When you think about it – even four decades later – it’s still incredible to think that a team from a tiny town in Webster Parish won 100 games. Some schools have a hard time winning 100 in a decade. The Sibley Raiders won 100 the hard way.
In a row.
And in a way, the symmetry of it all makes it even better. Not 93 in a row or a 103 in a row.
A perfect 100. Easy to remember.
Of course, who could forget what the Sibley Raiders did in the late 1970s and early 1980s? Certainly not those involved, and they will get together Saturday as part of the Celebration of Champions at the Minden REC.
They need not worry about being forgotten, because it will be a long time before their accomplishment gets matched. For that matter, it’s probably not a good idea to hold your breath waiting for anybody else to even come close.
The Raiders were state champions in 1978-79, then went 58-0 on the way to another state championship in 1979-80. They kept it going into a third season before losing to next-door-neighbor Doyline on Nov. 22, 1980 – in Sibley’s own tournament.
But to be sure, it wasn’t by accident.
“We had passion,” says Willie Jackson, the unquestioned star of the team who went on to play at Centenary before being drafted by the Houston Rockets. “We loved each other and we were a group guys who lived in the same community.”
Basketball is just what they did. They’d play on dirt courts and nail a backboard to a pole if they needed to, or they’d head over to someone’s house and get up a game.
“That was a special time.” Jackson says.
Which is why they have some special memories. Especially one.
The previous national record for most wins in an unbeaten season was 52 and the Raiders were 56-0 when they entered the state semifinals against Leonville. Sibley was down a point with four seconds to go when the Raiders inbounded the ball, made two passes – and two dribbles – before the ball ended up in the hands of Carl Myles, who sank a game-winning 12-footer just before the buzzer to keep the streak alive.
Everybody touched the ball on that game-winning possession … except Jackson.
Sibley went on to win in the finals 72-61 over Holy Rosary and set the national record.
“To be honest, I really didn’t know how special that was at the time,” Jackson says. “As years have passed, I see it now. It was something special; something that may not be broken for a long time.”
Scheduling restrictions are certainly a reason, but Jackson thinks he knows another factor.
“It was a lot different than it is today, where guys just don’t have the passion for it like they should,” he says. “We loved each other and our success was because we hung around each other and shared the game of basketball. I guess that’s because there wasn’t that much more to do.”
The team got together a few months ago to plan this weekend’s celebration. It is sure to conjure a lot of memories brought back to life.
“It’s going to be an exciting time,” Jackson says. “I’m happy to be with the guys again and celebrate our basketball heroics from back in the day. It’s going to be great to share the fellowship with the guys.”
Contact JJ at firstname.lastname@example.org