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Knights remember legends

By Staff
OLD FRIENDS Barbara Scarbrough, left, Dot Pace and Cathy Covington Caldwell caught up with each other at a basketball state champions reunion held at West Lauderdale High School. Scarbrough and Caldwell played on the 1961 Center Hill team. Pace was a Center Hill and West Lauderdale fan who went to every game during the 1940s-1970s.Photo by Carisa McCain/The Meridian Star
By Marty Stamper/staff writer
Jan. 30, 2002
The West Lauderdale girls' basketball team is off to a great start this season, winning 25 of its first 28 games.
The Lady Knights lead Division 5-3A and any follower of local hoops can tell you the 5-3A girls' league is traditionally one of state's best.
Tuesday night, however, belonged to the players from days gone by who set the standard by which current Knight and Lady Knight teams are compared.
Honored with a reception prior to the West Lauderdale-Clarkdale games were the state championship teams from Collinsville, Center Hill and West Lauderdale. The former players were again recognized at halftime of the girls' contest.
The idea was the brainchild of the two Lady Knight assistant coaches, along with the mother of one of the current Lady Knights.
The Collinsville girls won the 1952 Class B-BB State Championship, beating Anguilla (52-42), Janice (45-32), and Forest (58-47).
The 1961 Center Hill girls' team went 42-5 under coach Jackie Ethridge and won the Class B-BB State Championship. Center Hill beat Enterprise 69-57 in the finals.
The West Lauderdale boys had their moments as well, winning Class A-AA state crowns in 1964 (32-10), 1965 (34-3), and 1967 (31-2) with Ethridge handling the coaching chores.
The 1966 team didn't win state, but turned in a sparkling 28-2 record.
The star of the 1964-67 teams was Randy Hodges, who was the first (and believed to be the only) player to ever be named to the all-state team four times.
Ethridge had a record of 814-229 in 14 seasons of coaching both boys and girls. In 12 years in Lauderdale County, he took seven boys' teams and 10 girls' team to the state tournament.
The men enjoyed looking through scrapbooks of their playing days, especially one that contained stories and box scores of their games with Hancock North Central and the late Wendell Ladner who once put up 37 points on the Knights. Ladner went on to a stellar career at the University of Southern Mississippi and the defunct American Basketball Association.
Seven members of the 1952 Collinsville girls' B-BB State Championship team were in attendance.
In those days, girls played with three teammates on each end of the court.
Cross liked the six-on-six game as a player. That game evolved into a game that had a rover before eventually becoming the same five-on-five game as the boys play.
Nobody was surprised to see Dot Pace at the reception. After all, she was there every time the ball was tipped off from the late 1940s to the early 1970s.
Boys. Girls. It didn't matter to Pace.
In the earlier years, the games were the community's prime source of entertainment in the winter months.
When consolidation came in the early 1960s, the atmosphere changed some, but not necessarily for the worst.
Some of the schools on the schedule before consolidation were Dixie Highway, Whynot, Vimville, and Beulah Hubbard.
While honoring the past was fun, showing the current team members that they too can join the elite was definitely part of the plan.