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Gouge takes over as Lady Pioneers coach

Douglas Fritz • Jun 4, 2020 at 5:01 PM

JONESBOROUGH — An opportunity to step into the Big 7 Conference was part of the reason Thomas Gouge made the move to David Crockett.

“It’s the Big 7 Conference and it’s a step up,” said the 39-year-old Gouge, who resigned as head girls basketball coach at Happy Valley to take over the Lady Pioneers’ program Thursday morning. “It made more sense for my family and I. And I like the direction Crockett’s girls basketball program is going. I couldn’t pass it up.”

Gouge replaces Cody Connell, who is Crockett’s boys head coach and had taken over the girls’ program on an interim basis late last season from Tony Gordon.

Crockett’s girls showed a lot of promise last season, and the best evidence came on Jan. 10. The Lady Pioneers took powerhouse Science Hill into double overtime before suffering a heartbreaking 69-65 loss.

The Lady Pioneers led by five points late in the first overtime and had three shot attempts for the win just before the buzzer. In the second overtime, Crockett led by two with 40 seconds remaining.

“That game was a big part of me taking this job,” Gouge said. “They took Science Hill in double overtime. They could have won that game. It shows the potential these girls have.”

And Crockett returns most of its top players.

“The future is looking great,” Gouge said. “I hope I can come in and help them take the next step and contend in the Big 7.”

Gouge coached at Happy Valley the last two seasons, producing a record of 33-25. Prior to that, he was an assistant coach at Daniel Boone for the team that reached the TSSAA Class AAA tournament in 2018. He had 10 years of coaching experience at the middle school level and led Sulphur Springs’ boys to the state sectional championship game.

As a player, Gouge was a standout at Boone. He scored over 1,200 career points, was a two-time region tournament most valuable player and led the Trailblazers to the 1999 Class AA tournament.

In college at Cleveland State, he scored over 1,000 points in two years and set the school’s all-time record for 3-pointers made.

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