Bond helped turn Lady Skins into an eastern Kentucky powerhouse

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Cumberland coach John Bond is pictured with Joey Morris, Lori Kluck and Kelley Morris during one of the Lady Skins' two All "A" Classic state titles in 1991 and 1992.

John Bond always considered himself a “baseball guy,” going back to his days of playing for Walter Dick at Benham High School followed by a long and successful run of coaching in the Tri-City Little League. Bond was on that same field working with his Reds in the summer of 1975 when the process started turning that transformed Bond from a baseball guy into one of the most successful girls basketball coaches in Kentucky high school history.
“I was called off the field and told I needed to meet with the superintendent of Harlan County Schools. At that meeting, I was asked to coach girls basketball at Cumberland High School,” Bond said. “To say that I was hesitant to do so is an understatement. Girls basketball had been resumed in the state and it was new to the girls and to anyone coaching it.”
Bond was stepping into what looked at the time like an impossible situation with the Lady Skins posting a 1-12 mark in the first season of girls basketball. It wasn’t an easy fix as Cumberland won only three times in Bond’s first season as coach, then 10 times the next year, then 13 the next before posting the school’s first 20-win season in 1979. Kim Kirk and Brenda Kyle were Cumberland’s top players in the early years.
Cumberland took another big step in 1981 with the 52nd District Tournament at Cumberland for the first time in over a decade. The Lady Skins knocked off Cawood in the finals, ending the Trojanettes’ five-year run as champions. Margaret Harris, Teresa Krahenbuhl, Ella Ray and Samantha Cooper were leaders on the 1981 team, which earned the program’s first regional tournament win with a victory over Pineville before falling to eventual champ Clay County in the semifinals. Harris became the first Cumberland player to sign with a Division I program, choosing Oral Roberts.
“The point I had to stress daily was we are going to win the district but it is going to take tremendous work, effort and perseverance,” Bond said. “I had to take a hard line on no excuses. I told them we have to work harder today than we did yesterday. The things that are most worthwhile in life have to be earned. A day did not pass that was reminding myself of Isaiah 49:11———‘I will turn all my mountains into roads.’ We were the bottom of the mountain in the region, and my kids knew it. Our goals were to become competitive, attain competitiveness in both district and regional play. Five years passed and we won our first 52nd District championship and competed well in the regional tournament.”
Cawood, with Mike Jones taking over as coach for two years before moving on to the boys team, recaptured the district title the next two seasons before Cumberland moved back on top in 1984 with a lineup featuring Monica Owens, Nickie Snow, Lolita Mallory, Vanessa Holcomb and Kelli Clem. The Lady Skins had to battle their way through the regional tournament, beginning with a 46-41 victory over Williamsburg. The Lady Skins edged Pineville 49-48 in the semifinals on a couple of late free throws by Amy Morris, a freshman at the time. Cumberland won the school’s first regional tournament with a three-overtime 56-54 victory over Corbin in the finals. The Lady Skins advanced to the state tournament in Richmond and fell to Muhlenberg Central in the opening round. Owens and Snow went on to play at Lincoln Memorial University. Mallory played at Cumberland College.
After a semifinal loss in 1985, the Lady Skins made it back to the regional in 1986 but appeared to be in trouble after drawing defending state champ Whitley County in the opening round. The Lady Skins were coming off a district final loss to Cawood, but they bounced back to upset Whitley County 59-56 in the regional opener at Corbin. Cumberland coasted past Jackson County 60-43 in the semifinals before edging Clay County 36-35 in the finals in Donnie Gray’s first season with the Lady Tigers.

Monica Owens was a leader on two 13th Region championship squads at Cumberland and went on to play at Lincoln Memorial University.

Owens was still around to lead the Lady Skins in 1986 as she teamed with Susie Smith, a key reserve on the 1984 team, in the all-senior backcourt. Morris, then a junior, started at forward and hit the game-winning putback in a first-round Sweet Sixteen win over Owensboro Catholic. Lonnie Oliver and Jennifer Honeycutt, both juniors, started inside, with Christie Cornett serving as the sixth man. Cumberland fell in the second round of the state tournament at Bowling Green.
The Lady Skins made it back to the regional finals in 1987 after winning the 52nd District title but lost to Harlan in the rematch as the Lady Dragons made their first trip to the Sweet Sixteen. A 10-year run of winning seasons ended in 1988 as Evarts knocked off the Lady Skins on the way to its first district championship. Cumberland bounced back the next year to defeat Evarts in the finals, beginning an unprecedented run of six straight 52nd District titles. Amy Leisge and Tammy Royce were seniors on that squad and the final links to the 1986 regional championship team.
Cumberland went from good to great as the 1990s opened, winning 21 games in 1990, then 23 in 1991, 31 in 1992 and 30 in 1993. The state All “A” Classic opened in 1991 and the Lady Skins won the first two titles — first at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington and then at Alumni Coliseum in Richmond. Tanyika Dixon and Nikki Jackson were seniors on the first championship team in a lineup that also featured Joey Morris, Kelley Morris and Lori Kluck. Joey Morris was one of the state’s top guards and Kluck may very well have been the state’s best player in 1993, leading the Associated Press all-state team in votes even though she was edged out by Brandi Ashby for the Miss Basketball award. Kluck and Harlan County’s Blair Green are the only county players to be named first-team all-state on two occasions. Morris went on to play at Lees McRae College in North Carolina.

