1992 Winnsboro Wildcats: A team that never gave up

THE WINNSBORO WILDCATS state championship team were: front row from left: Charles Smith, manager; Willie Nash, Matt Clark, Demeleus Corbin-Jackson, Greg Walker, Kevin Winn, Calvin Brown, Eddie Jordan and Bryant Carter, manager. Back row from left, Marvin Caston, manager, Anthony Coleman, Darrick Powell, Ron Bullock, Deon Wordlaw, Anthony Scott, Kelvin Wilford, Arnathan Scott, Tyrone Addison, manager and Erik Etzel, manager. Not shown is Coach James Remedies. (Sun photo by Monica Huff)

The 1992 Winnsboro Wildcat basketball team knew how to make a game exciting. Multiple times during the season the group won the game in the last seconds, including the state championship game at Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge.

The squad’s tenacity, determination and desire to win pushed the team throughout their season. Multiple times they were down. Sometimes they not only played against their opponents but also the officials and their bias calls. Through it all, the Wildcats kept moving forward until they held up the state championship trophy amid much acclaim.

“We were brothers on and off the court,” said Deon Wordlaw. “We were a close knit team. Everybody wanted to make everybody else better.”

Anthony Coleman, a Wildcat sophomore during the 1992 season, agreed with Wordlaw.

“Those are my brothers,” Coleman said. “I still keep in touch with the majority of them till this day. These people are my family.”

Nate Scott, a freshman forward for the 1992 team, seconded his basketball brothers.

“We were a unique team,” Scott said. “On and off the court, we were family.”

Heading the family was Head Coach James Remedies, who is the assistant principal of West Monroe High School. Remedies continues to help with basketball when time allows and oversees  athletic and NCAA academic eligibility. Players remembered him not only as a coach but a father figure. Under Remedies guidance, practices were competitive and intense. He believed in conditioning, and the squad was prepared mentally and physically for whatever their competitors would throw at them.

(Remedies) was a great coach,” Coleman said. “You can only imagine practice. We practiced hard, and we pushed each other to the limit. Coach would help train us and condition us. I still love coach.”

The 1992 Wildcat team had a core group comprised of four seniors: Demeleus Corbin-Jackson, Anthony Scott, Matt Clark and Greg Walker.

The group played 121 games together during their high school career. As freshmen, the group won only seven games. As sophomores, they won 17 games. As juniors, they won 25 games, and as seniors, they racked up 35 wins. On any given night, any Wildcat player could step up and be the high scorer or tough defensive player.

“We set our goal early in the year to win the state championship,” Remedies said in a Sun interview with Paul Price Jr. And, we kept our minds focused on that to achieve that goal.”

When Remedies reviews old highlight tapes of the Wildcats he is astonished.

“I look at the team and think, ‘Wow, those guys were really good,” Remedies said in a recent interview.

In order to meet their goal, Winnsboro had to face McCall three times that season — twice in district and the championship game. During the regular season, the Tallulah team beat Winnsboro on their home court, but Winnsboro would take one from McCall on their home court.

McCall, the District 2-AAA wildcard entry, rolled through the playoffs to force the rubber match with Winnsboro in the finals.

High-flying heroics

Winnsboro was crowned district champs and met Avoyelles in an early round of the playoffs. Avoyelles was the District 4-AAA wildcard and finished third behind Oakdale and Ville Platte.

The Wildcats beat Avoyelles in a tough matchup, 73-60.

“I was pleased that we got the win,” Remedies said. “We played hot and cold throughout the game, but I’d rather us win one like that than to be hot the whole game and lose.”

As late as midway through the fourth quarter the issue was still in doubt.

Winnsboro opened with three straight steals but failed to convert any of them to points that would have effectively killed any chance of an Avoyelles comeback.

But high flying heroics by Darrick Powell sparked the Wildcats into action. Leading by only 10 points with just over six minutes to go, the squad came alive and took charge on a slam-dunk off a rebound by Powell to take a 60-48 lead.

At that point, Winnsboro ran off a 7-2 spurt and put the game away. The run was highlighted by a pair of baskets by Powell passed from Wildcat guard Jackson. Powell’s last basket came at the 3:10 mark and gave Winnsboro a commanding 67-50 lead.

Beating the

“Giant Refs”

The Wildcats escaped with their basketball lives following a 71-69 overtime win against the Jena Giants in a regional contest. Jena was runners-up in District 3-AAA with an 18-11 overall record.

The Sun also reported: “According to every Winnsboro observer at the game, however, the Wildcats weren’t playing just the Jena Giants: they battled a pair of officials as well, and found themselves scratching and clawing just to survive the year’s worst-called and most emotional contest.

“It was pretty tough to play against the team and the officials,” Wordlaw said. “The crowd was rowdy as well, but most of the time we blocked all of that out.”

Anthony Scott, Greg Walker and Wordlaw fouled out during the course of the game. Jena, on the other hand, had only two players with four fouls at game’s end.

On the description of Scott, Coleman said, “He was a monster.”

Remedies told The Sun his players kept their cool.

“I was pleased with the composure that the kids kept throughout the game,” Remedies said. “They remained focused and overcame a lot of adversity to get the win.”

Jackson did not let the questionable calls deter his game, as he scored 34 points, a season high, against Jena.

A big third quarter against Rayne

Winnsboro used a big third quarter outburst to break open a tight game and move into the Class 3A championship, as they rolled to a 69-57 win over Rayne High School in Baton Rouge.

With the score tied at 23 coming off halftime, the Wildcats floundered early in the third quarter.

