by Scott Kindberg
Pine Valley’s Unity Starts With Coach
There were no raucous displays of emotions.
Not even a tear.
Just a pleasant, ear-to-ear smile, his way of recognizing the Lady Panthers’ 54-51 victory over St. Johnsville in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class D championship game at Queensbury High School.
“I hugged everybody when it was over, didn’t I?” Nobles declared, almost uncomfortable in the post-game spotlight. “We’re happy aren’t we? I’m happy inside, but I’m tired.”
He deserves a break.
Saturday’s victory capped an unbelievable year for the Lady Panthers, who posted a 25-0 mark — a Chautauqua County record for wins in a season — and became the first county school to win a state basketball title.
“I promised the girls a trip to the Bahamas if they won,” Nobles said. “I’ll probably get one of those travel tapes (instead).”
Let’s just say that the trip is one of the few things Nobles won’t be able to do for his girls this season.
“He likes the game, he likes girls basketball and his team, and will do whatever it takes to see that they succeed, “ Jerry Skurcenski, a former girls and boys basketball coach at Pine Valley and now an assistant to Nobles. “He is totally dedicated to his players. His team is his family. He has them do projects during the year to further team unity and the system he runs is conductive to team harmony because he plays so many people.”
Nobles played 10 of 11 players in the semifinal win over Bishop Ludden Friday night and eight of 11 against St Johnsville.
“Everybody brings something to the table,” Skurcenski said. “There’s not one single factor. It’s a combination, it’s a mesh. It all starts at the top and he’s at the top.”
Nobles took over the girls’ varsity basketball job from Skucenski in 1980. “I had a choice of boy’s junior varsity, boys junior high or girls varsity and Jerry Skurcenski said to take the girls and that I wouldn’t regret it.”
He hasn’t, particularly the last four seasons during which the Lady Panthers have won three sectional titles and played in two state tournaments.
“He’s the best coach I’ve ever known, “said senior Lynn Gier, the only girl in school history to have earned three Section 6 title patches. “After our games, he stays up until 4 in the morning to watch tapes to get the state.”
Added junior Aimee Brown: “He makes us want to work hard and gives us a lot of incentive. In practice, it’s work, work, and work. If we’re slacking off, he’ll say, ‘C’mon guys, let’s go, let’s work for the states,’ and you want to work for it.”
Nobles modestly downplays his role.
“I’ve always said if you have the horses, anyone can drive them,” he said.
Driving them is one thing. Pointing them in the right direction is another.
“The kids obviously have to play, but it’s the tone he sets at the top and everything just meshes,” Skurcenski said.
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