Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 21, 2015


Kinsauls, Drivers have connections to 3 state tourneys

When Straughn High School makes its third appearance in the state basketball tournament next week, there will be family ties to each of the previous appearances.

It started back in 1959 when the Tigers reached the state tournament for the first time in school history. Ronnie Driver, who went on to a career in education and retired as superintendent of Covington County Schools, was a member of that Tigers basketball squad. The Tigers earned their way to the finals by defeating Pleasant Home 47-44 in the Regional championship. The Tigers then beat Marengo County 59-27 before falling to Austinville 67-52 in the state semi-finals.

Doyle Kinsaul took over as head coach the following season, in 1960. Thirteen years later, in 1973, coach Kinsaul and the Tigers returned to the state tournament.

Doyle’s son, Bobby Kinsaul, was a member of the Tiger squad that season, and his son Benjie was a manager, too. The Tigers earned their place in the state tournament with a 69-66 win over Rebecca Comer for the regional championship. The Tigers beat Clements in the first game of the state tournament, but fell to East Perry in semi-finals. The Tigers were 19-11 during the 72’-73’ season.

In those years, eight teams went to Tuscaloosa for the state tournament. Straughn finished third.

This season, the Tigers have earned a spot in the AHSAA Final Four, marking the third time a Straughn boys’ team has made to the state finals.

Again, there will be plenty of Kinsauls and Drivers involved.

Doyle Kinsaul’s grandson, Rollin Kinsaul, is a senior guard on this year’s team. Ronnie Driver’s grandson, Johnathan Driver, is also a senior guard for the Tigers.

“I’m so proud of the seniors for pushing for what we have always wanted,” Rollin Kinsaul said. “We talked about winning state in high school for a long time, and to have a chance is just a reason to push for it with everything we have. I’m just glad my grandparents get to see me play in the Final Four. They saw Katelyn (Kinsaul) play for it the past two years, and for them to be able to see me as well is just a blessing. I’m mostly proud they will see us battle for a ring.”

The Straughn Lady Tigers advanced to the final four two of the past three seasons. Eventual state champion, Lauderdale County, eliminated the Lady Tigers in the Final Four both times.

“We are very humble to have seen Katelyn the past two seasons make it to the final four,” Doyle Kinsaul said. “Now, we get to watch Rollin play.”

“We have been so blessed to see all of our children and grandchildren play at Straughn,” Doyle’s wife, Jackie Kinsaul, said. “We have one more after this season, and we will be there to watch her as well.”

Johnathan Driver also is excited about the chance to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps.

“It’s pretty amazing,” Johnathan Driver said. “I’ve got my Paw Paw and my dad (current Covington County Schools superintendent Shannon Driver) right here, and they are always giving me pointers and helping me out. I’m so happy that our team has been able to win so far. We have great teammates that pick you up when you need it. I think if we keep working hard we can win it all.”

The Tigers will continue to chase history Tuesday when they face Westminster Christian in the first round of the AHSAA class 4A Final Four in Birmingham. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.