(Jan. 31, 2020) It’s been 50 years since the Stephen Decatur boys’ basketball team won the state championship. To celebrate the accomplishment, players, coaches and managers of the 1970 team will be recognized this Friday at the Berlin high school.
“It’s the 50th anniversary and we would like for the community to come out on this evening to be a part of this historic event,” said BJ Johnson, current coach of the Decatur boys’ basketball team. “It’s going to be a historic night.”
Nearly two dozen former players, coaches and team managers will be on hand for the event. Family members of some of the players who have died will attend to represented their loved ones.
The JV game will begin at 4 p.m. During that time, the alumni will have a chance to mingle, enjoy some food and catch up before the ceremony, which will take place during halftime of the varsity boys’ basketball game against the Pocomoke Warriors. The game is scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m.
The group will have a special seating area under the basket to watch the games.
Prior to the start of the varsity game, Decatur will honor and have a moment of silence for longtime team supporter, Annie Snead Fooks, who passed away a few months ago. Her son, Derrick, coach of the Pocomoke boys’ basketball team, will be presented a ball in her honor.
Principal Tom Sites will kick off the 50th anniversary ceremony, then Lou Taylor, superintendent of Worcester County Public Schools, will introduce each player, coach and manager.
A special 50th anniversary banner will also be unveiled as well.
“We’re making it a big thing. We’ve got a pretty nice night planned for them,” Sites said. “This team was big in bringing the community together. When you think about what this team has done, they deserve it.”
Decatur went to the state championship in 1969, 1970 and 1971. The only year in the program’s history the team has won a state championship title was in 1970.
Al “Hondo” Handy was a member of the varsity team those three years.
He was a junior when the team captured the title. The team went 20-1 that year, he said. The squad’s only loss was to Washington High School, by two points, Handy added.
Ahead 64-61 during the state championship game against Frederick High, Decatur’s opponent cut the lead to one point with time running down, but the Berlin boys held on for a 64-63 victory, Handy said.
The recently-retired Ocean City Recreation and Parks Department recreation supervisor said he is excited and looking forward to being with his former teammates and coaches.
Some still live around the area, while others will be traveling from all over the country.
Handy said some of the men have met up over the last few years, most recently prior to the annual Greater Berlin Minority Scholarship Committee fundraiser golf tournament.
“Players, coaches, managers, it might be the first time since we won that this many of us will be together,” he said. “Man, this is 50 years. It really does not feel like that long. It should be pretty exciting to see all the guys together again.”
Handy, who frequently attends Decatur basketball games, said people in the community still talk about the 1970 team and its accomplishments.
But Handy said it was more than just winning a title. During a time of schools starting to be integrated, the team brought the community together.
“It brought people from Berlin, from Ocean City, blacks and whites, together,” he said. “That was a time three years [prior] it was segregated. Our team kind of brought our whole community together.”
Handy said the boys weren’t just playing for the school and for each other, but for the entire community.
“It’s not just a team who won a state basketball championship, the community came out to support them. They all rallied around the team,” Sites added. “We’re celebrating this team that meant more than just basketball.”
Decatur has been a state semifinalist eight times (1957, 1974, 1981, 1984, 1992, 2010, 2017 and 2018) and has competed in the championship game four times (1969, 1970, 1971 and 2016).