Cumberland coach John Bond talked with Nikki Jackson during the Lady Skins’ run to their first All “A” Classic state championship in 1991 at Memorial Coliseum.

Even with Kluck gone, Cumberland continued its streak of district titles in 1994, edging Evarts 51-47 in the finals. Amy Dixon, who went on to play at Alice Lloyd, led the Lady Skins, along with Kelli Jackson and Terri Blanton. Cumberland won its final regional tournament game that year with a victory over Red Bird before falling to Knox Central in the semifinals.
“The teams of the 80’s were physical, unselfish, extremely dedicated and hard workers, and they loved playing the game of basketball. By the late 80s, our team had established itself on the district, regional and state levels,” Bond said. “They laid the foundation for what we accomplished in the 90s.”
Bond stepped down during the 1996 season and longtime assistant Charles Schubert took over as head coach in what turned out to be the first of five straight losing seasons. Casey Tackett was the county’s most valuable player in 1998. Adrianna Hampton, Jennifer Blair and Ashley Massey were also standouts in the late part of the century. Bond returned for the 2001 season and coached the last eight years before merger, leading Cumberland to six winning seasons.
Cumberland made it back to the All “A” Classic state tournament in 2004 and 2005, ending an 11-year drought. Ashley Massey and Sheena Lee were standouts on those squads and also helped lead the Lady Skins to their final 52nd District title in 2005.
Heather Maggard, Samantha Sexton, Whitney Gilliam and Kendra Russell moved into the starting lineup as young players on the final Cumberland teams in 2007 and 2008 and then became early leaders at Harlan County High School as the Lady Bears made it to the regional finals in their first season, helping start a winning tradition that continues today.

Cumberland girls basketball

1975 Eugene Stagnolia 1-12
1976 John Bond 3-14
1977 John Bond 10-10
1978 John Bond 13-7
1979 John Bond 20-5
1980 John Bond 22-3
1981 John Bond 15-11
1982 John Bond 21-2
1983 John Bond 16-16
1984 John Bond 21-9
1985 John Bond 19-5
1986 John Bond 26-7
1987 John Bond 22-8
1988 John Bond 13-14
1989 John Bond 15-9
1990 John Bond 23-5
1991 John Bond 30-2
1992 John Bond 31-2
1993 John Bond 23-5
1994 John Bond 21-8
1995 John Bond 5-4
1995 Charles Schubert 5-9
1996 Charles Schubert 8-18
1997 Charles Schubert 6-15
1998 Charles Schubert 6-14
1999 Charles Schubert 7-19
2000 Charles Schubert 14-12
2001 John Bond 14-14
2002 John Bond 12-11
2003 John Bond 17-13
2004 John Bond 14-12
2005 John Bond 19-10
2006 John Bond 10-15
2007 John Bond 14-12
2008 John Bond 16-9
(Won district in 2005, 1994, 1993, 1992, 1991, 1990, 1989, 1987, 1985, 1982 and 1981; second in 2003, 1998, 1986, 1983, 1979, 1978 and 1977)

Joey Morris was a standout guard for the Cumberland Lady Skins in the early 1990s, playing on two All “A” Classic state championship teams.

 

The 1986 Cumberland Lady Skins won the 13th Region title and won a game in the state tournament in Bowling Green.

 

The Cumberland Lady Skins won their first 52nd District Tournament title in 1981, ending Cawood’s five-year run as champs. Team members include, from left, front row: Frankie Brock, Missy Baldridge, Teresa Krahenbuhl, Lisa Kyle, Samantha Cooper, Joann Dudash and Renita Krahenbuhl; back row: Margaret Harris, Ella Ray, Faye Mason, Leslie Elliott, Pam Constant, Brenda Collett and Jamie Ison.

 

Teresa Krahenbuhl (left) and Margaret Harris were standouts on Cumberland’s first 52nd District championship team in 1981.

 

Lori Kluck was a two-time all-state selection for the Lady Skins.