Many scores and 12 years ago a tremendous tradition was started with the Bryan County Athletics Hall of Fame.
The number of honorees stands at 57 with the induction of four outstanding individuals this year.
The annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony is slated for Saturday, January 25, which also happens to be finals night of the Bryan County basketball tournament.
Southeastern’s Bloomer Sullivan Arena is always packed for the finals, the Hall of Fame induction and the introduction of the Pioneers of Bryan County Girls Basketball.
Honorees this year are Mike Lawson, Karla Parks, Kelli Parks-Teafatiller and Shelly Percell-Childree.
The Pioneers are the 1981-82 Bennington girls, which gives Percell-Childree more time on stage since she was a member of that team.
All Bryan County basketball fans are encouraged to come out for the games Saturday night and take some time to visit with the Pioneers and the Hall of Famers.
MIKE LAWSON graduated from Coalgate High School and Southeastern with a coaching career as his goal.
He started with a whistle and clipboard, but his true calling involved a whistle and a striped shirt. After a 30-year career of officiating basketball, baseball and softball throughout Oklahoma, he will enter the Bryan County Hall of Fame as a referee.
A three-sport athlete for the Coalgate Wildcats in football, basketball and baseball, he earned All-State honors in basketball in 1972. He graduated from Southeastern in 1976 and embarked on a six-year coaching career (basketball and baseball) in Bryan County where he was named the 1977 Tri-County Coach of the Year at Bennington and 1985 Teacher of the Year at Blue High School.
Overall, Lawson served 35 years in education, all in Bryan County, to go along with 30 years as an OSSAA-certified game official. He retired from both fields in 2011. He was named coordinator of area officials (Bryan, Atoka, Marshall and Johnston counties) when Wesley Smithart retired and held that position for more than 13 years.
“I am truly honored and privileged to be inducted into the Bryan County Hall of Fame,” Lawson said. “When I made the decision to give up coaching and take up officiating, my wife Carolyn said, ‘Isn’t that like going from the frying pan into the fire?’
“She was right, of course, but I wanted to stay close to the kids. That’s why I wanted to coach in the first place. Officiating gave me the opportunity to stay involved in the games I loved and still be around the kids.
“Also, I could go home and sleep at night while putting a few dollars in my pocket. It turned out to be a great choice for me and I’m really glad I made it.”
A highlight of his coaching career came in his first year at Bennington when his girls defeated Achille in the first round of the Bryan County tournament.
“We weren’t expected to win a game that year,” Lawson said. “That was a really sweet victory.”
After refereeing the Bryan County tournament for eight years, he served as public address announcer for the Bryan County Basketball All-Star games for several years, as well as for the third-place and finals games in the county tournament.
Lawson spent 10 years calling softball at the junior college and college levels. He officiated in 10 State Basketball Tournaments, including five championship games.
How about the pressure of refereeing in the state tournaments?
“I was very comfortable after we got started,” Lawson said,” because I worked my first game with Wesley Smithart, who got me into officiating and was my mentor all the way. I can’t thank him enough for all of his help.”
Smithart said, “Mike was determined to be a good referee and he accomplished that goal. He really worked hard at it and he had no desire to move on to anything else.
“I took him to his first game in the state tournament and he took it from there. He was really nervous at first. I told him it was just another game and he would be fine after he blew his whistle the first time.”
Lawson said, “I worked my last state tournament game with David Durbin of Atoka. The first final I worked was in 1993 between Arapaho and Lomega girls, who had split in the regular season. The score was tied at the end of each quarter and Arapaho finally won it 30-25 in overtime.”
Lawson did his job well enough to be named to the Oklahoma Officials Hall of Fame in 2013.
“I’ve had a great career,” Lawson said, “and induction into the Bryan County Hall of Fame just tops it off for me.”
Please do not attempt to adjust your newspaper: It is perfectly in focus.
THE CALERA TWINS are practically identical and darn near inseparable. Have there been instances of faulty identification? Oh, yeah.
To this day, their own grandpa still calls them “twin girls” and that speaks volumes because grandpas are pretty darn smart.
Karla and Kelli Parks have been a part of the Bryan County sports scene since they were literally carried into the various gyms around the county. They might have been small, but they could still cheer for the Bulldogs/Lady Bulldogs.
When the “twin girls” enter a room they bring sparkle, bounce, tremendous energy and a natural high no drug could ever hope to duplicate.
Just listing individual accomplishments and honors would require a full newspaper page, so we won’t go there except to hit some highlights.
