While watching the Super Bowl recently, former Republic High School boys basketball coach Leland Brown was reminded one more time about the importance of momentum in sports.
The blackout delay at the Superdome in New Orleans completely shifted the football game in favor of the San Francisco 49ers, who nearly overcame a 22-point second-half deficit before eventually falling short against the Baltimore Ravens.
For Brown, it stirred memories of the important momentum shifts his team experienced during crucial games in the 1962-63 season, when the Tigers won the Class M state championship.
“It’s one of the interesting things in sports; it definitely happens,” one of the team’s stars, Howard Arndt, said this week. “I’ve seen numerous times that kind of thing happens.”
It all worked out favorably for the Tigers and, tonight and they will celebrate one more time the fruits of their fortune with a 50-year celebration. It’s in conjunction with tonight’s home basketball game against the Ozark Tigers.
Brown, Arndt of New Hampshire, and starter Don Carlson of Springfield are expected to attend, and the event also will include five of the reserves and many other representatives with ties to the team.
As for the reserves, expected in attendance are Charles Cook of Springfield; Kenneth Blades of Kirbyville; Terry Mooneyham of Republic; Richard Brewer of Republic; John Wagner of Tulsa, Okla.; ball boy Clarke Brown of Springfield; manager Dan Chilton of Springfield; and manager John Thurman of Springfield.
Starter Tony Logan and reserve Randy Coggin died in recent years, while starters Butch Blades and Harold Harris, along with Gary Johnson of Texas, are not scheduled to attend.
Many will have family members standing in for them for the celebration.
The group also reunited in December for the 50-year celebration of its Greenwood Blue and Gold Tournament championship.
That was the site of one of the team’s big momentum changes, one it ultimately overcame.
In the Blue Division final against Parkview — one year before the official “Jolly Green Giants” era — the shift nearly ended up costing Republic the title.
In McDonald Arena, more than the allotted 3,250 fans packed the place.
The Tigers led by 15 points at halftime and continued to lead until early in the fourth. That’s when the fire marshal stopped the game and reduced the arena crowd side to its capacity.
From there, Parkview mounted a furious rally, closing to a two-point deficit with less than a minute remaining. However, two late shots were missed by coach Bill Harding’s Vikings, and Republic earned the title.
Later, it was the Tigers doing some momentum shifting of their own to earn another, and more important, title.
After marching through the state tournament, Republic matched up with the Bernie Mules in the state final.
The Mules raced out to an 8-0 lead at Brewer Fieldhouse in Columbia, and coach Brown called for a timeout, but not for a strategy shift.
“Coach was really laid back and he just said, ‘Let’s just take a minute and let those guys settle down,'” Arndt said. “It was a real turning point. And that settled us down.”
Republic trimmed the lead and then took over in the second half, going on to earn a 78-63 championship win.
Brown said he’s looking forward again to reliving these memories tonight.
“It’s been an amazing year,” the former coach said, “much more than I thought it would be.”