Posts Tagged ‘1971 High School Basketball Champions’

1971: Cy Fair Hoosiers Wheatley

January 25, 2011


Guest Column Introduction: Today’s column is an iconic story on local basketball history by Randy Foltin. Randy is a fine fellow, one I’ve come to know as a research colleague and a genuine grass roots force on the subject of historical preservation. He devotes countless hours to the most arcane subjects of historical inquiry because he understands that, if a subject has anything to do with the making of Houston, Harris County, and Southeast Texas, ii is the mud and mortar of the house we all built as our community on the way to 2011.

Foltin’s narrative on the 1971 arrival of Cy Fair High School as both a local and national force in basketball is such a story. Enjoy.


By Randy Foltin, Guest Columnist to The Pecan Park Eagle

On Friday, January 28, 2011, at the Cy-Fair boys’ home basketball game, Cy-Fair will honor the 1971 state basketball championship team as they take the court as a team for one last hurrah. There are aspects of this team’s accomplishments that are more than noteworthy, and those achievements were recognized as voters across the nation awarded them the votes necessary to lay claim to the national championship.

Prior to 1970, Cy-Fair had been playing varsity sports for about 30 years without any noteworthy achievement of any type, other than just fielding teams. As such, they had been nothing more than just a blip on the radar screen. Still a 3A team in 1970 when the chasm between 3A and 4A was as wide as that between high school and college, Cy-Fair did reach the basketball championship game that year losing to Kerrville Tivy.

Two mainstays of the 1970 team, Larry Matthews (lost to graduation) and Duck Wilson (“lured” to a “name” Houston city team) were now missing in action. Going into the 1971 season, Cy-Fair was very much still a rural area at the time, but they were being cast forward into 4A lvele competition, the top classification in the state, and also into one of the toughest basketball districts in the state at that time. Competition would include the still then thriving Spring Branch schools, Conroe, and Aldine. The braintrusts of high school basketball at the time held little prospect for Cy-Fair’s basketball fortunes to continue.

I had attended most of the games in 1970, and I also went to one playoff game that year, as well, enduring heartbreak at the championship game. In the fall of the 1970-71 year, I was playing over at a friend’s house one Saturday afternoon, when my friend’s mom popped her head outside to announce that Cy-Fair’s first basketball game was to be held that night at the Cy-Fair gym.

Starting that night, and for the remainder of the season, every breaking day was centered around the excitement of knowing that I would be going to a Cy-Fair basketball game, either that day or very soon. I was a 10-year old 5th grader and after basketball practice, my friend and I, without wasting a second, would pull our pants up over our shoes and kneepads (there was not a moment to spare to get to that gym) and run down the outside covered corridor to get to the place where our heros congregated to display their basketball wizardry before packed houses.

People would be sitting on and around the perimeter of the out of bounds area, from the baseline to the wall. Fans camped out overnight to buy tickets for most any game. We in our community knew we had something special, and the bond of community was never more palpable than when we were confined in tight quarters to pull for David, now toe to toe with the Goliaths from 4A at every jump ball.

So, as to let the naysayers be put on notice, Cy-Fair rocked the basketball nation by beating Wheatley, and snapping their 72-game winning streak, at the Arlington tournament that fall. Wheatley at that time was the basketball dynasty of all dynasties, and most certainly in Texas. How could a school that no one has ever heard of pull off such an upset? Surely this was just an anomoly on the road to the state tournament that Wheatley would surely recapture as they had year after year.

And Cy-Fair would be lost in the turmoil of the race to capture the vaunted 16-4A disrtict crown, certainly it would seem. Every district game that year seemed to be of such a critical nature. Spring Woods, Spring Branch, Memorial, Westchester and Cy-Fair all seemed as likely as the other to be in position to take home the laurels. And one must remember that at that time, only one team, that being the district champion, would advance to the state tournament.

Then it happened. Cy-Fair’s fortunes could easily hinge on what seemed a probable loss as they now trailed Memorial 71-69 with only 3 seconds on the clock. Cy-Fair would be taking the ball inbounds from under the Memorial basket with a full court and eternity to go. The Memorial fans were chanting, “71! 71! 71!”, during the timeout that preceded the play, as though the score of 71 was foretelling their “destiny” to go to state in 1971.

I remember where I was sitting, and I did not need to jump into the air as the fans that were jammed into the bleachers jumped so high that it thrust me into the air as if I had indeed jumped myself, when the ball was thrown in to Bobby Metcalf at halfcourt, he pivoted and launched the ball that ripped the net to tie the score at 71. To say that jubilation erupted would be an understatement. But this was 1971 and the 3-point shot was years away. Now the hardwood warriors would go to a 4th, a 5th, and now a 6th overtime period before settling the score with a Cy-Fair victory.

