Co-Coach of the Year: Eric Schilling, Nazareth
The mystique of Nazareth girls coach Eric Schilling is growing by the season.
The Press Pass Sports Co-Coach of the Year doesn’t take losing lightly, and it reflects through his coaching style, and his players tenacious effort on the court.
The storied Swiftettes are as close to a sure thing at the state tournament in March, as any in the Texas Panhandle, so it’s no surprise that the Nazareth Swiftettes won its record-setting 24th state title this season.
But it wasn’t as easy Schilling and his team as many may think.
Nazareth battled early season losses to school’s in bigger classifications, suffered injuries to key players in the playoffs, and avoided a massive upset of New Home, 37-31, in the Region I-1A finals just to punch a ticket back to San Antonio.
“We had a lot of ups and downs,” Schilling said. “We had more obstacles to get by then we’ve had in my time here. We had to mix our inexperience with our experience. There was a learning curve especially with the schedule we played. Senior April Schmucker missed playoff games, we didn’t have playmaker Cambrie Heiman on the floor in the regional final, or the better part of the state tournament.
“But we all came together at right time, and winning it was special.”
In nine years coaching at his alma mater, Schilling, only 35-years old, has a Hall of Fame worthy resume. He’s led Nazareth to six state champions, on top of winning four straight titles. Schilling has amassed an overall record of 283-51, and an unprecedented 46-3 postseason mark.
However, Schilling isn’t about what he’s done. His joy is seeing his team enjoy the sustained success.
“Each championship is special,” Schilling said. “It’s a new team, with new players getting to feel that energy. I love that my daughter, Brynli, is on the bench and celebrates as hard as anyone with us. That’s what Nazareth is about, our older girls always the set example for those behind them. They make it all come together.”
Co-Coach of the year: Shannon Fisher, Gruver
Nineteen years was was well worth the wait for Gruver girls coach Shannon Fisher to reach the ultimate pinnacle in sports.
The Press Pass Sports Co-Coach of the Year, was able to take a talented Lady Hounds team through high’s and lows during the 2020 season, and see the ultimate reward in the end when his Lady Hounds brought home the program’s first ever UIL Class 2A state championship.
“It’s surreal,” Fisher said. “When you say state champion, it still gives me chills. I think It goes back to all the hard work paying off and hours our team put in to make it happen. We never lost sight of goals, and we knew anything was possible.”
Gruver (37-2 overall) didn’t shy away from competition all season. Fisher and his team played a very competitive nondistrict schedule, and in the playoffs were able to take down both state-ranked Wellington and Panhandle in a matter of five days.
“We played a lot of great teams,” Fisher said. “We knew by how we were playing during the year, we had a shot to make it. I was impressed with our teams maturity, and I couldn’t have asked anymore from my staff.”
Fisher, who’s coached at Roby, Snyder, Tulia, Knox City and Groom, throughout his career,
Is now 115-27 at Gruver in three seasons.
Player of the year: Zayla Tinner, Amarillo High, 5-foot-10, Sr. Forward
Though Amarillo High’s season didn’t end where they wanted it in 2020, it doesn’t take away from the incredible senior year nor career Tinner put together over four seasons at Amarillo High
The Press Pass Girls Player of the Year
will go down as one of the best players to grace the floor at Amarillo High over its long standing tenure.
Her career speaks for itself.
Tinner, a University of Southern California (USC) commit, helped lead the Lady Sandies to back-to-back Class 5A state championships in 2018-2019. She was named the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches 5A Player of the Year as a junior, and named the Texas Girls Coaches Association 5A Player of the Year this season, on top of being a three-time All-State selection.
What’s most impressive when it comes to Tinner, is the record her and the Lady Sandies build over four years. AHS never won less than 30 games with Tinner on the floor, going an eye-opening 150-11 in those four seasons.
“My four year career was all I could ask for,” Tinner said. “The family we built at AHS was unbelievable. When we lost at regionals, I cried more because of the relationships we have, and knowing we wouldn’t be as close in the future. We are a family.”
Tinner finished off her historic career scoring 2,233 points, pulling down 749 rebounds, dishing out 406 assists with 340 steals. An immaculate career for one of the best players who’s walked the halls of any Amarillo ISD school.
