There was a theme for this year’s FHSAA 1-A Boys’ State Basketball Champion West Gadsden Panthers. That was ‘ONE 4 ALL, ALL 4 MOODY.’
The Moody was William who even after all these years is a basketball icon for this county. He passed away last summer.
William led Greensboro to three straight state championships in 1969, ‘70 and ‘71 during an unheard of 78-game winning streak for the school.
The state championships all were won in the Jacksonville Coliseum and Lamar McGlaun (deceased) was the head coach for all three titles.
The wins came over Port St. Joe Washington 87-81 in overtime in ‘69, 63-53 over Harris Hastings in ‘70, and 80-55 over Key West Mary Immaculate in ’71.
C.E. Richardson (deceased) was the school’s principal at that time, which was the dawn of integration in the county.
With integration came the heyday of the county’s boys’ basketball success. In a span of 13 years, nine championships came to the county. Chattahoochee, Havana
Northside, and Carter - Parramore also won championships under the guidance of coaches like Corbin Scott (deceased), Isome Francis (deceased), and Vernell Ross with the last championship coming in ’78 under a Ross-coached Northside team.
Thus, West Gadsden broke a 39-year boys’ championship drought when they defeated Wildwood 64-44 Wednesday in the Lakeland Center.
Andrew Moten was the coach of this year’s team, finally winning it on a third attempt.
Moody was with him the first two times in 2012 and ‘13; not so this time around ‘excepting in spirit.’
And that spirit will probably be around Greensboro a long time, because even after graduation, after college play at the University of Florida and New Orleans Dillard,
William’s real home was Greensboro and his love for the game made him be a part of the program at his alma mater and then at West Gadsden when a merger caused the building of a new high school in Greensboro.
“He was a close friend, a real buddy,” Moten said. “He was not only a great player, he also had a great basketball mind.”
Moten, a star himself at Shanks, UF and overseas pro basketball, knew him well, not only idolizing him as a youngster, but also playing AAU ball with him, and coaching with him from the start when Moten took over at West Gadsden.
“He was a true friend, and we as a team have no trouble dedicating this championship to him,” Moten adds.
A state championship can bring on reflections. In this case names like Johnny Kelly, Ken Bryant, Bobby Lane, Joe Rowan, Lynn Tyus, Larry McPherson, Garron Boyd, Rocky Pace (now an assistant principal at West Gadsden), Bobby Shepard and Billy VanLandingham pop up. They were players along with Moody on the state championship teams.
The closing of West Gadsden as a high school is in the air. But if ever there is another state championship in the town, the names Russell Harrison, Xavier Bush, Mark Bradwell, Andrew Reddick, Sammy Carter, Rondderrious Stokes, Barry Corker, Jr., Jimmy Hester, Emond Miller, Armon Williams, Ronterious Stokes, Paul Matthews, Antonio Charleston and Dedric Streeter are liable to come up.
They are the members of this year’s team, who were led by Andrew Moten and the principalship of James Mills.