1967-68 Pantherettes to be honored

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Updated: February 2, 2018

Members of the 1967-68 Class A State Champion Ashdown Pantherette Basketball team were (from left): Front – Johnette Terry, Nita McGraw, Suzanne Walker, Gayle Altenbaumer, Kay Welch (Captain) and Pat Terry; Back – Judy Duncan (manager), Marie Hill, Susan Spates, Genie Wood, Charlotte Waren, Mary Latimer, Sandi Tabler and coach Helen Parker.

By Quinton Bagley

Little River News

Head coach Helen Parker

Ashdown Pantherette basketball has a long tradition of excellence that dates back to the 1950s. Over the past 62 years, Ashdown has won four state championships and played for several others. Most of the Pantherettes’ success came under the watchful eye of future Hall of Fame head coach Helen Parker. In fact, Ashdown’s four state titles were won during her tenure as head coach. The first came in 1957. It would be 11 years later, 1968, that the Pantherettes would win their next state title – the first of three consecutive.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of that second state title win and to commemorate that occasion, the 1967-68 Pantherette team will be honored on Friday, February 9, at Parker Gymnasium as Ashdown takes on Horatio. Events planned for the honorees include introduction at a pep rally at 3 p.m. in the gym, recognition at halftime of the girls’ game that evening followed by a casual reception in the Ashdown High School library.

Parker remembers the 1967-68 team as, “smart, keen, easy to coach, outgoing and competitive.”

“They were talented and they were good students,” Parker said. “Their parents were very supportive and we had a lot of support from the community.”

During this time, girls played 6-man basketball. In 6-man basketball, teams had six players each instead of five – three forwards and three guards. Only forwards were allowed to shoot the ball. Also in 6-man basketball, forwards had to stay in their teams’ frontcourt and guards had to stay in their team’s backcourt. In other words, forwards played only offense and guards played only defense.

“We had a tremendous offense that year,” Parker said. “Gayle Altenbaumer, Suzanne Walker and Nita McGraw were quite the combination at the forward end of the court.”

Although the Pantherettes were talented on offense, they equally as talented on defense.

“The two Terry cousins, Johnette Terry and Pat Terry, along with Kay Welch were very good on defense. Charlotte Waren would also play some in the backcourt. They weren’t all that tall or big but they were quick on defense.”

In today’s game, players who can come off the bench and give you valuable minutes are key components to good teams. It was no different for the 1967-68 Pantherettes.

“We had wonderful bench players as well,” Parker said. “Mary Latimer, Genie Wood, Susan Spates, Sandi Tabler and Marie Hill gave us great effort off the bench.”

The 1967-68 team ended the season with an overall record of 27-4. They lost four times – three times to Bradley, who would win the Class B state championship that year, and once to district rival Hope. Ashdown avenged the loss to Hope in the district tournament championship game at Prescott, 54-51, in double overtime to earn a berth in the state tournament, also hosted by Prescott, the following week.

In the first round, the Pantherettes defeated Hardy Highland, 57-39, to advance to the quarterfinals. In the quarterfinals, Ashdown defeated Tuckerman, 55-44, to advance to the semifinals. In the semis, Ashdown defeated Alma, 46-39, to earn a berth in the state title game against – the Hope Lady Bobcats. It was close contest but in the end it was the Pantherettes who were victorious, 47-46. Altenbaumer led Ashdown with 24 points. McGraw had 20 and Walker had three. McGraw and Welch were named to the All-State team.

The 1967-68 Pantherette team will be honored on Friday, February 9, at Parker Gymnasium as Ashdown takes on Horatio. Game time is scheduled for 5 p.m.