Stephenville has been buzzing about Honeybee basketball success for a long time.
Recent recognition was given to a special group of players who returned to Stephenville High School to be honored on the 50th anniversary year of their 1968 Class 3A girls state basketball championship.
Current SHS assistant girls basketball coach Kristy Mayes and other organizers arranged for the get together of the players and their head coach, the retired Sam Taylor, following the final home game for coach Alan Thorpe's 2017-18 Honeybees on Feb. 6 against Godley.
Members of the team who attended the reunion in Gandy Gym included Marcia Gordon, Suzan Smith, Nita Stephens, Sandra Lesley, Joy Taylor, Gloria Hyde, DeDe Everett, Dollie Boase, Jane Pack, Cissy McMahan and Jo Ann Terry.
Their former coach, Sam Taylor, was also there for the event. Taylor was the athletics director and head football coach at the time, in addition guiding the girls basketball and girls track and field teams.
The reunion had to be celebrated without Barbara Shipp Leesley and Tula Lewallen Vasel, who live in Colorado and New York, respectively — and Debbie Ballow, who is deceased. Vicki Lowry and manager Karen Keeney also were not able to attend.
All six of the starters from that team are in the SHS Athletic Hall of Fame.
Hyde later took out an ad in the Empire-Tribune marking the reunion. The ad thanked the 2017-2018 Bees and stated, tongue-in-cheek, that “the 50-year-old cake was delicious,” before adding, “See y’all at the 100th celebration.”
Cissy (McMahon) Bramlett shared memories of the state championship season recently, noting that they played in the halfcourt era for high school girls basketball. That meant there were three players on the offensive end and three on the defensive end, separated by the mid-court line.
“Several of us are still here,” said Bramlett, who has lived in Stephenville all her life. “It was just neat to see everybody. It means more (now), getting together. I was pretty tickled. We were all very close as a team. We all ran around together, as friends.”
There were just two other schools in the district then — Mineral Wells and San Angelo Lake View, Bramlett said. Only the first-place team qualified for postseason play, unlike now when the top four make the playoffs from each district.
The 1967-68 Honeybees closed out their championship season with a 41-27 victory over West Orange (now known as West Orange-Stark) in the Class 3A state title game. They had eliminated Carthage in the state semifinals, 38-29.
“We had no trouble in Austin,” Bramlett said, adding that the 41-27 score in the West Orange matchup remains the record in Texas for the lowest aggregate score in a Class 3A girls state final.
“That’s pretty remarkable to still be on the record books,” Bramlett said in a phone interview. “Gloria Hyde was the best player on our team. The Austin American-Statesman said that we were probably the finest defensive team to ever appear on court in Austin.”
Their toughest game that season was in the regional championship game, Bramlett noted, when the Honeybees took on perennial power Canyon and eked out a tight win after being down by seven points late in the game.
Coach Taylor called time out with 2 minutes left in that Canyon game, Bramlett recalled, setting the stage for their furious rally.
“They (the Canyon players) fell apart, and they were fouling us,” Bramlett said. “Barbara hit four of five free throws. She was like the quarterback of the team.
The Honeybees had four juniors who started on their championship squad, along with one sophomore and only one senior.
But the following season belonged to Canyon, which captured the 3A girls state crown to cap the 1968-1969 season.
Bramlett’s son, Todd Bramlett, recently coached the Denton Calvary High School boys basketball team to its third consecutive state semifinal playoff game in the private school division known at TAPPS (Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools). His team was eliminated on Friday in Waco by Midland Classical.
Bramlett’s daughter, Beth Phelps, is an assistant coach in basketball and volleyball at Crowley High School.
Son Chris Bramlet was a starting fullback on the SHS football team that won back-to-back Class 4A state championships in 1993-1994, posting an overall record of 32-0.
Her son Brad Bramlett was a wide receiver on the Yellow Jackets’ football squad that reached the Class 4A regional final. He graduated from SHS in 1996.
Bramlett’s now-deceased brother, Eddie Roach, won a silver medal in the discus at the state meet in 1963 — his senior year at SHS.
‘WE WERE HONEYBEES’
Taylor remained at SHS through 1970 before retiring from coaching and joining the business world in Stephenville, where he still resides with his wife, Joy.
In addition to Taylor’s coaching ability, the winning culture at SHS contributed greatly to the Honeybees winning that state championship, according to Bramlett.
“We won district in the eighth grade, and then that was our goal — to win state,” Bramlett said. “I started watching the Honeybees in 1959 and 1960. When I stepped on the floor (later, as a team member), it was expected that you would win. I just believe tradition plays a big part in any (successful) program. You expect to win; we were Honeybees.”