Why did it seem destined that Cy-Fair and Wheatley would meet again in the state finals? They were just Cy-Fair, and Wheatley was ”who we thought they were”. After all, even after the Memorial game, Cy-Fair still had several important district clashes and who was to say that they would even advance through the state brackets if the did win 16-4A? Well, the team and their coach believed it, and the tightly forged Cy Fair community believed it too.

And even up to the very last game some didn’t believe it when, after Cy-Fair had just won their state semi-final game by the score of 58-55, at Gregory Gym in Austin, a little old school, trash-talking took place between the exiting Cy Fair and entering Wheatley fans. The latter group was filing in for their own Wheatley club’s semi-final game and one of them needed to let Cy Fair fans know they weren’t worried. The Wheatley fan was heard to exclaim that 58 points is what Wheatley would score by halftime at any of their games.

The next day, Cy-Fair beat Wheatley for the second time that year to claim the 1971 4A state championship by the score of 72-58.

To say that I and all other Cy-Fair fans were in a state of euphoria would be understating the ecstasy that swelled within our hearts and launched the tears of sheer unbridled joy that ran down our cheeks. As I write this portion now, I can feel some sense of the memory even these 40 years later. It was a dizzying, swirling atmoshpere on the Gregory Gym floor that day in the aftermath of the final buzzer sounding. It seemed such an instantaneous outpooring of events and emotion such as one might see in our ever present video-documented world of today in which something unexpected and shocking happens while the cameras are rolling. I don’t remember any words being exchanged, just the chaos and mass of humanity moving in slow motion, where in the same frame the dejection and bitterness that embroiled the Wheatley players and fans was evenly matched by the Cy-Fair players and fans being lifted higher and higher into basketball heaven.

And there we forever have remained.

Those are the highlights of the season, and you cannot dismiss any school with a national championship banner draped across the rafters. Jerry Mercer, Ronnie and Donald “Red” Dunlap, Bobby Metcalf, Andrew Jones (now deceased), Pat Kasper and the other team members were not only one of Houston’s all-time great teams as a “team” is defined by the performance in one year, but in 1971 when Cy-Fair was an unknown, not only did they give an identity to a growing sports powerhouse when the “city savvy” Spring Branch district supporters referred to Cy-Fair as “Cy-Who” and “Hics from the Sticks”, but they forged a spirit for the school and the community that has never subsided.

You, I am sure, are familiar with “Bobcat Fight Never Dies”, an iconic phrase that symbolizes and captues the identity for all graduates.

I know that everyone in the Cy-Fair community who rallied around the team that year still carries a piece of that magic with them in their hearts and lives. That great things are possible, if only you will believe, and love one another.

Guest Columnist Randy Foltin takes a shot from downtown for the 1978 Cy Fair Bobcats.

As it concerns touching the lives of the youth and what dreams it would inspire them to achieve. Well, here’s a photo of that 5th grader from 1971 as he shoots a jump shot in a state semi-final game in 1978 against, of course, Wheatley. The 1971 team had a direct bearing on the 1978 Cy-Fair team that also made the final four state tournament on which I was a starter. Their legend and spirit still reverberate now through the halls of the school.

And for this author of this piece, though it is not a daily occurrence, I can say that I think of that team and that time more often than one would think. There’s always a little room for magic in our lives, especially real magic that isn’t hyped, contrived or false. The events that I witnessed in 1971 were all true and came true as if though a fairy tale. In some ways, as time has removed me from the realities of that life from 40 years ago, it does seem more and more though it surely could only have been a myth or a legend, but I know it is true because I, the team, and everyone else at that school and in the community lived it. And I know that for all of those people today, despite adversity and hardship, or when everyone else has abandoned hope in a “lost cause”, that if only you will believe, despite all naysayers, that your dreams can and will come true.

I love those players and all the Cy-Fair community from that time and place. Thanks for the day and a little time to live in that real memory again…………and again and again.

As to the surprise ending that I alluded to early on in this essay, and this is an understanding of that team and that time that I only came to know well after the fact. The coach of that 1971 team, Ronnie Truitt, a man that I admired but did not know as I watched him from afar as he guided the team for the two year of their glory, played on the Milan, Indiana basketball team on which the film “Hoosiers” was based. There would be no film, but Cy-Fair had pulled off one of the greatest “Hoosiers” of all time. Heck, they did it twice in one season.

It seems so natural for our society to honor an Indiana team, as was done through that film, and rightfully so, but it has been such a “tradition” in Houston for we Houstonians to defer to others when our own accomplish the same, if not more, than others.

This coming Friday we celebrate the team’s 40th anniversary recognition at the Cy-Fair, January 28th basketball game so we can celebrate our own as one of the greatest Houston basketball teams in the history of this area

We will give them their just due. They were NATIONAL CHAMPIONS.