• Six Guys That Became Unlikely Champions

    Junior VarsityMost people will tell you that there is no such thing as a district champion below the varsity level in any UIL sport in the state of Texas. Do not try telling that to any coach in this highly competitive state. You see, coaches make their living keeping score, keeping records, keeping anything that is relative to winning.

    With all that said let me tell you about six young men who played on the Comanche Indian Junior Varsity basketball team in the 1990-91 season. These kids won a district championship at the JV level in a tough, dog eat dog eight team district. I’m not sure what the overall record was but the district record was 13-1 with the only loss coming to Abilene Wylie at their place. This Indian team avenged that loss in Comanche, while the Wylie squad was to lose at least one other game.

    The season started out crazy for me. I was assigned the JV team when I accepted the coaching job in Comanche. I really had hoped to not have to coach basketball since my oldest daughter would be starting her basketball career in the seventh grade. I wanted to be free during the season to see her play. It was decided however that there were not enough coaches to allow me to not coach during the basketball season.

    The fact that I loved to compete and more than that watch kids compete, I geared up to make the most of this assignment. On the first day of practice, I had no idea who would be on my team. The JV and Varsity teams practiced together and I am not sure that Head Coach Danny Kent really knew who the JV team would include. He was still evaluating during the first week of practice.

    At the beginning of the second week we went through our fundamental workout and then Danny called all the kids together and called out a list of names to go to the other end of the court with me to start working out as the JV. He read out six names and sent us to the other end. Really: six players, are you kidding me! That was what was going through my mind. But away we went and the season was under way.

    During football season, I had been the freshman football coach and varsity assistant. Since most of these kids had played on the JV I had not dealt with them much at all. It was my first year in Comanche and I taught science at the junior high so I had not even met the non-football players, Toben Scott and Salvador Davila. This was what is called “starting from scratch” at the highest level.

    After about three days I was getting more and more disgusted with two of those players: Lupe Lombrano and Bryan Carroll. I thought they had a little to much “hot dog” in them for their own good. Finally I told Coach Kent that I was taking them into head coach and athletic director, Jim Heathington’s office for a serious visit.

    I just knew that they would deny everything and probably not accept my judgement of their behavior. I thought about them quitting and leaving me with four players. They did none of the above and in fact only said that they didn’t realize that they were being disrespectful and not trying their best. During the meeting I realized that they were serious about what they were saying. I also figured I could use an attitude adjustment as much as those two kids.

    Sure enough their behavior didn’t change and I realized that was just their personality. During the first game of the season I never saw two kids compete any harder and leave everything on the floor. We won that game and were off and running. Those two guys, whom I still think the world of, became the leaders of our team. Had it not been for that confident, slightly cocky attitude of theirs we would never have achieved that championship.

    Lupe Lombrano could get hot in a game and become almost unstoppable. Even when he wasn’t he compensated with great defense and taking what the other team gave him. Bryan Carroll was always a gambler. He would take a chance on a steal, an assist, or a risky shot. This drove the conservative in me crazy but it was uncanny how his gambling would seem to produce a big play every game that would give us the momentum.

    Jon Sibert was a steady hand, about as consistent as anyone on the team. He rarely made mistakes and when the team needed a settling presence he provided that in abundance. He was such an unselfish player! Toben Scott was probably the best overall athlete on the team. He wasn’t the best basketball player but his athleticism made him ever so valuable when we needed a bucket, a steal, a rebound, or an assist. Most of the time he could do that when the others couldn’t because of that pure athleticism.

    Salvador Davila and Shane Weaver were both pretty laid back in their play. Salvador much more than Shane. He too would drive me nuts because so often it looked as though he was loafing and just absent of any intensity. That worked to his advantage and ours as well, because he would almost lull his defender to sleep and then make play after play at crucial times. I had to learn that about him, and learn to appreciate it as well.

    Shane Weaver seemed to work harder on the court than any of the others. His uniform would always be sopping wet after every game. He was opposite of Salvador because he wasn’t going to lull anyone to sleep; he was going to get physical and have the defender or the one he was guarding beat up by game’s end. If anyone was going to foul out it was Shane. I will say too, that when he fouled he got his money’s worth.

    They were such a cohesive group. They had to play smart because we couldn’t afford for anyone to foul out. Toben was involved showing champion horses and was not always at every game. When he was gone we played with five.

    These kids believed in one another and for some odd reason they seemed to believe in their coach. I gave them plenty of reasons not to but by season’s end I loved them all because it took such dedication and commitment to accomplish what they did. I have kept up with them all as much as possible through the years and they still make me proud. I will never forget them.

    About Ronnie Clifton

    Ronnie Clifton was a Texas Football Coach for 29 years. In addition to football, Clifton also served as the head coach in basketball and both girls and boys track. “I loved being involved in and playing sports as a kid, and I soaked up every ounce of available information about any sporting event; I also love to write. What better combo for me than becoming the writer of a sports blog?”
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