Walker takes a stroll through high school years at Happy Valley

Published 9:31 pm Tuesday, November 17, 2020

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Some bullet point thoughts, opinions, facts, etc., on Happy Valley
basketball from Buff Walkers Sophomore-Senior years (1972-73 through
When Buff started on Happy Valley Elementary’s basketball 8th grade team
as a 6th grader, they were pretty good. The Warriors had an OUTSTANDING
left-handed 8th grade shooter in Mike Campbell. He could drain it from
anywhere. Unfortunately, he was involved in a serious accident (maybe
his freshman year—1970 or ‘71?) that left him re-learning many of his
motor skills and his basketball future was never realized. In Buff’s
opinion, had they had the Mike Campbell he knew on that 8th grade team
during his sophomore year (he would have been a senior), they would have
made it much farther than the Region Semis in 1973 (lost by 5),
including a serious run at the 1973 State Championship.
In late August of 1973, Kenneth (Jimbo) Mullins died from injuries
suffered in a car accident on Buffalo Road in Johnson City. Jimbo was a
year behind Buff and would have provided Happy Valley tremendous talent
at guard, particularly, defensively. Jimbo would have been a junior
during Buff’s senior year when we got knocked out of the state
tournament by eventual champion, Bolton (again, lost by 5). In Buff’s
opinion, The Warriors would have won the state title in 1975, had Jimbo
Mullins lived. Happy Valley would have been a 3-peat state champion
from 1973-1975 in the first 3 years of Class S basketball had those 2
friends been able to play.
Given that Happy Valley had most of the players back from the
1973 team that made it to the Region Semis, they were pretty confident
of a good year. Jeff Little, the Warriors tallest player at 6’5”,
decided to leave the team after they beat University High to go to 6-1.
With only a loss to a tall Unicoi County team (with 6’7” Jim McInturff
and Eddie Whitson) that matched up well.
The Warriors then beat a very good Science Hill ballclub on the
road and followed that up with a road win at Crockett (to go 8-1) before
a home game against Dobyns-Bennett. The Indians won by two points
(47-45) after Happy Valley led almost the entire game…it was a very
tough loss they should have won.
Next was Hampton in the Holiday Round Robin tournament (between
Christmas and New Year’s). After soundly beating Cloudland, they had
their first encounter with Hampton…and lost by 2 (48-46).
The New Year started with a blowout win at home over Science Hill
(65-48). This was a very good Science Hill team, who ended up being Big
9, District Champs, Region runner-up (lost by one on a controversial
call) and fell in the Class L sub-state to Alcoa, 57-55!
A home game with Daniel Boone (Upper Lakes Conference Champs that year)
and they had a great game against them, beating HV 71-57, dropping them
to 12-4.
Then a much-anticipated rematch against top-ranked Hampton on Warrior
Hill…Happy Valley lost 54-47, falling to 12-5.
Two victories moved the Warriors to 14-5, when they had to postpone
a game at Elizabethton due to the death of Jeff Sisk’s mom (Coach
Bayless was Jeff’s uncle—Jeff’s dad, Harry, and Coach’s wife, Jane,
were siblings). After 8 days between games, they had one of the best
stretch of games of the year, beating Unaka, 94-51 at home, avenging an
earlier loss to Boone (beating them at Boone), beating Elizabethton by
28 and South Greene by 18, to go to 18-5. Larry Ferrell, a reserve
guard and a strong defender, decided to leave the team after the South
Greene win.
Time for the final regular season match-up with Hampton and they
lost a hard-fought game by ten losing the chance to at least tie for the
Watauga Conference championship. They proceeded to lose the next two
games; upset on the road by three at Elizabethton and lost a “slow
down” game at Unicoi by one.
The Warriors won at Washington College Academy 92-29, to finish the
regular season at 19-8.
The post-season began shakily they squeaked by University High, 36-34,
then lost in the District Semis (played at ETSU’s old Memorial Gym) to a
strong Sullivan West team by five, before edging an outstanding
Surgoinsville team 60-57 for third in the District. Losing in the
District Semis put them in the same bracket as Hampton in the Region
They opened the Region tourney (at Chuckey-Doak High School) with
an easy 18 point win against Hancock County, setting up a semifinal
matchup against the top Class S team in the state, Hampton, who was
33-1, Hampton had beaten Dobyns-Bennett at D-B in November, 61-60.
Kingsport then gave Hampton their only loss of the year (to this
point), beating them 66-60, in overtime, in December, at Hampton.
Hampton had been ranked #1 in Class S for much of the year and the
Warriors had gotten as high as #4. Hampton, having beaten them three
times during the year, and was the prohibitive favorite. They had heard
of so many Hampton fans who had already made their reservations in
Memphis to follow their team to the state tourney. There was only one
“expert” to pick Happy Valley to beat Hampton in the Region
Semis…remember the old Dr. Litkenhous computer ratings? Dr. Lit
basically had them deadlocked but, showed HV #1 and Hampton #2.
In their last meeting (which Hampton won by 10), they had scored 74 on
the Warriors…the most points Happy Valley allowed all year. Coach
Charlie Bayless and the Warriors were determined to lock them down with
defense. Marty Street had picked up his fourth foul with just under
two minutes left in the third quarter and sat out most of the fourth.
Shockingly, referee Carroll Meredith, controversially ejected Teddy
McKeehan with 15 seconds left in the third quarter! Hampton led 23-22,
after three. The defense and ball control was at its best in the 4th
quarter as Happy Valley outscored Hampton 18-7, to win 40-30. That
ended the season for a simply fantastic Hampton team, at 33-2 and sent
Happy Valley to the Regional Championship for a rematch with Sullivan West.
Buff remembered in the locker room after they beat Hampton…there
was so much happiness, so much yelling of “We’re Number one” and, this
may seem odd but, he remember hugging a classmate of his who was on the
B team…he was so happy, with that phenomenal smile of his, and jumping
up and down with joy. His name was Jackie Morrell. The next day, he
was killed in a motorcycle accident on West G Street (behind the old
Dixie Bowling Alley).