Rayne’s DeWayne Smith canned a field goal to give his team a 29-25 lead with 5:47 remaining before Remedies called time out.

“I told them that they needed to get more aggressive on the board,” Remedies said in a Sun interview. “They needed to work harder to keep them off the glass.”

The talk lit a fire in the Wildcats, as they went on a 15-2 run over the next three minutes. When Ron Bullock hit a jumper from the right side at the 2:17 mark, Winnsboro had built a 40-31 lead.

In the final quarter, Rayne would get no closer than six points as Winnsboro hit free throws down the stretch to keep the Wildcats well in front. Winnsboro hit seven of 11 from the charity stripe.

A movie type ending against a familiar foe

By the time Winnsboro and McCall of Tullaluh reached the Pete Maravich Center, the two teams knew each other well.

“We knew McCall was a tough team,” Wordlaw said. “We prepared ourselves mentally and physically. Coach Remedies had prepared us well.”

In 1992, the squads both dressed out quality players, and each time the teams met each other it was a dual until the end. Winnsboro would be victorious but as the case was all season, the win didn’t come easy over the Dragons.

“Both teams were loaded,” Remedies remembered.

Lonnie Cooper, former Franklin Parish coach, was a member of the McCall squad.

“We knew it was going to be a dog fight from the beginning until the end,” Wordlaw said. “It was a very memorable game.”

The dramatic ending seemed like it was written by a Hollywood movie producer.

It was a Winnsboro third-quarter play that set the fourth quarter fireworks into motion.

The Wildcats leading 29-26 at halftime, seemed to come unraveled in the early third-period moments. A late rally, however, turned out to be just the right medicine for Winnsboro and their legion of supporters.

With the score knotted 32-32 at the 3:49 mark, McCall used a pair of turnovers and two field goals in route to an 8-0 run and took a 40-32 lead with 2:30 left on the third-quarter clock.

Following a timeout, Winnsboro regrouped and scored the final six points of the period on a pair of Jackson field goals and a clutch basket by Powell at the horn. Powell’s shot helped cut an eight-point margin to just two, 40-38, and kept Winnsboro within striking distance.

“Losing never entered my mind Saturday night, and I think the kids could detect that,” Remedies said, in a Sun interview. “Even down by eight points, the kids didn’t panic and kept their focus. They were on a mission.”

The Wildcats struck quickly in the final period.

With just 30 seconds gone in the fourth quarter, Powell tied the score on a layup with an assist from Wordlaw, and Jackson gave the Wildcats their first lead of the period following a tip in off a missed Powell free throw.

At the 2:47 mark, though, Powell committed his fifth personal foul and went to the bench to a standing ovation. The score was 49-49.

From that point on, The Sun reported the Wildcats seemed determined not to let the game slip away as Wordlaw carried the offensive load with six of Winnsboro’s last eight points.

With the score tied 53-53 with only 17 seconds remaining, Clark scored his only points of the night when he calmly canned a pair of free throws to give Winnsboro a two-point lead.

“In the timeout after Matt’s free throws, I told the kids to take a look at the trophies on the sidelines,” said Remedies. “They saw the big one over there, and they knew they wanted it.”

However, McCall’s Anthony Lucas tied the score at 55 on a pair of free throws following a foul in the act of shooting by Wordlaw. Lucas would go on to play with the Dallas Cowboys in 2002.

Lucas’s shot prior to the free throws nearly went in but bounced away at the last instant. If it had gone in, the outcome of the game could have been different.

That set the stage for the final eight seconds of play.

Jackson handled the ball in the backcourt, broke away from a double-team and he and Wordlaw conveyed on a goal on a  fast break as the final seconds ticked off.

As Jackson approached the lane from the left, he passed to Wordlaw on the right side. The six foot, five inch junior laid the ball off the glass for Winnsboro’s final points of the year, garnering them their first basketball state championship.

“Demeleus knew he was going to handle the ball on that last play, and he made something happen,” Remedies said. “He used experience and sound judgement on the pass, and Deon cashed in on it.”

The shot capped an intense fourth quarter by both squads that saw the lead change four times with neither team holding more than a two-point lead at any point during the period.

“(The shot) was gut wrenching,” Wordlaw remembered. “My blood was pumping, and the crowd was really into it.”

Wordlaw remembered the first thing he saw after he shot the ball.

“I saw my mom jumping up and down, and I thought everything must be ok then,” Wordlaw said. “Then everybody starting jumping on top of me. It was wonderful.”

Jackson, who was awarded the Gatorade Most Outstanding Player of the game Award following the contest, led Winnsboro offensively with 19 points, five rebounds and four assists, including the key one at the end of the game.

“Demelius was arguably the best point guard in the state,” Coleman said.

Powell, despite fouling out mid-way through the final period, finished the game with 17 points, and a game high 14 rebounds including 10 in the first half. Wordlaw had eight points for Winnsboro, all of them coming in the final period of play, along with five rebounds.

Winnsboro’s Anthony Scott chipped in seven points and had six rebounds, while Greg Walker came through with four points and three rebounds.

Clark rounded out the scoring with two points but his free throws in the last moments were big ones in a clutch situation.

“Words really can’t describe how I feel right now,” Remedies said. “I’m just so happy for our players because they worked so hard for it all season long.”

The Baton Rouge auditorium was filled with adoring local fans.

“It was great to see so many Franklin Parish people there,” he said. “It really meant a lot to the kids to have them there behind us.”

The Wildcats ended their season with a 31-5 mark, and several of the 31 victories came to a basketball family in the last seconds that never gave up.

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