“To win 150 games in her career and lead us to two-state championships and be a two-time player of the year is unimaginable,” said Jeff Williams, who completed his 15th season as head coach of the Lady Sandies. “What I think is most impressive, is she’s gotten a lot of eyes on our program, and given us a chance to grow. There have been great players here, but she immediately stood out to Division I coaches that come in and saw her. We have big time players returning, and they’ve reaped rewards because of her. She’s been great for our program.”
One thing Tinner will always be grateful for is her personal relationship with Williams. The two have connected since her freshman year, and have only become closer since.
“Coach Williams is a father figure to me,” Tinner said. “When we talk, it’s not just about basketball. It’s about life lessons, and grades, and being a good person off the court. We’ve had our ups and downs but we never left a conversation mad at each other.”
Bailey Maupin, Gruver, 5-foot-10, Soph. Guard
Maupin came into her own this sophomore season, helping the Gruver Lady Greyhounds to the program’s first ever state championship. After a stellar regular season, earning District 1-2A MVP honors, Maupin elevated her game throughout the playoffs on the way to San Antonio. The Division I prospect ended her year averaging 16.9 points a game, 6.8 rebounds a contest, and dishing out 3.3 assists. Maupin was also named as a Class 2A TGCA All-State selection.
Mason Jones, Panhandle, 5-foot-10, Jr. Guard
Jones became a valuable piece to a Panhandle team that made its fifth straight Region I-2A final appearance this season. Jones, a quick and agile 5-foot-10, did most of her damage from the perimeter, averaging 15.2 points a game, but proved she could be physical by pulling down four boards a contest. For her tremendous efforts this season, the junior was named as the District 2-2A Co-Offensive MVP, and a TGCA All-State selection.
Kenadee Winfrey, Canyon, 5-foot-11, Jr. Forward
It’s not easy to come off an injury, but Winfrey, a TGCA All-State selection, made it look that way in 2020. After missing her entire sophomore year with a torn ACL, the Co-District 3-4A MVP turned it on as junior averaging 12.5 points, and 5.2 rebounds a game for a Canyon squad that went 31-2.
Cambrie Heiman, Nazareth, 5-foot-11, Sr. Post
Not many players at any level of sports can say they’ve had the career Heiman has had for Nazareth the past four years. The 5-foot-11 senior is one of the greatest to ever wear the Swiftettes uniform. Heiman, a Lubbock Christian signee, ended her career as a four-time Class 1A state champion. She’s one of only seven in the heralded tradition of Nazareth players to accomplish such a feat. Heiman, the 2018 state tournament MVP, played in a total of 141 games, scoring 2,229 career points. The highly decorated post leaves as a four-time TABC All-State selection, a three-time TGCA All-State player, as well as a three-time Texas Six-man Player of the year.
Newcomer of the Year: Emma Troxell, Bushland, 5-foot-11 Fr. Forward
It didn’t take long for 5-foot-11 forward to establish herself as a go-to player for coach Chris Marks. Troxell was a key piece to why the Lady Falcons (22-10 overall) went back to the Class 3A regional quarterfinals, and were the District 1-3A championship at 13-1. Troxell ended her first year of varsity averaging 15 points and eight boards a game. She was named District 1-3A MVP, as well as a Texas Association of Basketball Coaches All-Region selection.
Chloe Callahan, Canyon, 5-foot-9, Jr. Guard
Callahan’s talent was getting to the basket. The Co-District 3-4A MVP helped the Lady Eagles go 31-2, averaging 13 ppg, three rebounds a contest, and three steals.
Jada Miller, Tascosa, 5-foot-9, Sr. Guard
The smooth shooting Miller earned Co-District 2-6A MVP honors, scoring 21.7 points a game, nabbing four rebounds a game and 2.8 steals. Miller was also a TGCA All-State selection.
Grace Foster, Childress, 6-foot-1, Jr. Post
The 6-foot-1 post and Division I prospect is the leader for the Childress Lady Bobcats. The District 8-3A Offensive MVP and TGCA All-State selection averaged a double-double, pouring in 20 ppg, with 11 rpg.
Kaylee Jo Neeley, Wellington, 6-foot, Sr. Post
Neeley was the driving force behind another successful season for the Lady Skyrockets, on top of a district championship. The District 2-2A MVP ended the year tallying 14 points a night to go with 6.2 boards a game.
Lara Mason, Vega, 6-foot, Sr. Post
The District 3-2A Co-MVP led the the Lady Longhorns to a stellar 32-1 season, and a district championship. The TGCA All-State selection scored 15 ppg, pulled down 6.5 rebounds a game, and averaged 4.5 blocks a night.