They played well against a tough Sullivan West team and won the Region
title by 8, 51-43 and moved their record to 24-9.
The sub-state game was at Morristown East High School and had a
relatively easy time disposing of Friendsville Academy by at 55-39 score.
The opening game at the Mid-South Coliseum was against Maury City, who
was 29-4. They played one of their best defensive games of the year
(Region Semis against Hampton the other) and they needed it. They
couldn’t throw it in the ocean. Their two top scorers, Marty Street and
Teddy McKeehan, shot a combined 4-30! Importantly, they continued to
play key roles on defense! They were down 22-12 and with less than a
minute left in the third quarter, when something happened on the court
and Buff looked over at Coach Bayless as he threw his famous white towel
up in the air.
Buff made a shot, Phil Goulds made two shots and all of a sudden, the
score was 24-20. Marty fouled out with over three minutes left but,
they didn’t flinch. Down 26-21, when Randy Curde hit a shot and Teddy
McKeehan had a field goal with under two minutes left to bring Happy
Valley within one, at 26-25. As they held the ball for the last shot,
Coach Bayless didn’t instruct any particular player to take it. He knew
they had the momentum and just told them to move the ball around and
whoever gets a good look with a few seconds left, take it. Moving the
ball around the top…Buff was just off to the side at the top wing and
Randy was further down the wing. He threw it to him and, quite frankly,
Buff was expecting him to pass it back. He decided to drive toward the
bucket and hit the winning shot, with four seconds left, giving the
Warriors a 27-26 comeback win.
Each night in Memphis they were playing in the game right before
the Class L favorite (and hometown heroes), undefeated Memphis Melrose.
Their dressing rooms were in the same vicinity and they would pass each
other as they came off the court. Each night there were more “high
fives” as we passed each other.
Buff said “ we were SO very proud of our own Cheerleaders and Fan
Support, especially with these games being roughly 500 miles from
home.” The semifinal game against BGA was a tight battle. Marty and
Teddy had 15 of their 19 field goals and secured 18 rebounds between
them. BGA had snapped Trousdale County’s (Hartsville) 17 game winning
streak in the opening round to move to 25-8. BGA held the ball to go
for the winning shot in regulation but, after one of their timeouts,
Marty stole the ball and the game went to overtime. Marty hit a shot
with 17 seconds left to give the Warriors a 40-39 lead in overtime.
Happy Valley stole the ball and Buff hit a foul shot with five seconds
left to provide the final margin of 41-39.
Knox Catholic was a red-hot team, having won 26 in a row and
standing with a 32-4 record, having won their semi-final game over
Dresden by 84-62. As individual introductions were made, every
Catholic player would hold up their index finger, to signify they were
“number one”. Catholic had not seen a defensive team like Happy
Valley’s. They held all-state guard, Greg Patterson, to one field
goal…he was only able to shoot it once…and had only two points for the
game. The Warriors came out strong and led 16-8 after Teddy’s 30-footer
in the second quarter before Catholic came back to cut the margin to
22-20 at the half. Catholic then opened the third by scoring the first
six points behind their talented forward, Matt Brown, they led 26-22.
The game would end up tied at 36 as Charlie slowed it down in the 4th
quarter and controlled the tempo. Allowing Catholic only six points as
and the score tied at 42, the Warriors had the ball with just over 40
seconds to play. They were definitely working it around to get Marty or
Teddy the final shot and Catholic knew it. As they put the final
sequence in motion, Teddy jump passed to Marty who was just a little too
far under the bucket and was practically triple-teamed at that point.
He passed it to Jeff Sisk, who hit the game-winning layup with three
seconds left and how appropriate for Jeff to make the “championship
shot”, after having lost his mother back on January 23rd! Needless to
say, it was a crazy scene afterwards and in the dressing room! Coaches,
teachers, fans and former players were all congratulating the new State
Marty Street was the tourney MVP and Teddy McKeehan also made the five
person all-tourney team, as did Brown and Patterson from Catholic and a
player from Dresden (McHaney).
When they arrived, it was an incredible scene. An estimated 2000
people were there and Coach Bayless thanked all the players, and the
cheerleaders and fans for the outstanding support.
Later that month (I believe it was), the Booster Club who presented
Coach Bayless with a new car…a red (Maroon probably wasn’t available)
1974 Ford Pinto wagon!
Buff believe that’s when he heard the first rumors that he might
retire! Thankfully, he stayed and they almost pulled off a repeat the
next year.

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