NORMAN — It was the last championship of a dynasty. Norman High won four state basketball titles between 1955 and 1962. Only one other school has ever matched that feat in Oklahoma’s top class before or since.
The team was ranked No. 1 in the preseason and expectations were nothing less than a fifth championship for Norman. Nothing else would satisfy.
“We started No. 1, we finished No. 1 and we’re still No. 1,” Jack Herron, a senior on the team, said.
The team had a single mark on an otherwise flawless record, not lessening the greatness of the team but adding to the legend of the season. Before a game with Shawnee, Herron injured his foot. The lack of Herron’s on-court leadership and talent made them a vulnerable target for the Wolves, and the Tigers lost.
“I could have had surgery and missed the rest of the year, but we had too much at stake,” Herron said. “I went to OU and met with coach Crowder and we learned how to tape my foot and I played the rest of the year.”
Senior player Terry Fischer said the loss didn’t create any desperation or provide added incentive, they still expected to win, but the loss did give the disappointment of a perfect season gone. This realization helped to solidify an unselfish trait in the team.
“We were the most unselfish team,” Herron said. “That was one of the things (head coach) Chet (Bryan) taught us.”
Bryan was well known for pushing his players, teaching teamwork and that a team of guys who played with discipline and worked hard could be better than another team with more raw talent.
“We worked very hard,” Gene Bauman said. “We would play the OU players over at South Base. Chet Bryan was hell on wheels, he was a strong disciplinarian and taught us to win.”
In the championship game, Steve Taylor scored 20 of the 43 points for the Tigers and said it might have been 35 today, “You see,” he said with a little smile, “that was before the three-point line.”
Fischer recalled a player for Duncan who was a great talent.
“Johnson had no limit to his range. If you guarded him at 15 feet he would shoot at 17. If you guarded him there he would just back up more,” Fischer said. “Duncan probably had more talent, but we had a better team.”
Senior Basil Hurry recalled the game the same way.
“We were a fast-break team before fast-break even existed,” Hurry said. “But Duncan was a real run-and-gun team. The gunner was Johnson and he was killing us!”
Then the Tigers changed tactics.
“So they stalled the ball!” Hurry said. “(We) started to play keep away for six to eight minutes against this run-and-gun team and won by two, Jack (Herron) was one of the five who stalled the ball.”
Herron remembered the night with a twist not many know about.
“Most people don’t know this,” Herron said. “Chet (Bryan) didn’t say stall. We passed the ball over 300 times. Chet called time and said, ‘What are you doing?’ then he just shook his head and said, ‘Ah, you’re not going to do what I say anyway, just go win!’ and we did.”
Herron said he would check the paper every Monday to be sure they were still No. 1. There was a great deal of pressure to win.
“When I was in school all the girls were in the pep club,” Herron said. “They filled half the field house.”
Bobbi Roach Jones was a cheerleader and said everyone went to all the games.
“It was wonderful!,” Jones said, “Eight to 10 busses of ginger snaps, that’s what we called the pep club, would go. Everybody wanted to be there.”
“It was very exciting!” Susan Herron, Jack’s wife, said. “Especially when you’re dating the star player, they were winning every game.”
Yes, they were. What else would you expect? After all, they started the season number one, they ended the season No. 1 and they’re still No. 1.