Broken Arrow Express
COACHING STRATEGIST: Broken Arrow girls basketball coach Tiffany Jones holds a clipboard while coaching in a team scrimmage Nov. 10. Jones was named interim coach for the Lady Tigers’ coach in September.
Courtesy Broken Arrow Athletic Department
When Tiffany Jones was named the interim girls head basketball coach for Broken Arrow in September, she got lots of support from players and friends in the coaching profession.
Jones has been on board the Lady Tigers’ coaching staff since 2011, when she joined as an assistant. She is taking over the reins from Michael Hughes, who stepped down during the offseason to spend more time with family.
Former standout players such as the recently graduated Alexis Gaulden, who is now a freshman at the University of Tulsa, have been among those showing support.
“That group has been great,” Jones says. “There was a tremendous amount of support from our kids when it was announced. Their response was incredibly positive. The girls have been great.”
Before coming to Broken Arrow five years ago, Jones had spent 18 years at Duncan, having coached under Phil Landrum, an Oklahoma Coaches Association Hall of Fame member, who coached the Lady Demons to frequent trips to the state tournament.
Jones took over the coaching duties at Duncan in 2002 when Landrum left for another coaching position. In 2004, Jones led the Lady Demons to the Class 5A state tournament. That accomplishment led her to being named as Lawton Constitution Large School Coach of the Year and the Region Coach of the Year from the Oklahoma Girls Basketball Coaches Association.
After two seasons, Jones stepped down from the hardwood to be the school’s track and cross country coach.
Those who worked with Jones during her time in Duncan also acknowledged her for getting the Broken Arrow job.
“(Landrum) sent me a message pretty quick that day,” she says.
With the job now in her direction, Jones, who played her college career at Oklahoma Baptist from 1989-1993, knows that there is work ahead. Broken Arrow will be a different team this season than those that have reached the state tournament in recent years, including back-to-back state championships in 2014 and 2015. Most of the players who impacted the Lady Tigers in their state title campaigns have graduated.
“Coach Hughes has done a great job and we’ve had great success. We wish him well, but now we’re going to work,” Jones says. “We’re going to celebrate what we’ve had, but we can’t rest on that. We have to get to the gym and get to work. Everybody knows we’re young, but the fun thing about being young is you improve. Players improve all year long. I’ve had real good support from kids who have graduated in the past. They’ve been encouraging and that’s been fun.”
Last season, the Lady Tigers went 24-4, reaching the state semifinals before bowing out to eventual state runner-up Owasso.
Jalise Smallwood (5-7, senior, guard) is the only returning starter for the 2016-17 campaign. Angelica Cuellar (5-2, senior, guard), who came off the bench and played last year is also back.
“Those are the only two who have any varsity experience as far as playing a close game,” Jones says. “We are young.”
The Lady Tigers also lost Lauren Richter, a 6-2 center, who moved to Bartlesville.
However, Cherish Doku (5-8, senior, forward) and Danyell Moore (6-1, senior, forward) who transferred respectively from Booker T. Washington and East Central last year at mid-term, return. They didn’t get much time in with the Lady Tigers, but their experience will be important, Jones says.
There will also be some juniors who got plenty of minutes in junior varsity games last year.
“I think teamwork and chemistry is going to be very important for us,” Jones says. “We’re really working on how we are sharing the ball with each other, know who we are passing to, what are our strengths and weaknesses, but being very intentional and very disciplined in what we do.”
Although Broken Arrow will be different in terms of talent, it still hungers to return to the state tournament. The loss in the semifinals has spurred the team through the offseason.
“Absolutely,” Jones says. “Obviously, we had a disappointing end last year. But we talked about our work ethic in practice. There are going to be teams more talented than us, but we’re going to play hard and smart. We’re not going to be the biggest team or the fastest team, but we’re going to do everything we can that we can control. We’re going to have to play well together.”
Owasso, Sand Springs and Bartlesville are the expected the strongest foes on the schedule. Broken Arrow opens its season on Dec. 2 on the road against Bishop Kelley. It will host Bixby in its home opener on Dec. 6.