Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle
POND CREEK, Okla. —
For as good of a year as he had as head coach at Pond Creek-Hunter (19-5 record, first state tournament trip), 2014 Enid News & Eagle Northwest Oklahoma Boys Basketball Coach of the Year Darin Jones had an even better year as a father.
Daughter Jade signed with Southwestern Oklahoma State, was voted the 2014 Enid News & Eagle Northwest Oklahoma girls player of the year and led Pond Creek-Hunter to its first-ever girls basketball state title.
“The ultimate goal for every coach is to win a state championship, but for me as a father, it couldn’t get any better,’’ Jones said.
“The night she was born, I put a little stuffed basketball in her crib. Ever since then I (dragged) her to all the team camps (he coached at). That was the accumulation of years and years of hard work ... hours spent by herself working on her game ... every kid dreams of winning the gold ball, but it was especially true for Jade. She had been going to state tournaments since she was 3 years old.’’
Jones, now a father of five, resigned as Pioneer’s girls coach nine years ago to spend more time with his children, who were living in Pond Creek with their mother.
The next year, he jumped at the chance to become the Panthers’ boys coach.
“It was a real blessing that I got the job at Pond Creek-Hunter,’’ Jones said. “It turned into almost like a fairy tale story ... I couldn’t have written it any better.’’
Neither could the Panthers, who are 134-68 in Jones’ eight seasons. This past season, Pond Creek-Hunter qualified for the state tournament for the first time since 1986.
Jones said it was not an accident the Panthers reached the state finals in football and the quarterfinals in basketball.
“It’s a credit to my players,’’ he said. “They listened, worked hard and spent a lot of time in the gym. They did whatever I asked of them.’’
Jones didn’t get most of his players until Dec. 15 due to football season. They even had to skip their own tournament because the playoffs ran a week late because of inclement weather.
He said that actually was an asset, especially in February. His team was in mid-season form, full of hunger.
“By the end of January, teams tend to go through a little bit of burnout, especially the non-football schools,’’ Jones said. “We never experienced that ... even in the state tournament week, we were hungry for more. You had to run them out of the gym.’’
Defense was a constant for the Panthers, who held 16 opponents to under 40 points.
Never was that more evident than in a 25-22 heartstopper over Drummond in the area losers bracket finals, where two steals by Zach Rayner in the final two minutes proved pivotal.
“I’m a firm believer if you play good defense, you have a chance in every game,’’ Jones said.
The Panthers shot under 20 percent against the Bulldogs in the fourth meeting between the schools this past season. But, Jones had so much confidence in his veteran team (four seniors on the court), he didn’t call a timeout in the final minute.
It paid off when Trent Grimes hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to give Jones a ticket to his first state tournament as a coach.
“All I can remember is our stat keeper and bus driver hugging me,’’ Jones said. “It was kind of ironic that Trent hit the shot. He did such a marvelous job on Brady Kokojan (News & Eagle’s 2014 Northwest Oklahoma Player of the Year), who was held to five points. Trent always understood his role. He knew he wasn’t a scorer, but it was deserving he made that shot.’’
Jones said assistant coach Boyd Peterson has been a key cog in the PC-H machine.
“We couldn’t have done it without him,’’ Jones said. “He’s an outstanding shooting coach. He’s dedicated his time and effort to the program.’’
Jones said this award was special for him because he was chosen in a vote of his peers.
“Any time you get recognized by your peers, it means a lot,’’ he said. “I’m flattered that my fellow coaches recognized me.’’