The Whitesboro Basketball Game
In literature as in life there is always THE BIG GAME. It doesn’t come around every day, but it comes around. It might be the big real estate deal, or the possible big promotion or even the big question of “Will you marry me?”
But it’s a big game.
It’s two outs in the bottom of the ninth with the winning run on third.
You’re at the plate, and you will be a goat or a hero, forever.
The big game for Nina Bannister, newly self-appointed coach of The Bay St. Lucy Lady Mariners, comes against arch rival Hattiesburg, and Alicia Bennett wins in the last second with a half-court shot.
But there was a big game for me, Joe, of T’Gracie and Joe.
Midlothian Panthers vs Whitesboro Owls, early March, 1964.
Regional finals, class one A, game held in the cavernous (to us) North Texas State gym in Denton.
Fifty fans on one side from Midlothian, an equal number on the other side from Whitesboro.
Fourteen thousand five hundred empty seats in the middle.
But that didn’t matter’ it was a big game.
We were seniors, and had played basketball for blood since the fourth grade.
And we had been in the stands as kids as Midlothian won district but never regional.
This game, though, well, the winner would go to state.
STATE! IN AUSTIN!
I was a bench player and seldom got to play. But this night there was an injury, and, late in the game, I entered the game just before a jump ball. The Whitesboro players all double checked to see which man they were guarding.
Two took the same one of our players.
That meant that I, for several precious seconds, was wide open, and unguarded.
I still remember the desperate, wide open eyes of Mike Byrd as he got me the ball in the corner.
It was a shot I had made a million times in our yard.
And it went in.
We took the lead.
Ultimately we lost.
But Bay St. Lucy won, and I not only had my biggest moment in sports to remember, but my revenge trip to the Mississippi State finals.