By Chris Parsons
To the casual fan of this year's Corbin Lady Redhounds, assistant coaches Jamie (Bonza) Cutshall and Mikkah Rogers may just be another pair of faces on the bench.
To anyone who knows the history of the program or has been around over the past 10 years, they know that Cutshall and Rogers are much more than that.
Both were integral parts of the program's turnaround from a 3-21 team in Jennifer Parsons' first year as head coach (2001-02) to a perennial contender in the 50th District and 13th Region.
“We just both really enjoyed playing basketball and that was one thing we had in common when we were on the floor together,” Rogers said when asked to name a similarity between the two of them while in high school.
Both were standouts for Lady Redhound teams coached by Parsons — Cutshall played from 2001 to 2005, while Rogers was a member of the team from 2003, when she played as an eighth grader, until she graduated in 2008.
“I think the fact that we both loved the game of basketball is something that sticks out to me,” Cutshall said of she and Rogers.
The similarities don't end there.
Throughout their high school careers, neither of them were able to lead Corbin to a region championship, which means the promised land of the state tournament was something they had only dreamed of.
Even with their success as players, the Lady Redhounds only played in one region final during the seven years the pair were a part of the program and it came the year after Cutshall had graduated.
Adding insult to injury, literally, once Corbin finally made it to that elusive 13th Region Championship game, Rogers was relegated to cheerleader after a dislocated ankle earlier that postseason put her out of action. She had to watch as Clay County ran away with a 43-27 win and a coveted trip to E.A. Diddle Arena to play for a state title.
Both went on to play basketball at the collegiate level. Cutshall played her freshman year at Alice Lloyd before transferring and eventually graduating from Union College, while Rogers spent all four years at Georgetown College.
Call it fate or destiny, but fast forward to one of the most memorable seasons in the program's history, and most definitely of Parsons' tenure, and the two former teammates find themselves in the middle of all the hoopla as part of the Lady Redhounds' staff — Cutshall as a full-time assistant and Rogers as a volunteer assistant.
Despite the amount of time they have both put into the program, and one of the most nerve-wracking games either had been involved in, they both agreed that they wouldn't change the way things have transpired if they had a choice.
“As the clock wound down in the Bell County game, I had never felt that way, nor did I think I could feel like that other than when I was playing,” Rogers said. “It was one of the proudest, yet terrifying moments I have ever been a part of, but at the same time it was just pure joy to be a part of something so special to this program and these young girls.”
For Cutshall, she said the win was something she had only dreamed of as a player. The fact she was now helping coach the team that got it done made it even more special.
“You go through all of high school trying to reach a dream you have, but you're unable to accomplish it, so you're not sure whether that kind of chance will ever come around again,” she said. “There was a photo you guys (Times-Tribune) ran that captured the emotion of what we as coaches all felt so perfectly and that it really just says it all on our end emotionally.
“To do what we have done is great. For Mikkah and I to be able to be a part of it after being with Coach Parsons after her being such an influence on how we have grown up is just surreal,” she added. “I've found myself wondering if I'm going to wake up because it has literally been a dream come true to be a part of such a special team.”
As the week rolled on, Cutshall and Rogers said they knew there was plenty of work to be done in preparation for Corbin's first-round opponent, Shelby Valley.
Regardless of the loss in the Sweet Sixteen, they said this season is one that they will both remember forever and they hope this young group of Lady Redhounds is able to do the same thing.
“So far for me, it's been a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” Cutshall said. “We've tried to stress to them to enjoy it for all it's worth and soak in every single memory because it's something they can hold on to forever.”
Rogers echoed those thoughts.
“The best thing I can tell them is just soak it up and make the very best memories you can because they're going to be telling this story for the rest of their lives,” Rogers said.