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Well, I surprised John Stroud with a stat.
When I spoke to some people early on about my plans to research the county tournament, the first thing several told me was that West Union boys have not won a county tournament title since 1976. If that’s the case, who better to talk to than Stroud, who was a member of that team.
But even he didn’t realize that the Eagles’ drought has gone for 36 years now.
Now, I’m aware that West Union has made it to the finals since then, I think even in the 2000s, so they haven’t been shut out of the title game completely since then.
Stroud pulled out some old scrapbooks, courtesy of his mother, and showed old articles and pictures from each county tournament he played in.
While I enjoyed the stories, I had a little more fun seeing who all I know in the community, because I had no idea some of you played basketball (Johnny Epting, I’m looking at you).
Also cool to look at, old pictures of West Union’s gym. Not only is it the same one that’s in place now, but there were windows (which threw me off, thinking it was a different gym) and a stage, and the stands were packed to the point that people were in chairs around the court.
All of this proved to me what I already knew; the county tournament, among other things, filled the stands and created an electric atmosphere.
After looking at All-County pictures and old articles from the UCT, Stroud pointed out a couple of things from the Tallahatchie Conference.
Each week, I’m learning a little bit more about this conference, which leads me to believe that I will be researching this as part of my next project. I’m sure since all four county schools participated in this conference, along with Blue Mountain, Ashland, Pine Grove and Hickory Flat, there were plenty of heated games come conference tournament time.
Another neat thing I saw from Stroud’s scrapbooks were the number of schools that recruited him during his time at West Union.
The back cover of one of the books was nearly covered with the names of schools in the order he received recruiting letters. Of course, he had Ole Miss, State and Alabama circled on the list, but he also received letters from Duke and Kentucky at some point.
Needless to say, his mother did a great job keeping up with all of the articles from the time he played, and it was fun to have a chance to look through those books.
One story that Stroud shared with me will be part of my focus for the 1980s, and that’s the year only three teams played in the county tournament.
I’ve heard several people recall the story of how that came to be, and I’m looking forward to researching that, among other things, for next week.