Bryan County sports fans followed them on the basketball court and through the livestock shows and everything else they did, which was everything else available.
At age nine, the twins were showing their calves and lambs in various competitions. And winning. Responsibility comes with handling and caring for the animals. Karla and Kelli have carried that over into their personal lifestyles.
They attended school 13 years in Calera and think how many headaches that caused with teachers and friends trying to tell which twin was which.
The twins each played four years of basketball and two years of softball for the Lady Bulldogs. They finished their basketball careers under the direction of Bryan County Hall of Fame coach Bobby Carr.
“They were just great kids,” Carr said. “They were always willing to help in any way they could. They always wanted to do their part.
“They were totally dedicated and really worked hard in every phase of the game. They simply worked and willed themselves into being the best they could be, which was very good.
“There were times when I thought we were a little tired during a quarter, so I had the team run eight minutes in practice to equal a quarter. That got old in a hurry, so I changed it up and brought out the jump ropes for eight minutes.
“Karla and Kelli did not like those jump ropes one bit.
“We had a lot of fun back then. The kids worked hard and played hard. They made some mistakes, but not as many as I did. Something would happen in a game and I would be talking to one of them about it. Many times I have heard, ‘I didn’t do that coach, she did.’
“I have to assume they were correct, at least most of the time, because I simply could not tell them apart.
“I can’t think of anyone more deserving of the Hall of Fame than the twins. They put in lots of time each year on the displays and never say a word about what they’re doing.
“They’ve never been ones to seek personal glory and I’m proud to be presenting their Hall of Fame plaques. It was truly a pleasure to coach them.”
It wasn’t just sports for the twins in high school. The calves and lambs took lots of time, not to mention involvement in public speaking, parliamentary procedure, student council (Karla was president, Kelli vice-president), National Honor Society and livestock judging (don’t try to sell them a bad steak).
Karla: Oklahoma FFA Alumni Leadership training camp small group leader for two years; Oklahoma delegate to the National FFA Convention; Durant Young Professionals member; Bryan County Senior of the Year; valedictorian with a 4.0 grade-point average.
Kelli: Oklahoma FFA Alumni Leadership training camp small group leader for two years; Oklahoma delegate to the National FFA Convention
Both were two-year Bryan County Basketball All-Stars and both have continued playing beyond high school. They didn’t play college ball because there wasn’t enough time. They will tell you they weren’t good enough.
They played intramural basketball at Southeastern and have practiced with high school teams in Bryan County.
They graduated from Southeastern in 2005 and each earned bachelor’s degrees in elementary education and behavioral science. They went on to complete master’s degrees in Oklahoma school administration and instructional leadership from Southern Nazarene University in 2009.
Karla claimed a Top 10 Freshman Award and is a Southeastern Honors Program graduate. She has volunteered with the SE Alumni Events group for 13 years. She will serve as Assistant Principal of the Choctaw Summer School Posse Program in 2014.
Both were Spirit of Southeastern Award winners.
The twins spent some time working in Southeastern’s Welcome Center and caused some confusion in that building.
Dr. C. Henry Gold said it was four months before he realized there were two of them. “I would see one at one end of the building, walk up the hall and, just moments later, see her at the other end of the building. I couldn’t figure how she got there without passing me.”
In case you were wondering, Karla is the older woman – by one full minute.
Their parents, Gerald and Cindy Parks of Calera, had their hands full along with others.
Gerald said, “We weren’t ready with names when they were born, so for a week they were just A and B. And, yes, we too had some trouble telling them apart.
“I remember once we fed one of them twice and let the other one starve. Thankfully, it wasn’t serious.
“We couldn’t be more proud of Karla and Kelli. They try to win no matter what they’re doing. That’s just the way they’ve always been and probably always will be.
“They have won many awards in FFA. They just seemed to excel in everything they did. They received some calls after they graduated from high school to judge high school speech contests and other FFA events.
“I remember one time coach Carr called time after one of them had taken a shot he didn’t like. He was getting after her in the huddle. The trouble was he had the wrong twin. The other players knew it, but coach wasn’t told until after the game.
“One playing highlight, and I think this was Karla, was a shot from just about half-court to win a game as time expired.”
After graduation from Southeastern, the twins found jobs at Madill. Eight years later, they are now employed at Calera, teaching fifth and sixth grades. Karla teaches math, Kelli reading.
Somewhere along the way, the twins were recruited to perform in a commercial. Spotlight Referrals of Durant sent the young ladies to Dallas for a “cattle call” of folks wanting the job.
