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By Beth Zumwalt
Kent Coultas of Winchester, and Alan Merriman of Bluffs were inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame at Redbird Arena on the campus of Illinois State University Aug. 21. Coultas entered into the Hall of Fame in the Friends of Basketball area while Merriman was inducted into the Officials section.
Coultas started keeping the scorebook for the Winchester junior high school boys’ basketball team after being asked by Coach Dale Baird. Coultas spent the 1979 season learning the ropes of keeping the scorebook and started keeping it fulltime in 1980. He was privileged to be part of three junior high teams that reached the IESA State tournament, including the 1982 and 1983 teams that reached the Final Four.
Coultas has been a part of Winchester and West Central high school teams since 1983. He has seen those teams win nine regional championships, three sectionals, 10 conference championships and 14 regular season tournament titles. He was especially proud to see the Winchester team members reach the Elite Eight in 1986 and to be a part of the West Central team that finished second in the IHSA State tournament in 2011.
Coultas has also ran the scoreboard of Winchester and West Central junior high girls’ game for more than 25 years and the high school girls’ games for more than 20 years.
He assisted with the scorebook and scoreboard operations when Routt hosted the IESA Girls’ 8th Grade State Tournament in 2000. Coultas has been involved with the Winchester Invitational Tournament since his freshman year of high school in 1984. He is considered the tournament’s historian and puts together a history room for the event that highlights past teams and players. He has enjoyed meeting the different people that are involved with game operations over the years from other bookkeepers, officials, players, coaches, media and fans. In fact, his family his him a hard by how many people the he recognizes when he is away from Winchester. Coultas has enjoyed the support of his dad and mom, Jim and Mary Jane, over the years and giving them a recap of the previous night’s game. He has also enjoyed the many nights spent in the gym with Steve Moore, the longtime scoreboard operator for the boys’ games.
Merriman began his career as a basketball official in 1969 in Galena, Illinois. His time as an official lasted until March 8, 2020; a total of 51 years on the court. Merriman worked just short of 4,000 interscholastic contests during a span of seven decades.
He was fortunate to earn many postseason assignments, working both the IHSA Boys’ and Girls’ Class A State tournaments. He was one of the first officials in Illinois to officiate both a Boys’ State championship game in 1989 and a Girls’ State championship game in 1997. During his career, Merriman officiated in 41 different varsity tournaments some of which no longer exist. Two of his favorite tournaments were the Sangamon County and Winchester Invitational tournaments.
When asked, Merriman said that he could not have been nearly successful as an official without the love and support of his wife, Joyce. He also indicated that he was fortunate to have three long term, excellent partners: Larry Holland from Galena for eight years, Terry Robertson for 20 years, and David Bishop for 18 years. Merriman said he enjoyed officiating the game, but the people he met and worked with through the years will always be a highlight for him. Interactions with officials, coaches, players, athletic directors, administration, media personnel, and fans both on and off the court will be long remembered as what made 51 years on the court and on the road very special.