Feb. 22—COPPELL — The Keene Chargers captured a Class 3A bi-district championship — their first playoff victory in a decade — with a 51-43 victory Saturday over Ponder at Coppell High School.
Saturday's bi-district victory was Keene's first playoff win since the 2010 season as the Chargers — who have notched several 20-win seasons the past decade — finally found some postseason success.
"It's been great for our guys," Keene Coach Billy Coffin said. "They came into the year and set those expectations for themselves of where they wanted to get. That was definitely a goal of ours was to finish in the top of district play and make a run in the playoffs. It's been a while since we've won a playoff game here at Keene. I feel like it was a big monkey off their back and something for them to be excited for. They've been working hard for it.
"For me, I was just thrilled to be on the sidelines with them after all those years working with [former Keene Head Coach Jason] Hill. I know he's not here but he gets a lot of credit for this with all he's done over the years with this program."
In a tightly contested, back-and-forth affair from start to finish, the Chargers ended the game on an 11-2 run, coming up with timely stops on defense and a few clutch makes on the offensive end.
In fact, Coffin, in his first year at the helm, said he and the coaches issued a challenge to the Chargers on the defensive end of the court — and they rose to the occasion.
"We took a time-out with about 3:45 left and told the guys that five stops would win us the game," Coffin said. "If they could find a way to get five stops, we'd come out ahead. They got five stops out of six possessions and that was big. They rose to the challenge. We've been in tight games all year and I think that helped prepare us. The way these guys work together, they've got a great bond and you can tell you're around brothers with these guys."
After Ponder scored on a putback to take a 41-40 lead with under 4:30 left, Keene controlled things the rest of the way, fueled by a clutch 3-pointer from Kevin Adame on the next trip down for a 43-41 lead that allowed the Chargers (15-8) to stay in front for good.
Adame finished with nine points as the Chargers continue to receive contributions from players throughout their lineup.
"I'm happy for Adame," Coffin said. "He's had some success and he's hit some big shots for us this year. Every game, it's been one or two kids that will surprise you. You get your consistent players and then one or two other guys will step up with eight or 10 points on any given night. I think it's tough for other teams to prepare for because you never know where it's going to come from."
Keene was led by junior guard Julian Pilgrim's game-high 22 points while senior forward William Heine added 10 points with junior guard Kevin Franco pitching in seven points.
"I definitely challenged [Pilgrim] before the game," Coffin said. "Last year's playoff game he didn't have his best performance so I told him when we got on the bus, I said 'You get to go redeem yourself' and he kind of took that as a challenge and motivation to play well. I've been very proud of him this year. He's learned to play as a better teammate this year and he's really grown and matured. I think that's shown in his play."
Keene will play the winner of Edgewood and Whitewright in the area playoffs sometime Wednesday or Thursday. Edgewood and Whitewright were scheduled to play their bi-district game Monday night.
"We want to keep the success going and keep the guys focused and take it one game at a time," Coffin said. "We just need to keep climbing up that mountain we talked about earlier in the season."