The Season

A common thread of the season was highlighted in the Bearcats' first opponent - Ingomar. Baldwyn went on to play the Norris Ashley-led Falcons five times, winning all five. But barely.

At least two of the game went into overtime, including the B-BB championship game 41-39. Baldwyn also needed a last second shot by Kenneth Bishop to win the north. Baldwyn also split with Tupelo 2-2 that season.

"It was definitely a different era when basketball was important to everyone," said Larry McKay, a junior guard on the team. "I remember the sportsmanship off the court between the coaches was so great then."

In the Grand Slam title game, Baldwyn handled West Lauderdale 58-44. One of West Lauderdale's stars was Randy Hodges, who later coach John Stroud at West Union, and who later coached several seasons at Tupelo.

"I wish every kid could get the opportunity to enjoy at least one Grand Slam," said Kenneth Chism, a junior guard on the team, and who is now the Prentiss County Superintendent of Education. "It's one of the best things I've ever done."

Of note, McKay was among at least four of the starters who went into coaching later in life. McKay was the head coach of the 1975 Baldwyn state championship team.

Being the largest school in Northeast Mississippi, Tupelo has always been a nice measuring stick for other area teams as to potential success. No different for Baldwyn, which played Tupelo four times that season.

Tupelo lost to West Lauderdale in its state championship game that season. Then Tupelo coach Kermit Davis hosted Baldwyn for a practice during which he helped the Bearcats prepare for West Lauderdale.

"I remember when he walked out, Davis' first words were it's going to be like taking candy from a baby," said McKay on that practice.

Tupelo went on to win three of the next four Grand Slams.

Grand Memories

Baldwyn head coach Nelson "Doc" Vandiver was the brother-in-law of Babe McCarthy most remembered as the legendary coach at Mississippi State University. McCarthy gave pregame speeches to the Bearcats prior to the state championship and Grand Slam championship games. ... Besides its five matchups with Ingomar, Baldwyn was pitted against Tishomingo twice in the playoffs. Baldwyn lost the first meeting 50-49 in sub-district, then beat Tishomingo 73-65 in the district finals. ... The Tupelo TV station carried the second Tishomingo-Baldwyn contest live.

David Wheeler

Recommended for you

comments powered by Disqus