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‘Winning never gets old’ for Patriots’ Roy

NAMPA — It was business as usual at the 5A girls state basketball tournament. A team from District Three claimed the title. And Emery Roy was behind the bench.The ageless Roy, who defies the laws of time simply by refusing to divulge his age, earned his ninth 5A girls basketball state title Saturday night, guiding Centennial past Coeur d’Alene 58-45 at the Idaho Center in Nampa.Centennial’s victory gave District Three 10 of the last 11 girls basketball state crowns in 5A. It was Roy’s fifth title with the Patriots, matching Bobbi Hazeltine’s state record for girls basketball titles won with one school. Roy also won four straight with Meridian from 1980-1983.“This never gets old. Winning never gets old,” said Roy, who previously won state championships with Centennial in 1993, ’96, ’98 and 2004.Roy never seems to get old, either. He just keeps winning.“My sophomore year (1996) he told me that he was going to retire from coaching before I graduated from high school. It’s been nearly 10 years and he’s still going strong. I don’t see any sign of him slowing down,” said Centennial assistant coach Kristinya Birch, who played for the Patriots from 1994-98 and has coached with Roy since 2000. “He just keeps chugging away and it never ceases to amaze me how successful he’s been.”Roy certainly didn’t show any signs of slowing down this season. The Patriots, with just three seniors, went 23-3 and cruised through the state tournament, winning each game by at least 11 points.Befitting a team that relied on many different scoring options throughout the season, the Patriots had a different leading scorer in each of their three tourney games. Roy tweaked his offense early in the season to better utilize his variety of options and overshadow his lack of a dominant scoring option.“(He has an) ability to draw out the strengths of his kids and hide their weaknesses,” Birch said. “He just has an amazing way of drawing out everybody’s strengths and getting the best possible result out of the five players that are on the floor.”You don’t amass a 595-144 career record without being able to adapt. And Roy has been able to stay fresh, current and relevant with players that are young enough to be his granddaughters. Motivation, he said, comes from an ever-changing roster, one that presents different challenges each season.“The kids motivate you. They’re excited and that gets you excited. And they just want to learn so much,” Roy said. “It’s fun.”Not that Roy looks like he’s getting the least bit of enjoyment out of the festivities. In a tournament full of pacing coaches, who flail their arms at every call and missed call, Roy stood out for his unassuming style.Saturday night he sat with his right leg crossed over his left, rarely leaving his chair to argue a call or berate a player.He maintained his calm demeanor, even as the Vikings knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to grab the lead in the third quarter. Roy called timeout. His team responded with five consecutive points and never trailed again.“He had faith and confidence in us and told us we could do it and when he says that, we know he means it,” said senior Blake Reynolds, who captured her second state title Saturday night.“He is an amazing coach. I don’t know what we’d have done without him.” The Patriots probably won’t have to worry about that for a while. After Saturday’s victory, Roy gave no indication that he’s through winning games or championships.Said Roy, in his typical style, “As long as they still want me, I guess I’ll hang in there.”To offer story ideas or comments, contact sports columnist Brian Murphy at bmurphy@idahostatesman.com or 377-6444.

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