“To raise the roof and have some fun.” – Lionel Richie
In this five-part series, I honor my dad and the players that made magic happen on a “God-awful blue court” in a gym located on the campus of Seminole Junior College in Seminole, Oklahoma. My dad and those players were more than just a coach and his ballplayers. They were my heroes, and this series of posts is a dedication to that time, those men, and some unbelievable basketball. And, oh yeah, you know I’m going to bring some sweet sounds from that era as well! Previous: Part 3: The ABC Gang
Part 4: Hutch
In 1983 there would be no rematch with our heated rival Westark. Instead, Phillips County located in Helena, AR had upset the Lions and would be our opponent for the best-of-three Region II championship.
In game one, the Trojans managed a 35-30 halftime lead, and then fueled by Anthony Bowie’s 17 points in the second half held on for a 71-66 win. Bowie finished with 25 points while Adam Frank scored 16, Chilli had 12 and Alford finished with 11 points.
Game two wasn’t as close as Bowie finished with 17, Frank had 16 again, and Chilli added 14 points to seal the elusive Region II championship 65-55. And after a seven-year absence, Oklahoma had a representative headed to Hutchinson, Kansas, and the National Junior College Basketball Tournament.
Our Trojans were on a 20-game winning streak, sitting with a record of 32-4, and entered the national tournament with a well-balanced offensive attack. Our two sophomore guards – Winfred Case and Adam Frank were averaging 10.1 and 13.8 points a game. Our all-freshman front line had “Boo” at 17.8 ppg, Chilli at 16.2 ppg, and “Sugar” Ray averaging 12.4 ppg.
Our first round opponent was Mesa, Arizona who entered the tournament at 24-8.
Said Chilli: “The thing that helped us a lot, during the NJCAA was the NCAA tournament was going on probably the first or second round and we were in the hotel watching those games. We were looking at that and we starting talking about ‘we can do that!’ so we went out there and did it.
I remember being in Hutch for the first two rounds including this first game against Mesa. Mesa played at an agonizingly slow pace making every possession critical. Tight defense and patient offensives resulted in the lowest scoring game in the national tournament in 23 years!
Trailing by two with just over two minutes remaining, Ray Alford got a crucial steal and dunk to tie things up at 42. After forcing a five second call with 45 seconds left, Win Case was fouled and made one free throw giving the Trojans a 43-42 lead. The Thunderbirds held the ball for the last shot and a Bobby Jenkins 12 footer rimmed in and out as the Trojans escaped with a first round win.
Our second round opponent was the #1 ranked juco team in the country – Jamestown, NY, who had lost just once that season and was led by Carl Jeter who was averaging 18 points and 7 boards a game.
Behind six forced turnovers early, Jamestown jumped out to a 20-8 lead to start the game and led 45-32 at halftime. The Trojans had committed 11 first half turnovers and had been out-rebounded 24 to15. In my twelve year old mind, it seemed at the time like we were down by 50. Still, 13 points to the number one team in the nation made for an uphill battle in the second half.
“At halftime I remember how calm Coach was,” said Case, “And that we couldn’t play any worse and that they couldn’t play any better. We just piggybacked off of that. He said to just continue to follow the game plan and we’ll come back.”
It took a consistent turnover-free run to get Seminole back into it. With just under five minutes remaining, we took our first lead since 2-0 when Bowie knocked down an 18-footer after a steal and assist from Case. The Trojans led 63-62 and eventually stretched that lead to 68-63 with three minutes remaining, but Jamestown wasn’t done yet. The Jayhawks rallied and briefly gained the lead again at 69-68 when Jeter knocked down an 18-footer with two minutes remaining.
With 1 1/2 minutes remaining Ray Alford hit a leaning jumper to give SJC the lead back at 70-69. Following a free throw by the Jayhawks, the score was tied at 70 when Chilli was fouled with 25 seconds remaining. Childs, who finished with 17 points and six rebounds, made one of two for a 71-70 lead. Following a Jamestown timeout with nine seconds remaining, Jamestown’s guard Mark Scott attempted a pass near the top of the key that Bowie jumped up into the air and intercepted. He dribbled the length of the floor and slammed home a reverse two handed dunk just after the final horn sounded. It didn’t count, but it didn’t matter. The Trojans had won.
I remember our team sprinting onto the floor and celebrating at mid-court mobbing Bowie, who had finished with 19 points and six boards. I ran right up and jumped around and celebrated as well. In my mind, it was the greatest comeback ever!
“It was a great win over the number one team in the country,” said my dad after the game.
The Hutchinson Sports Arena organist serenaded us with the song “Oklahoma!” after the win. It was on to the semi-finals where our opponent was Southeast Community College of Fairbury, Nebraska, coached by a young 24 year-old first-year coach named Dana Altman.
In his first year of coaching his alma mater, Altman had led Fairbury to the Region IX championship and a 28-5 record at this point. His team led by 6’7″ post player Neil Wake had survived back to back overtime games to reach the semi-finals defeating 4th ranked Mercer, NJ in a first round matchup 71-64, and then by one point again over Clinton, Iowa in the second round.
Over 6,200 fans packed into the Hutchinson Sports Arena to see Seminole take a narrow one point lead into the locker room at the half. The Trojans remained in control most of the second half and had extended the lead to six with 6:20 remaining in the game. But with under two minutes remaining, the Bombers completed a rally that put them ahead 71-70 behind a dunk from Neil Wake. An Adam Frank jumper and free throw put us back up two with just under a minute remaining. Following two free throws by the Bombers’ Joel Clark, Seminole held the ball for the final shot. Win Case penetrated and found reserve forward – Jacksonville’s Kenneth Bullard for the lay in.
