Out of the Shadow: Kurt Richardson wins first championship at Shallowater


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SAN ANTONIO --- Shallowater head coach Kurt Richardson embraced his family on the court after a 54-49 overtime win over Huntington in the Class 3A Championship. The "Nobody believes in us" narrative is an overused sports mantra to drum up motivation. For Shallowater, it couldn't be more apt.

The 2023-24 team returned three lettermen. They were undersized, with three starters below 5-foot-6. Shallowater started district play 1–3, idling in fifth place. They were an unranked qualifier for the state tournament, then toppled two consecutive top-three-ranked opponents to reach the state championship.

And Shallowater hoisted the trophy, but not before Huntington senior Harleigh Havard nailed her second three-point, bank-shot buzzer beater to send the game to overtime. The one she hit at halftime was cool. The one she hit to extend the game left Richardson laughing. 

"It was kind of a microcosm of our whole season," Richardson said. "There were different times we could've checked it in. And these guys decided, 'Nope. We're not going to be that way. We're going to uphold the Fillie tradition.' Now, they've added their own chapter to it."

With Huntington senior forward Kyra Anderson fouled out for overtime after compiling 17 points and ten rebounds, Shallowater outscored them 9-4 in the bonus period to take state. Shallowater sophomore Keelie Williams hit two three-pointers to put the game on ice, earning the game's MVP. She was in the stands four years ago when Shallowater last won state. She earned her own chapter.

"When I saw them win it all, I wanted that so bad," Williams said. "Ever since I was little, I loved basketball. I wanted this medal. God was on my side. My team was on my side."

But on the postgame podium, Richardson could only think of the hustle plays that had won Shallowater the game. The steals that came from sprinting down the court and swiping the ball from behind. Or hustling back on a 2-on-1 opportunity to force a bad pass. Those were the winning plays.

Shallowater forced Huntington into 28 turnovers on the night with a tenacious press defense. Junior guard Maggie Grimes, who got a double-double with 10 points, 12 rebounds and led the team with five steals, said their defense is molded by five-on-five scrimmages against their teammates in practice.

"Whenever we're doing five on five, we're having to scrimmage some of the best ballhandlers I've ever guarded," Grimes said. "Our own players are some of the best guards I've seen."

Richardson took over two years ago for the legendary Chuck Darden, who retired after 41 years with the school. He's now started his own legacy with a first championship banner. And, in truth, senior forward Addison Pitts knows there wasn't another coach who could've brought them this far.

"He believed in us when nobody else did," Pitts said. "Nobody thought we were going to make it to playoffs. Nobody thought we could get here. But he always believed in us."

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