“The thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat.”
That memorable line from the popular 1970s sports program ABC’s Wide World of Sports perfectly describes Caddo basketball coach Kolby Johnson’s experience last week at the Class A state tournament in Oklahoma City.
Johnson has the unique opportunity of coaching both the boys and girls basketball teams in Caddo. Both were superb this year and both Bruin squads advanced to their respective state championship games.
Johnson first experienced the agony of defeat when the girls lost to Seiling in their title game, 54-40. A few hours later, he got to enjoy the thrill of victory when the boys won, 58-51, versus Okay.
It was the first time since 2004 (Gordon Garner at Depew) that a high school coach in Oklahoma led a boys and girls team to the title game in the same season. Fort Towson’s Tom Heidebrecht did it in 1972 and won both games.
“There’s plenty of hard things about coaching both teams,” claimed Johnson, “but one of the unintended positives is how close the teams are with each other because we do so many things together. Sometimes one team is watching the other team practice for 20 minutes until it’s their turn. Sometimes we go to tournaments together. We’re on a lot of similar timelines.”
Nowhere was that more evident than at “The Big House,” where both teams rooted for each other as they advanced their way through the championship bracket. Despite losing in the championship game, the girls stayed and cheered the Bruins boys to victory.
“Not only did they stick around, but every single player and manager stuck around and rode the bus all the way home to Caddo,” gushed Johnson. “We didn’t have one kid that wanted to be anywhere else. They were both there for each other. That was pretty neat.”
Also there for both teams was the Caddo and surrounding Bryan County communities. Many made the long trek from the southern part of the state to support the Bruins.
“When I walked out for the girl’s game on Saturday, me and my assistant were looking around and I looked at him and said, ‘It’s pretty packed in here. There’s a lot of people in here.’ I was pretty proud. There was a lot of support there.”
There was plenty to for Bruins fans to cheer about all season long. Both squads were blessed with elite scorers. Emily Robinson averaged 26.7 points per game during the tournament and ended her career 18th on Oklahoma’s all-time girls scoring charts with 2,431 points.
“She took it to another level,” said Johnson on Robinson, who had 36 points and 15 rebounds against Riverside in the semifinals. “She’s done that kind of stuff for four years. She’s started for four years. She could have started as an 8th grader if we could have played her then, too. She’s just a great player and a hard worker.”
“Emily gets a lot of the credit because her role is to score a lot of points,” added Johnson, whose team also won the prestigious Bertha Teague tournament during the regular season. “She’s surrounded by other girls who are great players and hard workers. We just had a great team of players who each had a role and they said if that’s what I need to do, then that’s what I’m going to do.”
On the boy’s side, junior D.J. Dill was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after averaging 27.0 points in the Bruins’ wins over Drummond, Seiling and Okay. They’re the first Bryan County boys team to win a state basketball championship since Colbert won it in 1981.
“We don’t come down and shoot it before he touches it,” said Johnson about Dill. “We give him a chance to get a look. It’s just the unselfishness of that team.”
Despite nearly all of Bryan County being at the games, the teams received quite a reception after making the two-hour, forty five minute bus ride back home.
“We got home about 12:15 am and the whole downtown was lit up,” recalled Johnson. “There were a couple of hundred people lining the streets waiting for us. That was pretty neat.”
Despite having to do double duty coaching both teams, taking both teams to the championship game in the same season is an experience Johnson will never forget.
“The bottom line is you don’t get to the state tournament without really good players and really good kids,” stated Johnson. “My thoughts on Saturday night were that both teams played to an absolutely new level of heart and hustle and hard work.”
“That’s probably the number one thing that contributed to our success was that on both teams, we had clearly defined roles: who was doing the scoring, who was doing the defending, who was doing the dirty work. We had kids that bought into those roles and played it to a T.”