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|Roach led Monterey to promised land|
When Roy Roach and his fellow basketball classmates were freshmen they made a vow that they would play in then Top 20 Tournament.
"They predicted as freshmen that they would go to the state tournament," said legendary Monterey boys coach Jack Bairnsfather.
Four years later in 1982, Roach and his senior teammates would be playing in Alexandria for the Class C state championship, the only Monterey athletic team to play for a state title. The ironic part was that the Final Four format had been replaced by only the top two teams in each classification playing in the state tournament.
"We played together since we were in the seventh grade," Roach said. "It was quite an accomplishment for us to get there. It was just disappointing we couldn't bring it home."
The Wolves went 20-8 in Roach's junior year, winning District 4C by defeating Ogden as Roach scored 15 points. But Monterey fell short of the state tournament.
"That was a lot of motivation for us our senior year," Roach said. "Thomastown and Ogden were always tough teams for us. When you went to Ogden, they had a small gym and it was tough playing there."
The Wolves won their first 28 games in the 1981-82 season.
"We thought we were unbeatable," Roach said.
Monterey defeated Jena 60-58 in the finals of their own tournament to improve to 15-0.
Marty Wells was named Most Valuable Player, while Roach, Jerry Wells and Cliff Hamillton were named to the All-Tournament Team.
"That gave us a boost," Roach said.
The Wolves then defeated Cathedral 67-55 as Roach had 12 points and 17 rebounds.
Monterey added the Block High Tournament championship in December as the Wolves beat Block 68-61 in the finals.
"That gym was packed," Roach said. "Winning that tournament as a smaller school gave us a good feeling. It was especially good because my brothers graduated from Block."
Wells was named MVP and Roach All-Tournament.
"Marty was phenomenal inside the paint," Roach said. "He was able to make 10-foot jump shots and he could leap."
Monterey went into the Christmas break with a 21-0 record.
Monterey started off 1982 by winning the Sicily Island Tournament, defeating the host Tigers 57-47 to improve to 24-0.
Roach was named MVP in the tournament.
"Any of the starting five could have been MVPs of any of the tournaments," Roach said. "We were all team players and because of that we had a lot of success."
Monterey's only two regular season losses would come in back-to-back games to Davidson, falling 75-71 in St. Joseph and 81-65 in Monterey.
"I don't think you could have fit another person in that gym at Davidson," Roach said. "When somebody has your number, they have your number. We did everything we could to beat them. Those were heartbreakers."
Roach and Wells were named co-MVPs of District 8C.
"I wish we could have shared that with all the guys," Roach said. "We all worked together for so long we knew where each other would be in the game and how each other would react to certain plays."
Roach finished the season averaging 17.2 points and 8.0 rebounds.
"My dad (John) taught me a lot growing up and I went to a bunch of basketball camps," Roach said. "I had pretty good instincts as far as rebounding was concerned. I was able to anticipate a lot."
Monterey finished the regular season at 28-2 and faced Fort Neccesity in a first round playoff contest.
The Wolves cruised past 86-42 as Roach scored 28 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
"We didn't necessarily pick it up a notch because we played hard every game," Roach said. "We didn't want to lose."
Monterey then defeated Thomastown 83-75 in the Regional 2C Tournament as Roach scored 18 points and had eight rebounds, but lost to Pineview in the Regional finals, 64-54. Roach scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds as Pineview improved to 32-2, while Monterey fell to 30-3.
"I really thought we could beat them," Roach said. "Their guys were just a lot quicker."
The top two teams advanced to the state tournament.
The Wolves defeated Athens 62-61 in the quarterfinals at Jonesboro-Hodge as Roach hit two free throws with 13 seconds remaining to give the Wolves a 62-59 advantage. Athens, which led 25-24 at halftime, made a basket with six seconds remaining.
"I've always been able to be disciplined at the free throw line," Roach said. "To be put in that situation was a little nerve-wracking. But with the people supporting us and as much practice as we had, it helped making clutch shots. But a lot of times I wouldn't realize how clutch they were until after the game was over."
Roach finished the game with 19 points and nine rebounds.
Monterey advanced to play Fenton in the semifinals in a contest played at Alexandria Senior High.
The contest was tit-for-tat throughout as Roach hit a free throw to put the Wolves up 75-72 late in the game.
Fenton scored a basket to pull to within 75-74 with 16 seconds remaining.
Roach then hit the front end of a one-and-one to put the Wolves up 76-74, but Fenton made two free throws with a few seconds remaining to send the game into overtime at 76-76.
Roach, who would lead all scorers with 30 points, fouled out of the game with 1:18 remaining. David Moreland and Jerry Wells had also fouled out.
"That was the time I dented the medicine box," Roach said. "I was mad at myself because I thought it was over with."
Monterey trailed Fenton 83-79 with 57 seconds remaining.
"I had confidence in the other guys, and I knew they could handle it," Roach said. "But you want to be in that situation to help out."
With 24 seconds remaining in the game, Monterey evened the game at 83-83 following a clutch 15-footer by Marty Wells.
The Eagles' Woodrow Clophus made one of two free throws to put Fenton up 85-84 with six seconds remaining.
Cliff Hamilton then put up a desperation shot with two seconds remaining that bounced around the rim before dropping through the net.
"That was crazy," Roach said. "Cliff was a great inside guy. He used his wide body to box out really well."
