James Jones: Fantasizing about a Southside-Holt basketball game in 1980s

Published 10:49 am Thursday, June 13, 2024

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Southside High School and Holt High School enjoyed their greatest runs in basketball nearly 40 years ago. 

The Panthers won a Class 5A state championship in 1985 and narrowly missed out on capturing two more titles during that span.

Holt, my alma mater, reached the 1987 5A state semifinals and came close to reaching the state tournament in other seasons.

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The one team Holt and Southside had in common was Hayes. The Panthers beat Hayes 58-56 in the 5A finals for the 1985 title. Hayes eliminated Holt in the 1987 5A semifinals and eventually won the 5A crown.

The Hayes football team has a special meaning to me. During my first-ever varsity game as a sophomore defensive lineman in 1985, I scored a touchdown as the Ironmen beat Hayes 44-0.

Back to basketball, I’m wondering why Holt and Southside did not cross in that span. I did not play basketball, but I wrote for the high school newspaper, “The Purple Reign.”

I’ll be honest, I’m not sure if Holt would have stopped Southside guard Rodney “6-9” Stevens, considered the greatest basketball player ever in Dallas County. During the Panthers’ title season, Stevens, who died in 2018, had three 50-point games.  

Southside narrowly missed out on repeating as 5A state champions in 1986, falling to Eufaula 57-56 in the state finals. Despite the loss, Stevens was named 5A state player of the year. He averaged 28 points and 12 rebounds a game as a senior.  

At Southside’s 25-year reunion on Jan. 13, 2010, Stevens told The Selma Times-Journal that the Panthers should’ve won more state titles during his career. 

“My sophomore year in 1983-84, we were a better team talent-wise, but we had a lot more heart and desire during the 1984-85 season,” Stevens said. “The 1983-84 team was the best of my high school career, but we ran into a good Keith team. The 1985-86 team didn’t have enough desire to win.”

A Southside-Holt basketball game would’ve produced a nice storyline for me, especially writing about Stevens. 


James Jones is the managing editor of The Selma Times-Journal. He can be reached at james.jones@selmatimesjournal.com.