By Chris Parsons
For some coaches, being good isn’t good enough and Barbourville Lady Tigers head coach Andrea Hillard said she is one of them.
Hillard’s squad just completed the best season in the program’s history, which included a 21-11 record and its first district title and a spot in the 13th region Tournament.
Hillard said she was proud of what her team accomplished this season, but added that looking ahead to next season, the sky is the limit.
“My kids are always talking about how I’m never satisfied and that’s true to a point,” Hillard said. “I’m very proud of what we accomplished this season with the best win total ever for the program and the first district title, but I feel like this group can do more.”
The group Hillard is talking about is a group of juniors (Tyra Bunch, Kara and Kelsey Erslan, Brandi Hembree, K.K. Liford, Amber Mills and Brianna Tate) that has been together since grade school. Hillard said every year has been a new challenge for the group, but after this year’s success, she said hopefully her team would be ready to take the next step next season and reach the ultimate goal of every high school team — the state tournament.
“Coming into this season, I felt like we had a chance to do all the things we did and we had set some lofty goals,” Hillard said. “At the same time, we still haven’t reached the point that we want to get to and that’s the state tournament.
“Yes, I’m extremely happy that we won the district and we had a good year, but in the end, the state tournament has to be your goal every year or you’re selling your team short,” she added. “I really feel like now that our kids have won and have gotten used to winning, we can compete with the best teams in the region and we have a real shot at that next season.”
The Lady Tigers started out as hot as any team in the 13th Region winning their first five games and nine out of the first 10.
Barbourville went on to win the 17th Annual Bowman Memorial Classic, but stumbled in South Laurel’s Candy Cane Classic. A loss to Lynn Camp dashed their hopes of an All ‘A’ Classic title for this year, but Hillard said that’s something her team has set as a goal for next season.
“We had three goals heading into this season and they were to win the Bowman, the All ‘A” Classic regional title and our district,” she said. “We reached two of the three and we really feel like next season we’ll have as good a shot as ever.”
As the season wound down, Barbourville struggled thanks to some bumps and bruises that go along with any season. Hillard and company were able to string a few wins together in the final two games of the season, giving them some much needed momentum entering postseason play. That’s where Hillard thinks things may have stalled out for her team’s motivation, which is something she said won’t happen again.
“I think we may have went into the region tournament a little bit satisfied to be there,” she said. “The girls were banged up a little bit and I think maybe they were happy with what they’d done as opposed to wanting to do even more.
“Hopefully the feeling of getting beat in the region tournament will fuel the fire for next season,” she added.