By KEVIN THOMPSON
Coach David Ediger has a lot to be proud of with his Cimarron Lady Bluejays.
In his nine seasons, those teams have a won-loss record of 170-39 (.813).
This season's team contributed 21 of those wins, most significantly the 170th, a win over Holcomb to win the Class 3A sub-state crown for the first time after three straight finals losses, the last two to Holcomb.
It's the 39th loss, however, that turned the joy of a state berth into heartbreak as the Lady Jays fell in the first round of the state tournament.
Yet despite the early exit, Ediger remained staunch in his belief in his team and the tradition of excellence the program has developed.
For his team's achievements this season, Ediger was named The Telegram's Girls Coach of the Year.
Every year, Ediger's teams set goals, and this year they met most of them.
Besides winning sub-state, the league tournament and the regular season title, going undefeated at home for more than three years all rank right up there, he said.
The only goal that eluded them was a state title.
"The sub-state finals was a very emotional game for us," he said. "In state, we just didn't play like ourselves at all. We fought back and that showed the character that we have. We played hard. We just didn't get it done. It's pretty hard to go out that way."
It was especially hard for his seniors, all of whom had been part of the three teams that just missed out on state berths.
"They're a really good group of girls, all three of them. They deserved to play a few more games. They showed really good leadership for us all year long with a positive attitude," Ediger said.
Those attitudes are indicative of the character his team showed all season, something that did not go unnoticed by others.
"I got several emails and texts from different coaches and administrators that told me it's easy to cheer for your girls because of the class they have; you have character and play the game the right way," he said.
"That means so much more than any basketball game. They're an outstanding bunch of kids. That's what I told them at the end of the state game is what makes it so difficult. They represent everything we stand for on the court and off the court," he added.
It all comes down to how he and his coaches teach about the sport beyond Xs and Os.
"I'm a believer in kids teach kids. The older girls teach them what we stand for and what we expect. It's what we've developed over the years and we want to keep that going," Ediger said.
That doesn't change from year to year, either, he said. Consistency helps.
"We make very little change in what we do over the years. We have a system, and we do make our tweaks and changes depending on who we have, but the system we run — I coach basketball; I don't coach boys or girls. We've been consistent with that system," he said.
Sometimes coaches want to change styles to whatever the new fad is. Ediger has kept the same philosophy and style from his playing days, one that his players enjoy.
"We don't have any set patterns. We teach them how to play, and they enjoy playing it, and they have bought into that," he said. "They have more fun doing that rather than going from point A to point B, which gets pretty monotonous after a while."
Twenty years of coaching has proven the system works, Ediger said.
"And our players work their tails off all the time and do what we ask them to do," he said.
That speaks to the quality of girls he gets in the program.
"They're a good group of girls and athletes over the years. Even when we haven't had the best athletes, they know how to play and what to do," he said.
For example, this year's squad figured out a way to win without a true post player, he said. The post was as likely to pop out top and shoot a three as she was to back inside and hit a layup. The point guard could start a play outside and end up posting up.
Over the years, Ediger has become wiser, such as when to call timeouts and when to let his players just play. It's part of the trust in the system everybody has developed.
"Listen to your players," he said. "I let my players make a lot of suggestions on what we're going to run. I've learned to trust my players more. They're on the floor. They see things. They've got a good feel. If you've got players who understand the game, trusting their judgment on the court is something I've learned to do."
The three seniors are the winningest class in school history, Ediger said, which speaks well to the program.
Losing those three (Ashtynn Burns, Hailee Hoskinson, Boo Dupree) will be difficult, he said, but their work ethic will be their legacy.
"Sometimes you can coach teams where you can't wait for the season to be over," he said. "This year, I've really struggled with that. It's just a great group of kids. That makes it hard, but we have a lot of other players in the program who have worked hard and are ready to step up."
Next year Cimarron will be just fine.
"They're ready to go play," he said. "It makes me excited about next year. I have full confidence they're going to be a good team. It'll be exciting to see how they progress."