinals added yet another win to their District 15-3A record with a road win over Cumberland in Tyler.
Eylan Goodwyn finished with 26 points and also had 18 rebounds. Will Shawn scored 19 and had eight rebounds. Scottie Taylor scored seven points. Hunter Grotemat had three points and two steals and two assists. T Taylor had four assists and four steals, and had two points. Glenn George also scored two, and had three rebounds and two steals. Breden Ford had a point. A.J. Gresham had two steals and two rebounds.
The Cardinals are 19-6 overall, 6-1 in district play, have won five straight games, and are off this weekend headed into a showdown with Troup on Tuesday, at Sabine. Troup is the only team in district that has dealt Sabine a loss.
Junior varsity plays at 5 on Tuesday, then varsity.
Sabine 63, Cumberland 25 (girls): Sabine’s Lady Cardinals also have a huge home game against Troup on Tuesday, but didn’t get caught looking ahead, blasting Cumberland by nearly 40 on Tuesday night.
Genesis Willett had 16 points, Kristen Stuart 15, and moved coach Sara Cantrell’s Lady Cardinals to 20-8 on the year to date, and 7-2 in District 15-3A.
Also for Sabine, Sarah Davis had 11 points. Miranda Cook had 10. Jordin Broadway, Misty Pate and Brookelyn Gray each had three points, and Katarra Coleman had two. Willett had eight rebounds and six assists. Stuart also had eight rebounds. Davis had nine, and Cook had seven.