Coming back homePublished 12:23pm Tuesday, July 8, 2014
1971 MCHS basketball gives new HHS memorabilia from state title season
In 1970, Morgan County High School had just seven wins, but Allan Ross knew the team had a chance to be special.
The team, which was the first after integration was implemented in Morgan County schools, struggled through most of the season.
“It was the first time that we had ever played together,” Ross said. “It took us a while, but we finally gelled as a team by the end of the year. I thought we had a chance to be special.”
The 1970 season ended in the regional finals against Sparkman, but it set the stage for the next season when the Morgan County High School Tigers finished as the 1971 Class 3A state champions.
Ross, who is now living in St. Petersburg, Fla., recently came across an old poster of the team that had a team photo, roster and game-by-game results while he was helping his parents move. He and teammates Boonie Russell, Randy Love, Horace Hoult and Gary Orr got together and presented HHS with the framed poster to put in the trophy case.
They said not much was expected of them coming into the season, but they continued to improve throughout the year.
“Nobody really thought we were going to win a championship that season,” said Russell, who later signed with Alabama and then went on to play professional basketball. “We just came together as a team. It was a great year.”
Ross said losing to Sparkman in the regional finals left a bad taste on the season.
“We got lost because we got bad directions,” Ross said. “We were over an hour late. We had to dress out on the buses. We got a technical before the game even started. We vowed, ‘It ain’t gonna happen to us again.’”
In the 1970-1971 season, Hartselle returned the favor with a 101-56 shellacking of Sparkman.
Orr said the offense was simple that season.
“Throw it to Boonie,” Orr joked.
Boonie said there was another play that worked just as well.
“If I got the rebound, then they were supposed to run down the court as fast as they could because I was going to throw it to them,” Boonie said. “I wasn’t going to run back down the floor.”
Love said making the state tournament at Alabama’s Coleman Coliseum was a great experience. However, he said coach Lothian Smallwood gave them a piece of advice before the first game of the state tournament.
“It doesn’t matter what the score is at halftime even if we were down at halftime, just keep playing hard because we can overcome it in the second half,” Love said. “Of course, we were up 44-4 at the half and went on to win 88-28.”
Many members of the team have gone on to lead successful lives since the state championship.
Hoult is a 40-year employee of 3M technology while Ross retired after 24 years with the Florida Department of Revenue. Love is a retired airplane controller who continues to volunteer with the SPUDS (Summer Program Utilizing and Developing Skills) in Hartselle.
Russell continues to work with Hartselle Parks and Recreation and Orr is entering his seventh season as HHS’s girls’ basketball coach.
“It was a wonderful year,” Love said. “We had great community support.”
School Superintendent Dr. Vic Wilson hopes to have a formal reunion with the team during a home basketball game in the near future. Basketball coach Faron Key also encouraged each of the players to stop by anytime during practice.