Thursday, February 25, 2021

Making the List

My favorite memories of Niles Gayle Brown begin with the one and only season he played on the basketball team at CCHS. It was his senior year. Up until then he only played basketball on the FFA teams. Really, Niles loved to hunt more than anything, but he was also a fine baseball player. The one thing he did well on the basketball court was shoot free throws. For instance, the Mighty Bulldogs were entering the final week of January, 1973 recuperating from two losses they had suffered the week before to Cumberland County and Warren Central.

Three games were on the schedule this week, including the biennial road trip to Logan County to play Auburn and Lewisburg. But first, on Tuesday night, the 23rd, they faced what Clinton County News sportswriter Mike Reeves referred to as the "flying" Gamaliel Tigers, a tough opponent no matter where the the game was played. This game, played here at home, was a close one from start to finish. The Tigers had a two point lead going into the fourth quarter. With 19 seconds remaining, we were up by one when Niles Gayle was fouled. He stepped up to the free throw line and became the hero of the game by calmly cashing in on both attempts, ensuring a Bulldogs victory.

The next game, on Jan. 26th at Auburn, would be another close one. With 10 seconds to go, Clinton County led 75-to-73, but an Auburn player connected on a 50-foot bank shot at the buzzer to send the game into overtime. The extra period was intense. The Bulldogs were down by one with 30 seconds left, but Larry Hatfield's free throw sent the game into a second overtime period tied at 81-all. It was definitely a nail-biter. With five seconds left in the second overtime, and Clinton County leading 88-to-87, who would be fouled but Niles Gayle Brown and, just as he had done three nights earlier against Gamaliel, he once again made both free throws and became a hero for the second game in a row, as the Bulldogs defeated Auburn for the first time ever.

It was that last week of January 1973 that Niles Gayle and his teammates from that season were added to my list of all-time favorite CCHS basketball players. Other than Niles Gayle and Larry Hatfield, the '72-73 team consisted of Mike Tallent, Mark Shearer, Ronnie Neal, Doug Hatfield, Frank Alexander, Jeff Choate, Ricky Mercader, Darrell Butler, Floyd Mercer and Freddie Branham. They were coached by Jim DeForest, assisted by Bob Reneau.

Larry Hatfield had 38 rebounds in that Auburn game, which earned him a place in the KHSAA record book. He has been tied for 5th place with Russ Thompson of Fairview (vs. Louisa, 2-28-69) ever since.

By the way, in the third and final game that week, on the 27th, Clinton County wrapped up it's road trip to Logan County by beating the Lewisburg Rangers 61-to-48.

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