By Junior Johnson
There was once a sports program on TV called ABC Wide World of Sports. Their motto was “The Thrill of Victory & The Agony of Defeat.” This fit perfectly with a group of young basketball players from Cloutierville High School.
In 1965 I was a senior on Cloutierville’s basketball team and we had very little success on the hardwood court up until that year. We were a small country school and played in the smallest classification in the State….Class C
District 3-C included our Cloutierville Bulldogs, Gorum Eagles, Flora Lumberjacks, and the Kisatchie Hawks. Competition was fierce and basketball was the life blood of the schools and communities which they were located in.
We had one of the finest men I’ve ever met as our Coach. Mark Brossett was very passionate and knowledgeable of the game, unfortunately he just couldn’t develop the talent from the young men that he had to work with…..until the 1965 season when things seemed to come together.
We had experienced “The Agony of Defeat” in my previous three years on the team; however, through Coach Mark’s patience and our hard work things came together our senior year of 1965. We were happy for what we were able to accomplish for our beloved Coach Mark. We won the District 3-C Basketball Championship. Cloutierville High School had won the first Championship in School history.
We anxiously awaited the pairings for the first round of playoffs. Members of our team included myself, Dennis LaCaze, Jerry Spurgeon, John Lodrigue, Billy Spillman, Zack Owens, Garlin Hernandez, John Masson and Charles Longino. We were all Seniors and this was our chance to shine at the next level of competition.
Coach Mark assembled us all in the gym and announced that our first round opponent would be Belmont High School. They had lost only one game that season and had a player by the name of James Wyatt who was said to be a beast. We were not intimidated…until we saw him.
As we took the floor the night of the play-off game it was hard to concentrate on our own practice drills, as we watched Belmont and James Wyatt go through their drills on the opposite end of the court.
I was 6’1″ and played center on our team. It was going to be my responsibility to guard James Wyatt. It was no contest from the beginning tip-off and I was overwhelmed and embarrassed by the big man. Coach Mark tried different defenses throughout the game but nothing helped. We prayed for a merciful ending to the game.
When the game finally ended the score was Belmont 110 – Cloutierville 38. I kept an article of the game for a number of years. The box score showed that James Wyatt had scored 62 points and I scored only 8 points as he towered over me throughout the game.
We had gone from “The Thrill of Victory” to “The Agony of Defeat” in less than a month.
What happened to James Wyatt? I had the pleasure of meeting him again that Fall as we were both Freshmen at Northwestern State College where James had accepted a scholarship to play Basketball from 1965-1969.
We hadn’t seen each other since our playoff game and as the Demons scrimmaged one day in Prather Coliseum I made my way to the sideline where I talked with him during a break. He remembered me and we laughed about the playoff game and I told him that I was responsible for him getting his scholarship because of the stellar performance he put on me during that game. We really had a good laugh about that little joke. I wished him the very best in his career.
During his four years as a Demon, James Wyatt lead the team in rebounds each of his four years and twice lead the team in scoring.
In 1981 James Wyatt was inducted into the prestigious Northwestern N-Club Hall of Fame, and in 1987 he was into the Louisiana College Basketball Hall of Fame. He won many other honors too numerous to mention here.
James Wyatt certainly experienced “The Thrill of Victory”, but even though he was an extremely talented basketball player, he was a kind and humble young man.
I was proud to have been able to call James Wyatt a friend…….off the hardwood basketball court.