Brent Gaylor would have loved to have been in San Antonio last Saturday hugging and celebrating with his daughter Hanna, whose clutch free throw shooting in the final minute lifted the Lipan Lady Indians to a state basketball championship.
However, he was getting ready to celebrate with the 36-1 Lipan Indians — for whom he is the head coach — as they were stamping their ticket to the Alamodome this week by winning a boys regional championship. Their Class 2A state semifinal matchup, versus New Home (31-7), was set for 8:30 a.m. Friday, March 10. The 2A boys state title game, featuring either Flatonia (34-4) or La Rue La Poynor (32-7) coming out of the other semifinal, will be Saturday, March 11, set for a 1:30 p.m. tipoff.
Ditto for Indians assistant coach Jimmy Lott, whose daughter Chelsea was named the championship game MVP in the Lady Indians’ 53-48 victory over Gruver.
"This past weekend was both great and bittersweet, with the boys here (at regionals in McKinney) and the girls at state," coach Gaylor said. 'Our hearts were in two places."
Likewise, Lady Indians head coach Amber Branson was keeping tabs in two places. As she was leading her team to its third state championship since 2016, her daughter Taylor was named to the All-State Tournament Team for her outstanding play, while son Tate was a key factor in the Indians getting back to state for a third straight year and a fifth time in seven years.
"Sometimes it's hard being a coach and a mom," coach Branson said. "In the moment, it's coach. Afterwards, it's emotional because then I can be Mom."
Coach Branson also found time to “face time” Tate even though he was more than 300 miles away.
"All of us were split today," coach Branson said at the news conference following her team's title victory. "It's a great problem to have, but I know it was hard on all of us. Thankfully, through technology they were able to watch a little bit after they got finished and thankfully we'll get to watch them again when they come down here next weekend."
While the situation is a little more unique for the two head coaches with each having varsity players on the other's team, families scrambling to be there when both teams make their annual jaunt through the postseason is nothing new. After all, when your teams have been to state a combined 24 times in their history (14 for the boys, 10 for the girls) and have won seven state titles (four for boys, three for girls) — and perhaps eight after this weekend — it's just something you do.
"I think it speaks a lot of the rich tradition we have," coach Gaylor said.
That family feeling goes back decades in Lipan. Coach Branson played as well, leading the Lady Indians to the 1995 state tournament. Her husband, Les, played alongside former Indians coach Cody Chandler in leading the Indians to the 1994 state championship.
Chandler would later coach the Indians to the 2009 state tournament.
Chelsea Lott and Tate Branson are both graduating this season, so their parent coaches won't have part of their heart halfway across the state on the same weekend next season. Coach Gaylor, on the other hand, cannot say that and, in fact, should get used to doing so for another couple years if things go according to Hoyle in Lipan.
Hanna is only a sophomore.
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