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Winning ways

Trimble County Lady Raiders’ Stewart
attains ‘coach’s dream’

By Don Ward
Editor

BEDFORD, Ky. (March 2006) – Kerrie Stewart had always dreamed of playing in a state basketball tournament game but never got the chance. But in February, Stewart did one better: She coached her own varsity squad at the Kentucky Class A tournament in Richmond, Ky.

Kerrie Stewart

Photo by Don Ward

The Trimble County girls basketball team, led by coach Kerrie Stewart, took the title at Kentucky Class A Regionals in Eminence.

For the Trimble County High School girls’ head coach of five years, it was a dream come true. What’s more, the Lady Raiders won their first game 55-43 over Danville, putting Stewart’s team in the record books as the only Trimble County team to win a state tournament game. The team lost its second-round match 64-33 to Monroe County, but with what seemed like having the entire county in the stands cheering them on, the Lady Raiders returned home champions, anyway, to their fans.
“It was definitely the high point of my coaching career to date,” said Stewart, 38, who was quick to add that the season is not yet over. “We still want to win the regional and go to state (in March).”
The Class A tournament pits together schools of equal size, while the season-ending larger statewide tournament is a competition among all schools. Libby Thoke’s basket with four seconds remaining at the Class A Regional finals in Eminence gave them a ticket to Richmond. The Class A Regional trophy now sits inside the Lady Raiders’ locker room as a reminder of what can happen.
“We don’t have any room in the trophy case for it, plus the girls like to look at it,” confided Stewart, who graduated from the school in 1986.
Stewart’s team won its final regular season game Feb. 21 over visiting Henry County to give the Lady Raiders their first 20-win season since Stewart took the reigns of the program in 2001-02. They finished the year 20-7 plus going 1-1 at the Class A Tournament.
On Tuesday, Feb. 28, they were scheduled to travel to Buckner, Ky., to compete in the District Tournament. Just one victory there would send them on to the regional in Shelby County. Trimble County was to play host Oldham County in its first game. The winner would face the South-North Oldham winner, with both the winner and runner-up at the tournament advancing. Trimble County hasn’t won that tournament since 1989.
Despite all the excitement the mid-season Class A tournament created, Stewart said her team has remained poised and committed to its goal of going to statewide tournament, played in Bowling Green. She said this year’s success actually began to form last summer in the offseason during scrimmages and workouts against larger schools.
“They really began to believe in themselves and to realize what they could accomplish,” Stewart said. Along with that came months of hard work, conditioning and team cohesiveness.
“It’s been a good experience and an exciting ride,” said Thoke, a senior and considered one of the team’s mainstays. “We all set our goals at the beginning of the season and we have worked hard toward it. We also had a lot of community support, and we all pulled together as a team.”

Lady Raider Trophy

As for her coach, Thoke described Stewart as “a very caring coach who tried to make it fun but at the same time executing the basics to get the job done.”
Stewart has spent nearly half her life in the Trimble County High School gym. She played under junior varsity coach Leigh-Anna (Dunlap) Davis, then under varsity coach J.T. Peniston. To-day, she credits both coaches for instilling in her the drive and spirit to lead other players on and off the court. “You can learn lessons for life on that court, and I have tried to do that,” said Stewart, whose maiden name is McCoy.
Upon graduation, she attended Western Kentucky University for one year but returned home and later married Jamie Stewart.
She later earned her bachelor’s degree in education at Kentucky State University in Frankfort while raising two children, Adam, an eighth-grader, and Megan, a sophomore who plays for the Lady Raiders’ JV squad.
Other than her insistence for conditioning, she doesn’t ascribe to any one coaching philosophy, rather, she says, “When you coach at a small school, you have to change your coaching styles to suit the type of players you have. So I’ve coached all kinds of styles.”
This year, she has a fast squad and some good shooters, so she uses the edge her team has in conditioning to run and shoot. The squad is dominated by five seniors – Amanda Greiner, Emily Merrill, Faron Egerton, Libby McKinney and Thoke, and three juniors – Laci Shirmer, Carollana Jennings and Jessie Caudill. Sophomore Ashleigh Miller has replaced McKinney in the lineup after McKinney injured her ankle in a non-sports related incident at a restaurant following the team’s last game in Richmond.
“Any time you have that kind of success, it’s going to have a positive effect on the whole program, and I don’t think this is going to be the end of it for several years down the road,” said Peniston, who led the Lady Raiders to the Class A tournament in 1992.
As for his coaching protege, Peniston said of Stewart, “Kerrie is the type of person who cares for her players, and I think that’s a big plus as far as any coach is concerned. She carries that through, and they see that and know that. Yet, she’s able to come down on them when she has to, as any coach should.”
Peniston called Stewart a student of the game who has done well in adjusting to situations as her ballgames progressed. And he applauds her ability to adjust her coaching style to fit the player talent she inherits each year. “At the high school level, you have to learn to adjust because you can’t go out and recruit the players you want, like in college,” he said.

Lady Raiders Signage

Peniston recalled that as a player herself, Stewart was always team-focused. “And you see that has carried over into her work as a coach – she’s not above the program; it’s always about the team.”
In addition to her players, Stewart credits her husband and children for allowing her the time to spend in the gym and taking part in other coaching-related activities, such as recruiting and hours spent watching game films.
She cites one moment she won’t forget this season when the regional final game against Walton Verona was about to begin in Eminence, and she thought her husband had to work that night and couldn’t be there. But just before the opening buzzer, she looked up in the stands and saw him. “I thought to myself, ‘We’re going to win this game.’ “
Stewart’s father, Charles McCoy, suffers from a heart ailment and could not attend the state tournament games, nor could her mother, Corliss, who stayed with her husband. Stewart’s two sisters, Laura McCoy and Sabina McCoy Crumley, also were not able to go. So it was her immediate family, both former coaches, Davis and Peniston, and the Trimble County fan section that carried her through in Richmond.
“This community was great, and what an opportunity it was for our girls to play on that floor (in Richmond),” she said. “Little kids were running around with Lady Raider signs and getting our players to autograph them – that will leave a huge mark on our players for the rest of their lives.”
It’s already left a huge mark on Stewart, whose previous best season record was 17-10 in her first year as head coach. “This season was definitely a coach’s dream come true,” she said.

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