In the wild scene that followed, Hamilton was unaware a whistle had blown and he also been fouled. The Fenton coach also received a technical for calling a time out he did not have.
Hamilton hit the free throw to give the Wolves the 87-84 win.
The win was the 493rd of Jack Bairnsfather's career. He finished with 619 career wins.
"Coach Jack was with us from day one," Roach said. "He never got overly frustrated with any of us. When we did something wrong he was able to talk to us and tell us what we did without lighting into us. He was a very easy-going coach. We were always well-prepared. We won a few games that were unbelievable. I think it was meant for us to be there."
The Wolves found themselves in a rematch with Pineview for the Class C state championship.
Pineview defeated Morganza 58-47 in the semifinals.
The contest marked the first time ever for a Monterey team playing for a state championship.
"That was a big accomplishment and gave us all a good feeling being the toast of the town," Roach said.
Pineview raced out to a 29-19 halftime lead over the Wolves in Alexandria in the contest for all the marbles.
But Roach scored 10 straight points in the third period to help bring the Wolves to within six points before having to leave the game when he received an elbow to the nose going for a rebound. Roach was escorted off the court with the bloody nose with 3:05 remaining in the third stanza.
Pineview took advantage and cruised to a 71-46 win.
Monterey finished its season at 31-4.
Roach, who returned to the game after Pineview built back up a big lead, finished with 15 points in the game.
"I don't know if we would have won if Roy had not gotten hurt, but it would have been a lot closer," Bairnsfather said.
"To this day I'm still not over that," Roach said."I was going for a rebound and someone's fingernail caught the edge of my nose and I ended up getting stitches after the game. I was in a zone at the time, but it wasn't just me. Other guys were stepping up, but I just happened to be the one with the hot hand. When I came back I was cold again. I didn't think they were that much better. We ended up with the runner-up trophy and I was happy for our team for that. I still talk about that game with my dad and how I think we could have done better."
Bairnsfather was named Coach of the Year in Class C and coached in the Louisiana All-Star Basketball Game.
Roach was named to the Class C second team, while Wells was named as an honorable mention.
"That was kind of depressing because I felt Marty, Cliff, David and Jerry should have been on there," Roach said
Roger Jones of Pineview, who went on to play at Grambling, was the Class C MVP.
Roach received letters from Louisiana College and Northwestern State.
Roach walked on at Northwestern because they had a flight school.
"I had a solo flight on a plane when I was 16 years old, a Cessna 150," Roach said. "My brother (Dennis) flew planes. The Calhouns had a plane back in Monterey and I got the chance to fly alone. You talk about nerve-wracking. I would rather be on the free throw line in the state championship game down by one with no time left. But it was very peaceful up there by myself and it was something I will never forget."
But Roach did not attend pilot school because he walked on to the Northwestern basketball team.
"I majored in health and physical education," Roach said. "But because I was a walk-on I had to work harder and lift more. I even went to summer school so I could work out all the time. Otherwise I knew I wasn't going to be as successful."
Roach made the traveling squad as a freshman and earned the Mr. Hustle Award.
He was awarded a scholarship for his next three years.
"I knew I had to keep pushing myself," Roach said.
Roach was moved to point guard.
"That was a big adjustment because I always played shooting guard," Roach said. "It made it more difficult and I had to push myself even harder to keep my scholarship."
Roach ended up playing in several games as a senior and scored 16 points in one contest, starting two contests.
"I wasn't the best guy on the team, but I enjoyed the atmosphere, the traveling and playing against SEC teams," Roach said. "I played against Karl Malone at Louisiana Tech and that was amazing. I got to play against a few guys who made it to the NBA."
Roach received his degree and was hired as head basketball and track coach at Monticello High, a Class C school in Lake Providence.
Roach led his track team to the Class C state championship in 1992.
"That was something I will always cherish," Roach said. "But it didn't take the sting away from losing a state championship basketball game."
Roach led the Monticello basketball team to the quarterfinals.
He also got the chance to return to the Monterey gym as his Tiger team played Monterey. But winning the game is not what Roach remembers the most.
"It was a special night," Roach said. "Winning there was great, but what I will remember is driving the bus and backing up under the walkway. The bus wouldn't fit so I did a little damage there. Coach Jack was over there just a-laughing. I was just glad it happened before all the fans got there."
Roach said he used a lot of what he learned from Bairnsfather during his coaching tenure.
"Except I hollered a lot more than he did," he said.
Roach's best basketball team made it to the quarterfinals.
Roach stayed at Monticello for five years before moving to Mississippi, temporarily leaving the coaching business.
"But I couldn't find a job," he said. "I was then contacted by the principal at Newellton about the basketball job.
Roach led the Bears to the quarterfinals where they lost to Grambling Lab.
Roach then went to work for Continental Airlines in Jackson where he stayed for four years.
He then got a job with a leasing company.
The 46-year-old Roach is currently the manager for Jackson Truck & Trailer. He is over leasing and sales for the company, which has more than 1,000 18-wheelers.
Roach lives in Flowood with his wife Lesa. Their daughter, Olivia is nine years old, while son Ty Sanders attends East Mississippi Community College.
Roach had three back surgeries last year, which hindered his hunting and golfing activities.
Roach said growing up in Monterey he never figured he would end up in a place like Flowood.
"I'm a country boy at heart," he said. "I miss it, but there's more things for the kids to do."
Roach said he would love to see his former teammates again.
"I wish we could all get together and do it all over again," he said.
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