March 9th was a night to remember for high school basketball, crowning state champions on the hardwood for GHSA boys and girls.
And between matchups on Saturday night, an old champion stole the spotlight for an anniversary that happened on the same floor of the Coliseum before any of Friday’s student athletes were even born.
The Southwest Patriots won the 1979 GHSA Boys State title in the highest classification, additionally touted the National Championship recognition as well, and for some of the players, the memories all came rushing back.
“The way we won that game against our cross-town rival, Northeast Macon, down 10 in the fourth quarter,” player Bobby Jones explains. “Coach Richardson makes a substitution that turned out to be epic. He put in Carl Tyler in the game and he ends up getting 5 straight steals and we end up winning the game by 9, and certainly the best year in sports in my lifetime.”
Jones’ teammate Michael Hunt agrees. “We all grew up in the same neighborhood. There was no one changing schools and we knew each other from junior high and we played together in the summer and offseason and carried that into the school year.”
14 out of the 15 original players on the roster, minus NBA great Jeff Malone, returned to Macon where it all happened 40 years ago, finishing with a 28-0 record. But it was more than the coaches and team celebrating. Family members like Elvin Malone Senior, Jeff's father, was reliving the moment as well.
“I was so glad they decided to bring this group back together because some of these kids I haven’t seen in a long time, and the spirit and the attitude and the way we feel about each other is the same,” says Malone. “It's like we've been together all along, and that was the beauty in this. I got to see so many and we still love each other, and that’s key.”
This group of athletes, affectionately known as "Duck's Boys," referring to the late head coach Don "Duck" Richardson, are still recognized as one of America's greatest prep teams ever assembled.
Up until last Saturday, Southwest was the only undefeated boys state champion at the highest classification -- that's until McEachern joined the club with a win to finish 32-0.