1971 Savages Lose State Semi-Finals Game, 67-62 In Overtime
May 27, 2021
(Editor's Note: This article was originally intended for the Alumni News, but didn't make it. Since this is the weekend Tecumseh would normally welcome returning alumni for the annual banquet, it seems an appropriate time to run it.}
The Bob Avery Basketball era reached its pinnacle 50 years ago this spring when the Savage Basketball team advanced to the 1971 OSSAA State Tournament, losing in the semi-finals to the eventual State Champions, Pawhuska, in a thrilling overtime game, 67-62.
The team had the entire roster returning from a 1970 team that finished the year 21-6. The Savages were highly rated in major newspapers. The Ada Evening News predicted them to win the state championship, the Daily Oklahoman pre-season poll rated them No. 4 and the Tulsa World pre-season poll rated them No. 7.
The team began the season with a 14-game win streak before losing their first game to a very talented Chandler team on the road 64-55. They would avenge that loss twice, however, and would eventually eliminate Chandler in the Area Tournament in Bixby to earn their place in the State Tournament.
That game was extremely competitive and filled with emotion. Due to an altercation near the end of the game on the floor and in the stands, the referees called the game with approximately a minute remaining with the Savages leading and earning the win 66-55 and earning their spot in the State Tournament the following week. Chandler would win the State Championship the following season.
The 1971 Savages finished the year with 25 wins and 4 losses. They completed the regular season with only two losses, the one to Chandler and an overtime loss at home to Kingfisher 62-61. This was the only home loss in the Old Tecumseh Gym in three years these players were in high school. Kingfisher was a very talented team and also qualified for the State Tournament.
The two playoff losses both were from the State Champions, Pawhuska. Tecumseh lost to Pawhuska in the Area Tournament in two overtimes, 56-53, which put them in the loser's bracket where they defeated Chandler to punch their ticket to State.
The Savages beat an undefeated and highly rated Okeene team in the State Quarterfinals 65-58. They had to play Pawhuska again in the semi-finals where their season came to a disappointing end.
Pawhuska defeated Byng in the finals to claim the Gold Ball.
There were eight seniors on the team who completed the season, Doug Echard, Tony Humphrey, Bruce Longhorn, Teddy Lott, Bud Phelps, Dale Perrin, Pat Sparkman and Brad Walck. Indicative of the team's depth and talent, six of them made the ten-player All-County Team: Echard, Humphrey, Lott, Perrin, Sparkman and Walck.
Echard and Humphrey were three-year starters who as sophomores started on the 1969 team which was the first Tecumseh team to ever qualify for the State Tournament. That team was also eliminated by Pawhuska.
Sparkman was named as an alternate to the 1971 All-State Team, and Humphrey's performance earned him a spot on the State Tournament All-Tournament Team.
Humphrey, Perrin and Walck all went on to successful coaching and teaching careers.
Humphrey spent several years as the Wellston boys basketball coach where he had two teams qualify for the OSSAA State Tournament.
Perrin attended Southeastern State College on a football scholarship and made Durant his home. He spent his entire professional life in the Durant Public School system, where he had a successful coaching and teaching career.
Sparkman accepted a basketball scholarship to Oklahoma Baptist University. He played two seasons and went on to a successful business career as owner of Modern Oil Company.
Walck accepted a basketball scholarship to Murray State College but transferred to Oklahoma Baptist University where he earned a basketball scholarship and lettered three years as a member of the OBU Bison Men's Basketball team.
Walck would return to his hometown where he had a successful coaching and teaching career leading the Savages to the 1990 State Tournament.
He would go on to become the head women's coach of the Seminole State College Belles where his 1992-93 team reached the NJCAA #1 ranking and finished the season as the #3 ranked team in the nation.
All of the teams' other seniors went on to successful careers as well outside of coaching. Phelps joined his former teammate and has been a long-time employee and associate of Modern Oil Company.
Ted Lott had long and successful career in hotel management and lives in South Carolina.
Echard had a successful career in the nuclear energy field and lives in South Texas.
Bruce Longhorn died prematurely of heart failure while playing golf. He had worked for his tribe and too was successful.
Besides the seniors there were several talented underclassman who completed the roster and added much to this team's success. They included juniors Ronnie Curtis, Tony Echard, Randy Gentry, Hershel Hudson, John Rudolph, and sophomore Bob McGowan. It was a wonderful season under Coach Avery and brought a great deal of joy and excitement to the community and arguably the most talented boys basketball team in school history.