Out of 50 trying out, only 10 were selected and the twins made the cut. They recorded two 30-second commercials for a group called EyeCon.
Then it was back to the real world.
The twins sometimes finish each other’s sentences. They will at times be in separate room and singing the same song.
They spent 13 years together at Calera schools, four at Southeastern and eight teaching at Madill. Now they’re at Calera again and still together. They’re not just twins, they’re best friends.
Kelli is now Kelli Parks-Teafatiller. Karla is engaged to Chad Speer, offensive coordinator at Southeastern.
Ask the same question of each twin and the answer is darn near identical. Therefore, everything in quotes from here on is from both Karla and Kelli.
Please remember: The twins have resisted induction into the Hall of Fame.
“It is an honor and privilege to be involved with and learn about Bryan County sports history.
“The Bryan County Tournament is a special event that we both look forward to every year. We would like to thank the following people for all of their help in assisting us yearly with the Bryan County Athletics Hall of Fame: Linda McGehee, Shelly Childree and J.T. Busby.”
The Bryan County Athletics Hall of Fame induction is indeed a special event.
It now becomes even more special.
SHELLY PERCELL-CHILDEE was a dominating force in Bryan County basketball when she played guard for Bennington High School from 1979-82.
She was named to the 1981-82 All-State team.
“Basketball is my life,” Percell-Childree said. “I just love sports and can’t get it out of my blood.”
The Lady Bears posted a nifty 20-5 record in her senior year, won the district tournament and lost in the regionals. Two of the five losses were to Bokchito.
Five of the six starters – it was six on six in those days – were named Bryan County All-Stars and All-Conference.
Also in her senior year, she was named Most Valuable Player of the Bryan County tournament and earned her fourth-consecutive designation as All-Conference.
She was a six-footer and put her size to good use by being No. 1 in blocked shots and No. 5 in steals among Oklahoma small schools.
“I always wanted to play both ends of the floor,” she said. “After our practices were over, I would play five-on-five with the boys.”
Childree has served 17 years as an Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association-sanctioned basketball referee and softball/baseball umpire.
“My love for basketball came from my parents, James Percell and Helen Metcalf. Both are extremely competitive and taught me to always fight for what I wanted. My parents loved and supported me all of my life.
“Determination and a never-give-up attitude were instilled in me at an early age and that’s what I try to pass on to my children and the players I coach.”
Childree’s career extended beyond high school as she played Corporate Men’s and Women’s softball and basketball in Texas from 1990-97.
Her team finished second in the Texas Amateur Athletic Federation State Tournament finals in 1995 in Austin, Texas.
She finished third in 1996 in the TAAF Corporate National Coed Softball Finals in Destin, Florida.
She has been a softball umpire since 2008 in the Texas A. S. A. and has umpired the Colorado National Tournament since 2011.
She was only three years out of Bennington High School when her team entered the Hoop-It-Up, a three-on-three competition in Dallas. She’s one of the few women who can claim a victory over a team led by nationally well-known Nancy Lieberman.
She has eight years of assistant coaching in Bryan County and is now in her second season as head coach of the Achille Lady Eagles in both basketball and softball.
She has served the last 13 years as Umpire Coordinator for Durant’s Summer League and is still in that position.
The highly popular Pioneers of Bryan County Girls Basketball was Childree’s idea and it is now a major part of the Hall of Fame induction evening.
Childree said, “I have had some excellent coaches. Mike Lawson coached me in the eighth grade and my high school coach was Ken Brannon (deceased). George McSwain was my coach in Texas basketball and softball.
“Lawson put the fire in me and Brannon encouraged me to coach. Special thanks to Vernon and Cheryl Johnson for my basketball inspiration. Kent Pickens and Jon Hazell taught me everything I know about softball and baseball.
“I have been blessed by numerous people through my coaching, officiating and umpiring over these 17 years.
“The Bryan County Hall of Fame is really special. I don’t know what we would have done without it. It’s really the only recognition our local athletes get. I feel especially honored to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.”
Lawson, her coach and fellow Hall of Fame inductee, spoke glowingly of Childree.
“I coached her one year,” Lawson said. “I knew then she was special. We were undefeated when she was in the eighth grade. I guess she was 5-8 or 5-9 then.
“What she lacked in experience she made up for in determination and hustle. Shelly gave 120 percent from the time she stepped onto the floor until she stepped off. She tried to do everything I asked of her to the best of her ability.
“She was my post guard and really tough. She had lots of blocks and rebounds. She was absolutely dominant in the paint.”