Simmons preached defense
by Joey Martin - posted Thursday, December 20th, 2012 @ 10:07 am
Former Vidalia High boys basketball coach Ken Simmons used to say you can go downtown any day and find someone who can shoot the basketball.
But defense was another story.
And it was the story of the 1978-79 Vidalia boys basketball team, which brought the school its first boys basketball state title, as Vidalia defeated Varnado 49-42 in the Class 2A state championship game on March 10, 1979.
"I never believed in trying to outscore people," said Simmons, who is now retired and loving out in the country in Winn Parish. "We played man-to-man. We had a lot of quickness. And we had good kids."
The Vikings defeated District 2A champion Zwolle 66-58 in the first round of the playoffs as 6-foot-9 Kalpatrick Wells scored 14 points and grabbed 17 rebounds.
The Vikings advanced with a 59-57 win over Rapides in Pineville as Wells had nine points and 16 rebounds.
"Every game was a battle," Wells said. "Nothing came easy."
Vidalia defeated W.O. Boston 57-52 to reach the Top 24 Tournament at the Rapides Parish Coliseum in Alexandria. W.O. Boston was averaging 80 points a game..
"I do remember Coach Simmons saying we weren't going to stay in a hotel in the Alexandria area," Wells said. "He thought we would lose focus. A lot of times kids that age staying in a hotel away from home find it distracting. I think he learned some things from the first time when we did stay at a hotel. So we drove over there. It was a good plan, even though I wasn't crazy about it at the time."
Vidalia faced Rosenwald of New Roads in the semifinals, a team Simmons felt was the best squad of all the teams Vidalia faced in the playoffs..
Vidalia used two free throws by Guy Henry with eight seconds remaining to ice its game against Rosenwald, as the Vikings advanced to the finals with a 53-50 win. Wells had 13 points and 18 rebounds.
The Vikings captured the state championship with a 49-42 win over Varnado as Wells had 10 points and 20 rebounds.
"I've run that game through my mind many times," Wells said. "It was a dream come true. To say I grew up in Vidalia and brought the first boys state championship to Vidalia means a lot to me. I know that some people love me and will never forget me because of that."
Vidalia held the lead against Varnado for the majority of the game. Kelvin Mays put Vidalia up by seven with a basket early in the second half.
But Varnado kept it close.
Vidalia started out the 1978-79 in the Southwestern Louisiana Invitational in Lafayette as the Vikings defeated 4-A New Iberia 32-20 in a jamboree which consisted of two 10-minute halves.
"That helped get the preseason jitters out," Wells said."I was being recruited very heavily and there were a whole lot of coaches coming through for our practices. It was nice to get away from that. It was a relief for me."
Vidalia opened the season with a 74-59 win over Caldwell.
The Vikings started out 6-0 going into a much-anticipated home game with South Natchez, which boasted of a lineup that included Bobby Gooden, Chris Logan and Clarence Turner.
"We felt like we had a good chance to be really good," Simmons said. "We had a real hard schedule and only eight home games (out of 35). We played at Northeast (ULM), Lafayette and at LSU when that was allowed, which really helped us.That was one of the hardest years of my life because of the tough schedule. It was loaded."
Vidalia faced Neville, Bastrop and South Natchez in one of the best games ever at Vidalia High as Wells hit a basket from 25 feet at the buzzer to give the Vikings a 51-50 win against the talented Colonel team.
The Vikings also were in the same district with Lake Providence, losing to the Panthers by one point in a game for the district championship.
Lake Providence lost to Opelousas Catholic in the playoffs.
The 6-foot-9 Wells was involved in dozens of memorable contests.
In his sophomore season at Vidalia, the Vikings made it to the state quarterfinals for the third straight year, defeating defending state champion Marion 52-50 to get within one step of the Top 24 Tournament.
Vidalia beat Bunkie 64-57 to gain a Top 24 berth.
Vidalia lost to Newman 66-55 in the semifinals in the first-ever trip to the Top 24 Tournament by a Vidalia team.
"That was disappointing," Wells said.
Wells hit a jump shot from just just over 20 feet to give Vidalia a 51-50 win over the Colonels in a packed Vidalia gym.
"They had a whole lot of talent," Wells said. "Bobby was a very good player, very physical. There weren't too many guys in that area that big. "He and Kenny Green of North Natchez both had good size.
"We were real fortunate," Wells said. "Eighty percent of the crowd was Vidalia and they kept us in the game. We always had a good following. We were fortunate enough to keep it close to allow me the opportunity at the end of the game to take that shot. It wasn't anything planned. The clock was running down to about three seconds, so instead of taking it inside, I had to get the shot off from the outside. I don't think they were expecting that."
Vidalia defeated Neville 58-56 in the Monroe News-Star Tournament, but Ronnie Brown suffered a dislocated elbow.
The Vikings lost to Bastrop 66-61 in the Neville Tournament, its fifth game in six days.
"That was a setback when we lost Ronnie for about a month," Wells said.
When Brown returned, Vidalia defeated Ouachita 58-51.
"I did not have to concentrate much on offense, I could get my points off the board," Wells said. "We had a couple of point guards in Kelvin Mays and Guy Henry who would throw me alley-oops and lay the ball off the backboard for me to slam. But I was more of a defensive player. It was more of a pride thing."
Vidalia beat Delhi 68-67 to improve to 2-0 in district in a game played at Holly Ridge because Delhi's school had burned.
The Vikings lost rematch with South Natchez in Natchez, 53-52.
Vidalia defeated Delhi 90-77 in their second meeting as Wells had 17 points and 17 rebounds.
Wells' tip-in at the buzzer gave the Vikings a 58-57 win over Rayville to capture the South Division of the district.
"I felt like we redeemed ourselves from the year before with that win," Wells said.
Vidalia lost to Lake Providence 48-47 for the district championship, but still qualified for the playoffs.
"I think that loss got us re-focused," Wells said. "It was one of those losses that came at the right time of the year. Sometimes a team needs that."
Against Rosenwald, Vidalia was up 50-48 when Mays hit a free throw with 24 seconds remaining.
Rosenwalld pulled to within a point with a basket, but Guy Henry hit two free throws to advance the Vikings.
"We were behind in that game and had to come back," Simmons said. "That's when I felt we were pre-destined to win it. I knew the championship game could not have been any tougher. We had some guys make some big free throws, particularly in the semifinals game"
Against Varnado, Wells and Ronnie Brown led the team in scoring with 10 points each. Wells dominated the boards with 20 rebounds. Brown was starting his first game in three weeks after sitting out a few games because of the flu.
Wells was named MVP in the district and All-State.
"The kids handled the pressure really well because they had faced it so many times against good teams all season long," Simmons said.
"That season was something I will never forget," Simmons said. "You always want to win it, but it takes a lot, including having to have some luck along the way. There are a lot of good coaches who have never won it all."
PICK A GAME is a series of articles featuring on a past contest in the Miss-Lou