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The Shawnee News-Star
  • Tigers at 20: Two-for-two: Ardmore boys and girls pull off basketball titles

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  • As we continue our coverage of the historic athletic success of Ardmore High School in 1992-1993, we jump back to the hardwood.
    Following the 14-0 football season that brought the Class 5A State Championship to Ardmore, both basketball squads did their part in adding more gold to the trophy case. It marked the first time in Oklahoma prep history that a school had won football and both basketball titles in the same school year.
    For the girls' program, the '93 title was special due to the year before. After losing in the first round in '92, head coach Cliff Cotton's club finished 26-2 and defeated title favorite Tulsa Central 43-39 in the Class 4A state championship to win the program's first title since 1987, when the game was still 6-on-6.
    Several key players led the Lady Tigers during the state title run. All-state center Stephanie Calhoon and all-state forward Erika (Knight) Sherwood, both seniors, were two of several key contributors for the Ardmore girls' squad, along with guards Raquel Banks (all-tournament team at state) and Shameeka Cohee.
    As for the boys' team, it was somewhat of a dream come true from years ago. After getting together in elementary and middle school, the '93 squad, coached by Oklahoma Coaches Association Boys Basketball Coach of the Year Ted Younts, were more than familiar with each other. The Tigers also put together a 26-2 season — which included a 25-game win streak after starting 1-2 — capped off by a 70-68 victory over a loaded Tulsa McLain team for the boys program's first state title. The Tigers were also named academic state champions.
    Led by football and basketball standout/all-stater Taj Johnson, the Tigers were filled with players that fit Younts' system perfectly. Guards Chad Deatherage and Derrick Moore, and forward Jerry Robinson all played big roles down the stretch, garnering all-tournament honors at state.
    Here's a walk back through basketball season in the winter and spring of '93 in their words:

    Planting the seeds
    Girls basketball coach Cliff Cotton: I'd had those girls forever. They totally bought into what we were doing, our philosophy of basketball.
    Chad Deatherage, junior guard, Class of 1994: We all played elementary school basketball against each other through the Ardmore Optimus league. We all finally got to play together since high school and it was so special.
    Derrick Moore, sophomore guard, Class of 1995: We had all played together for a while, since middle school, really. We knew each other really well. We knew the system that we played in very well. Looking back, I didn't realize it then, but Coach (Ted) Younts planted those seeds early on by getting involved with us when we were young. Their master plan came together when we came up through high school.
    Page 2 of 4 - Forming the bond
    Erica (Knight) Sherwood, senior forward, Class of 1993: Our junior year, we could taste it — we almost won. We all came together and formed this bond and were determined to win state.
    Taj Johnson, senior guard, Class of 1993: We started playing AAU ball in sixth grade. We thought we were so good. When we played Norman, we got killed by like 40. It changed our grade forever. We realized we had to do better. It was the turning point. From then on, we got better at everything.
    Shan Bennett, senior guard, Class of 1993: We really bonded well. Coach Cotton, one thing he made us do was get together and have dinners at each other's houses. Different people would sponsor dinners and we would just bond with each other. It was like a sisterhood, almost. I don't even remember any people having any differences. There was no conflict; we all got along.
    Boys coach Ted Younts: They believed in one another and played together really well. They didn't care about who got the credit because they all wanted to be successful together. They all made sacrifices and really played as a team.
    Cotton: Those kids, when it came right down to it, were able to function well together and play so well together as a team. We wouldn't have beat Star Spencer and wouldn't have won in the finals if we didn't play like that all year long.
    Memorable moments
    Johnson: I think we started off 1-2 before Christmas, after our loss to Lawton Mac. I was fresh off of football and we were ranked (No.) 1 in state and also ranked nationally. We had really big expectations upon us. ... I remember us being embarrassed after that loss. And after that game, I stood up in the bus on the way back and gave a little speech. I told those guys, 'we won't lose again.'
    Cotton: I remember the state tournament, especially the semifinal game. It was the biggest game of the year. We played Star Spencer, who we had played the week before in the area tournament and beat them by about 15. In the semifinal game, they had us down seven with around 5 minutes left. We were able to come back and that was a huge deal. ... We knew that if we just got there, we would have a great chance to win. The kids did a great, great job to come back.
    Deatherage: The day we were going to the state tournament, the crowd and our fans were unbelievable. And when we got back, about 10 miles outside of Ardmore on I-35, they were waiting on us to come home. We had a parade and everything through town before we even went back to the school.
    Page 3 of 4 - (Knight) Sherwood: I just remember looking at Coach Cotton's face one day and seeing what he wanted from us. He wanted us to do 'whatever it takes.' And we did.
    Important guidance
    Johnson: Coach (Younts) trusted us more, because he saw that we were committed to basketball. He knew that we were good and had good players. He allowed us to play.
    (Knight) Sherwood: Having a mentor like Coach Cotton and having someone that cared for us so much, was special. He poured just as much into it as we did. And we had someone that was so dedicated into not only fostering us on the basketball court, but teaching us about life, too. He knew exactly what each of us needed and knew when we needed it, which was amazing. He was the best coach I've ever had, by far.
    Bennett: He is a very, very smart man when it comes to basketball. My daughter got a chance to get some coaching from him last year. He knew his stuff, when it comes to basketball. It's funny, because I remember Coach Cotton from when I was in elementary school. He was a heck of a coach.
    Deatherage: One of the biggest things was that we all averaged in double figures. That was one of the reasons that we won a championship, opponents didn't know whom to focus on. All five of us could get it done. It was basically whoever was hot that night. Coach Younts was really good at just letting it play out who had the advantage that night.
    Underdog role
    Younts: We went into the game against McLain and no one gave us a chance. They were the heavy favorite. But we expected to win. They had only lost one game. Our players really played well, just like we did all year long. We did a lot of things they hadn't seen up there around Tulsa.
    Cotton: We had an advantage. Everyone was already crowning Tulsa Central, who we beat in the finals, as state champs before the tournament even started. They had a really good player and were a talented team. We had that to look forward to the whole year and were able to get our opportunity in the state finals.
    Deatherage: We had watched them (Tulsa McLain) play the day before and we saw how good they were. Really, we were in shock and awe and we knew we would have to play well. We were the underdogs; the slow, country boys But the next day, that was our day.
    Looking back
    Page 4 of 4 - Cotton: I think about that team and that state championship quite a bit. They were a lot of fun to coach. I also think about the year before, because I thought we had a really good chance to win it that year, also. But when we won it in '93, it was important because it had been a major focus of mine to go ahead and get it done that year, after coming so close the year before.
    Johnson: I think people remind you of what happened. We were not only good athletes, but good students as well. It was the reason we won so many state titles. I take an equal amount of pride that we did well academically.
    (Knight) Sherwood: That year, after winning state, it became clear, and was a pivotal point in my life. I realized that God had his favor over our whole school. The favor that we had, the blessings that we all had and the talents that we all had, it was like God just came down and put his hand around our town. It changed my life forever.
    Moore: We all knew that we were pretty good and had some good talent. It was our chance to finally win a state championship for basketball, to follow football and build on momentum. We knew we had a really good chance.
    Bennett: I had moved away from Ardmore for my junior year, but I moved back for my senior year. I'm glad I was a part of the experience. It's indescribable.
    Younts: We'd been right on the verge so many times, it was our first one and it was super special. You never forget the first time you win it. The team was so cohesive and it was a special group. ... It was very special to me. It was an unbelievable year. I was just happy to be a part of it, something I'll never forget.
    Follow Carter on Twitter: @wcarterARD
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