’63 championship Loyd Star team recalls title quest

Published 6:00 am Thursday, December 14, 2000

In the early spring of 1963, they were the toast of LincolnCounty. The Loyd Star boys basketball team was fresh from winningthe Class B-BB State Tournament at Starkville. It was the firststate title for Loyd Star; making it extra special.

The championship team held a reunion Tuesday night at the BestInn. While Christmas lights glowed, they remembered the glory days,recalled humorous stories and traded barbs. They laughed, embraced,smiled, exchanged hugs and handshakes.

John B. Smith, a Loyd Star alumnus, coordinated the reunion.Thirty-seven years after that milestone, the memories were stillfresh. He ordered special commemorative caps and t-shirts. Wisely,he ordered extra large and 2X shirts.

Smith, a ’61 Loyd Star graduate, wanted to have the reunion forhis brother, Carroll, a ’63 team member who is recovering from astroke. Veteran coach Bennie Kimble began his coaching career atLoyd Star and coached the team for three years. Kimble is a ’53Loyd Star grad so those red, red roots run deep.

“It was my first three years to coach and my best three years,”Kimble pointed out. Now 66 years of age, he lives near Petal andstill plays competitive basketball in a senior league.

“I’ve won 787 games in my career but this group of young peoplewas special,” said Kimble as he scanned the room full ofmiddle-aged men. “Two of them became doctors. All of them have beensuccessful in life. They were very coachable.”

Prior to starting a steak dinner feast, J. Ronny Smith providedan official welcome and delivered the invocation. They paused andremembered Ralph Newell, a team member who had died from heartfailure last year.

The state championship team, Kimble’s second edition at LoydStar, featured a variety of players. Jimmy Smith and Gale Smithwere the towering post players, standing all of 6-foot-2.

Also on the state tournament roster were J. Ronny Smith, MelvinWalker, Prentiss Smith, Mike Durr, Dale Smith, Carroll Smith, DannyBoling and Pearlie Britt. Gary Smith was manager and ClintonRatcliff was a freshman manager. Loyd Star’s principal at that timewas H.B. Roberts.

Alton Ricks, former Co-Lin men’s basketball coach (1955-66),also was present at the dinner. He coached several of the Loyd Starplayers in junior college.

Looking back on that state championship team, Loyd Star appearedalmost unbeatable as the Hornets cruised through the season. WestLincoln, located 13 miles south of the campus, was a huge rival.John B. Smith invited former West Lincoln standout Alton Smith tothe dinner so he could help relive the good ‘ol days.

In the 1963 B-BB district tournament, West Lincoln upset LoydStar in the finals. The Hornets advanced as the runner-up team butthe loss felt like a mule’s kick.

Refocused, the Hornets marched to the South State Tournamenttitle. A faded newspaper clipping shows them taking turns cuttingdown the net in the old BHS gymnasium as they celebrated the 61-37victory over Improve.

At the state tournament in Starkville, the Hornets won threeclose games. They edged Coffeeville 63-61 in overtime in theopening round. A shaky 60-59 semifinals win over Myrtle saw JimmySmith scoring the decisive basket and Prentiss Smith blocking alast-second shot. In the championship game, they beat Tishomingo49-45.

Loyd Star posted a 43-6 record that season and was featured inthe McComb Enterprise-Journal. They finished fourth in the1964 state tournament, going 43-6 again. West Lincoln also advancedbut made an early exit from both state tournaments.

Coach Kimble left Loyd Star and spent the next five yearscoaching at McComb before going to Ferriday, La., for one year.Then he began a 27-year reign as head coach at Holmes CommunityCollege.

“I’ve coached a lot of great players in my time,” said Kimble.”I’ve coached Division One players and some future professionals.This group at Loyd Star was very coachable. We had qualitypeople.”

On one occasion, Kimble caught a star player with a pack ofcigarettes. The penalty was 500 laps. The player didn’t quit theteam and he did do his penance. Playing basketball wasimportant.

Loyd Star would win another state championship in 1968 but the1963 team was unique. They were the first group of Hornets to winit all.