Monday, March 13, 2017

1965-66 Tigers Excelled on Basketball Court, Classroom

The 1965-66 Worth County/Grant City Tigers posted their best season ever up to that point as they won 22 games, lost only two, and were GRC Tri-Champs along with Maysville and South Harrison. They set the school record at the time for the most wins, had three different players score over 30 points, and won three different tournaments in the course of their record-setting year. But Coach Bull Reece was just as proud of his team’s achievements in the classroom.

The season got off to an inauspicious start, as the Tigers dropped their first game of the year, to South Harrison. But then they warmed up and started winning, posting a school record of 21 straight wins, a record that still stands today.

Worth County begun the Worth County Tournament by building up a 14 point lead against North Nodaway. They held off the Mustangs, who had some strong teams back in the 1960’s, and won by six points at 63-57.

The trademark of Bull Reece’s team was balanced scoring, and the North Nodaway game was a typical scoring line. Larry Cousins had 15 points, Bill Barker and Kenny Prather had 13, and Jeff Jones had 12 as four Tigers reached double figures.

During the course of the game, during a timeout, Bull Reece is pictured in the Tribune sitting behind one of his players and leaving it to his players to work things out for themselves.

The win vaulted the Tigers into a semi-final match with archrival Albany. Once again, balanced scoring propelled Worth County to victory as Kenny Prather had 16, Bill Barker had 14, Bill Findley had 13, and Larry Cousins had 11. That put them into a match with King City.

Worth County jumped out to an 18-8 lead in that game and later extended it to 41-20 before holding off King City 70-58. Even then, Bull Reece had a reputation for the crying towel, but there was none during that game. Cousins had 19 points and 8 boards, Bill Findley had 13, Bill Barker had 9, and Jeff Jones had 9. The gym was completely packed for the final game, with standing room only for the championship game even with the stage opened. The cheerleaders performed a routine for halftime.
The next game saw Worth County hold off Gallatin after Larry Cousins and Jeff Jones fouled out. Prather had 19, Barker had 11, Findley 8, Cousins 7, and Jones had 4. In other news, the paper reported that Santa Claus was kidnapped and 1965 nearly came and went without Christmas. However, it was all in good fun as Sheridan was holding its school play.

The Sheridan game was one of the best games played all year. Eddie Nigh was the best player on the floor for the Bearcats, posting 20 points; he was followed by Reggie Carden with 19. But Worth County/Grant City took an eight point lead at the end of three at 42-34. What happened in the fourth quarter was one of the most frantic quarters ever played by a Grant City or Sheridan franchise as neither side could guard the other and both teams rang up points. Sheridan posted 33 points and Worth County/Grant City scored 29 to hang on with a 71-67 win. For Worth County, Bill Findley had 20, Kenny Prather and Jeff Jones had 16 each, Larry Cousins had 9, Barker had 5, and Nick Houk had 3. Among the other Sheridan players who scored included Jay Sanders with 15, Dean Nelson 8, and Johnny Farrell with 5.

The next game was a breather for Worth County. Cameron took a 3-0 lead, but Worth County scored the next 22 points to take control of the game. They led 43-9 at the half and cruised for the win. Prather had 30, Cousins 19, Findley 13, Jones 12, and Barker 11. Worth County had dropped one heartbreaker after another to Cameron in football, so this win was especially satisfying.
The Northeast Nodaway game, played against the legendary Claude Samson, was close for the first three quarters before Worth County pulled away for the 95-67 victory. Larry Cousins had 36, followed by Prather with 16, Jeff Jones with 15, and Bill Barker with 10. Jim DeFreece did all he could for Northeast, posting 28 points. David McGinnis followed with 25.

Worth County won their second tournament of the year with an 89-55 victory over Gilman City. The Tigers scored what may have been a school record of 74 points in a half, racing out to a 74-38 lead.
The next game saw a balanced attack as the Tigers beat Albany 62-52. Cousins had 16, Findley 15, Jones and Barker 10 each, and Prather 9. Against Stanberry, Worth County led by 26-20 at the half and then got red hot in the second half, scoring 38 and getting the 64-52 to beat Stanberry for the tournament title.

Against King City, Worth County led by 11 at the half before winning 42-35 in a defensive struggle. Kenny Prather had 15 and Jeff Jones had 10.

The King City was loaded, with King City, the runner-up of the Albany Tournament, only seeded fourth. Stanberry, the runner-up of the Worth County Tournament, was the seventh seed. But Worth County got through the tournament and faced the undefeated Union Star Trojans in the championship round. Before this year’s Tigers ended Stanberry’s 39 game winning streak, the biggest winning streak the Tigers had ended was 18, as Worth County downed the Trojans 62-54 to grab their third tourney title of the year. Cousins had 22 points, Jones had 15, and Prather had 13.

But in an interview in the paper following the victory, Bull Reece said he was just as proud of how his players were doing in the classroom as they were on the court. Worth County’s players were averaging 7.9 out of 11 scholastically, which was very high. Five players were getting straight “E’s,” which corresponds to an “A” grade today.

The worrisome thing about it was that Worth County had to turn around and play Maysville the very next week. Not only was it the Courtwarming game, Worth County and Maysville were playing for the conference title. A win would give Worth County a three-way share of the title with South Harrison and Maysville, while a Maysville win would give them the outright title. The game was close all the way until John Hunt, Maysville’s best player, fouled out in the final few minutes and Worth County pulled away for the 55-46 victory. Cousins had 20 to pace the Tigers.

Roberta Craven was named Courtwarming Queen for Worth County. She was escorted by Kenny Prather and Larry Alderson. The other candidate was Carolyn Lynch (now Hardy), escorted by Jeff Jones and Bill Findley. Junior attendants were Jennifer Dawson and Joe Swift. Sophomore attendants were Nita McClellan and Arthur Murrin. Freshman attendants were Veronica Hones and Joe Bell. Crownbearers were Brenda Costin, Rickie Adams, and Janice Hardy (now Borey).

Bill Findley scored 34 points as Worth County topped Hamilton 83-64; he was the third Tiger to top 30 points that year.  It was the most ever. By contrast, this year’s Tigers had nobody break the 30 point barrier. Larry Cousins had 18, Kenny Prather had 13, and Frank Barker had 12.

In districts, Worth County started off against Stanberry. It is very difficult to beat good teams three times; Worth County trailed Stanberry after three quarters. But then they pulled away for the 77-61 victory as Larry Cousins had 28. Kenny Prather had 17 and Bill Findley had 14. The Tigers fell to South Harrison, which has frequently been a nemesis over the years, 69-63 in the semifinals. But in those days, regional tournaments had third place games, which allowed teams to go off on a winning note sometimes. Larry Cousins scored 35 points as Worth County raced to a 92-82 victory over Savannah to end their season at 22 wins. It would be the most wins the Tigers would post until 1982-83, which set a school record for wins with 23 by beating Albany in the Regional Finals.

Worth County had the most players named to the all-GRC Squad with three Tigers named to a loaded field. Larry Cousins, Bill Findley, and Kenny Prather were named to the squad. All but two of the teams had at least one player named to the squad.

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