A last second shot by Leo McGainey (who finished with 20 points) was short and our Seminole Trojans (now 35-4) had just made the NJCAA finals. Altman, now the head coach at Oregon University, recalls a hard fought game that ended with his team on the short end of a 75-73 score. There was some controversy as to whether Bullard had travelled prior to laying in the winning bucket with just four seconds remaining.
“Charlie Spoonhour and Moe Iba (former coaching greats) were sitting on the baseline that night, and they told me that we got beat on a bad no-call. He (Bullard) travelled so bad,” recalled Altman.
Chilli had 21 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Trojans into the finals. Bowie had 16 point and nine rebounds while Adam Frank (who had been feeling ill much of the tournament so far) chipped in with 13.
“I met your dad for the first time that year,” said Altman. “They (Seminole) won, and they played San Jac better than we could have in the finals. They matched up better with San Jac and they guarded the hell out of them. We easily won the 3rd place game.” (Fairbury defeated Walker College of Jasper, Ala 103-84).
The championship game was a matchup of two contrasting styles. The San Jacinto (Texas) Ravens (34-2) were coached by Ronnie Arrow, had won 20 in a row, brought power and size inside, and started five players who would go onto Division one schools – 6’7″ Carey Holland (Auburn), 6’9″ Andre Ross (San Diego State), 6’2″ guard Nolan Gibson (Bradley), 6’1″ guard Ron Singleton (Arizona State), and 6’6″ swingman Frank “Spoon” James (UNLV).
Bowie remembers hearing about “Spoon,” and getting a glimpse of their opponents in pre-game warmups:
“I heard Spoon James this and Spoon James that. I don’t know who he is, but he’s going to find out who I am (laughs)!”
“Just getting there (the NJCAA), I thought we had a chance. Getting to the finals. When I saw those boys that San Jacinto had, I was like ‘oh, my God.’ I wasn’t worried about my position. I was more worried about Chill’s and Ray’s position. There’s going to be a helping out down low! But actually Chill and Ray did a hell of a job on those big boys.”
Our Seminole squad (only the third Oklahoma team to make the finals joining Murray State and Cameron), on a 23 game winning streak of our own, jumped out to a quick lead 15-6 thanks to 11 points combined from Case and Bowie. San Jac slowly chipped away behind tournament MVP Spoon James and took the lead 34-33 behind a steal and layup by James. The Trojans regained the lead when Bowie took a pass from Case in the corner and knocked down a jumper just seconds before halftime. The underdog Trojans led the sixth-ranked San Jacinto Ravens by one point at halftime 35-34.
A couple of ties and lead changes ended when San Jac went on an 11-0 run to go from one down to 10 up at 56-46 with 10 minutes remaining. The Trojans could never get closer than five and fell to the Ravens 73-68.
Three players fouled out in the game – two for Seminole (Case & Frank) and Spoon James for San Jac.
Chilli: “San Jac was so big. They kind of wore us down. They were like 6’9, 6’10 two-forty something and we hung in there as long as we could. If we could have got up I think coach may have slowed it down, but they just kept pounding it inside (against us). We only lost by 6 or 8 so it was close.”
Said Bowie: What really stands out to me is that Win Case just went off on us and started fussing and cussing at us – that we need to step up and play. We just needed another break or one more player off the bench that was a threat. We just didn’t have it. I think if we would have had an Archie Marshall when we were freshman I think we would have taken them easily that freshman year. It was still a good game.”
Bowie and Chilli were named to the all-tournament team that day. Adam Frank, who finished his SJC career with six points and five fouls that day would go on to play his remaining two seasons at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, LA. Ironically, his playing career would come to an end in Dallas, Texas in the 1985 NCAA Elite Eight at the hands of Anthony Bowie and my dad and the Oklahoma Sooners led that season by junior All-American, Wayman Tisdale. The Sooners beat Frank and his famous teammate – Karl “The Mailman” Malone 86-84 in overtime that day.
Case, who averaged 14 points and eight assists per game at Seminole in 1982-83 was given the Bud Obee “Outstanding Little Man” award at the 1983 NJCAA tournament following in the footsteps of the 1982 winner Anthony “Spud” Webb.
“The second year how close we were. How much of a machine we were. That year was really special because no one really cared who got the credit. It was all about winning. Coach Kerwin created that culture of winning. Your dad could really recruit. He, in my opinion, put Seminole on the map. I love your dad. Words can’t describe it,” said Case, who would go on to sign with Coach Paul Hansen and Oklahoma State University.
“Everyone’s dancing their troubles away. Come join our party, See how we play!”
It was a party for our Seminole Trojans in 1983. A non-stop party that only ended because a big, talented team from Texas said it was time. Nonetheless, the season was a towering success, and yes, we were losing our backcourt, but we had “The ABC Gang” returning for their sophomore season. It was just a matter of filling in the gaps and reloading for another shot.
In August of 1983, Lionel Richie released this single from his “Can’t Slow Down” grammy-award winning album that beat out the likes of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.,” and Prince’s “Purple Rain.” The former Commodores frontman went all the way to #1 with this party track, “All Night Long.”
“Yeah, once you get started you can’t sit down. Come join the fun, it’s a merry-go-round.”
As always, thanks for reading.