Written by Bill Wood
With Coach Todd having retired from coaching, it was the first year for Coach Spears to take charge of the varsity. We had seniors Clyde Jones (RIP), Steve Melzer, Pete Creasy, and Randy Kerth. I was also a senior and joined the team right after football, just in time for the first game. Mack Lawrence and Ross Montgomery, both juniors, also joined the team right after football. We also had junior Doug Russell, the great swimmer, who in 1968 won multiple gold medals in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. As an aside, John McElligott and I both used to beat Doug as 12 and 13 year olds while swimming for the Midland Aquatic Club. I gave up swimming for other sports but John became a great swimmer himself.
We had a winning record that year in basketball, but couldn’t challenge for the District Championship. A few of us had scholarship offers from small colleges but our big man, Randy Kerth was the only Division I signee. He went to TCU and did well. No disrespect, but the highlight of our season was beating Lee twice. The first game was at Lee on a Friday night. We won a close game in a packed gym. I remember Jeff Edwards, home for the weekend from Oklahoma State, loudly complaining when I took a shot from way too far out. I also remember that it hit the front rim, then the back, and dropped in…but for just two points in those days.
The next morning was a bit of a mistake. I was TASC president, so I got to go to the Hearst Foundation Senate Youth Program in Washington DC. My parents took me to the airport and I took off to Dallas to make my connection to DC. When I got to Dallas, it was discovered that the ticket I had been sent for the program was actually for the next day. they either didn’t look at it or didn’t care in Midland, but they did in Dallas. I had very little money and the only person I knew in Dallas was Polly Chappell’s sister Carolyn, who was an upper classman at SMU. She came and picked me up and helped me get a motel room so I could leave the next day.
The second Lee game was the last of the season. It was at MHS to another fully packed gym. It was a barn burner of a game and I think I recall Clyde Jones hitting a layup at the buzzer. The crowd rushed the court and it was a great celebration. Headed toward the locker room in a big crowd of people, I felt a hard kick to my rear end. I turned around and saw Billy Godwin running away. I brought this up with him a few years ago and he didn’t recall it. It was still a great time! I’m sure “something in the water” helped create moments like that and also accounts for the fact that Billy and I are friends with many shared memories from those days in Midland today!
I accidentally failed to mention Earl Barnes, a junior and probably the leading scorer for our team that year. Earl was a skinny kid about 6′ 1″ who was a slasher with a good jump shot. He did not look like he could go (especially compared to Ross Montgomery and Mack Lawrence) but he sure could. I haven’t heard from him or about him in well over 50 years. He and I had some great Saturday mornings after shooting hoops for a few hours in our open gym. We went prairie dog hunting with .22 rifles. Those little things would stick their heads up out of the mounds and if they saw any movement at all, they were gone in a flash. We shot at them a lot but made nary a dent in their prolific population. I think having that kind of fun was another “Midland thing” inspired at least partially by “something in the water.”