Martis Robinson’s 1966-67 Athens High School basketball team had a tough act to follow.
In his first campaign as coach, Robinson had guided the 1965-66 squad to a 20-10 record, but with eight seniors taking the hardwood, the Trojans not only bettered their mark of the previous season, they captured the schools’ first ever Region 4AAA crown.
The big eight seniors were led by 6’2” forward Bolling Dubose. He led the team in scoring (15.3), field goals (144 of 292) free throw percentage (76%), and rebounding (189)l.
5’10” guard Donnie Wood averaged 12.2 points and hit 71% of his shots from the line.
The team captain was 6’1” forward Mike Hale. Consistency was his middle name as he finished second in scoring with a 12.9 average while clearing 5.2 boards per game.
5’11” Bobby Holmes was starting at the other guard spot for the first year and averaged 7.5 points per contest while bringing quickness and defensive tenacity to the lineup.
At center the Trojans featured 6’2” Harold Williams, also in his first year in the starting lineup. Williams scored 8.3 points per contest while averaging 6.1 boards against taller opponents.
Al Epting, a 5’8” guard, was a force whether starting or coming off the bench. He was very fast and made a reputation as a big play man for the Trojans. The highlight of the season for him was probably the Madison County win in which he converted a pair of free throws and a fast break basket in the final two minutes to spark Athens to a 59-56 victory.
Calvin Stansell at 6’4” was the Trojans’ biggest player and usually came off the bench, averaging 4.3 points and 3.1 rebounds.
Stan Parker rounded out the strong senior class chipping in 1.6 points per contest in a reserve role.
The rest of the roster included Bob Bowen, Maxie Foster, John Parker, Sammy Smith, Andy Johnson, Roger Harris, Sherron Perry, and David Allen.
During the 1966-67 basketball season, junior Maxie Foster became the first black athlete to compete for Athens High School in any sport.
The Trojans rolled through their regular season schedule like the veteran team that they were, compiling a 17-6 overall record and a 9-2 Region 4AAA mark entering the final night of region play. The Trojans had split with Tucker and Briarcliff in region play.
Tucker sat on top of the region with a record of 10-1 and faced Chamblee in their final game, while Athens was visiting Lakeside for the dedication of the Vikings new gymnasium.
Athens ruined Lakeside’s dedication with a 59-50 win and got the help they needed from Chamblee who upset Tucker 65-62 to give the Trojans a share of the crown.
However the win over Lakeside was not easy.
There were 1,200 fans packed into the stands cheering for a Viking upset and the home team responded by jumping to a 6-0 lead and a 15-10 first quarter advantage. The Lakeside lead grew to eight before hot shooting Bobby Holmes and Bo DuBose cut the margin to 26-24 at the half.
Lakeside came out of intermission and went ahead by five before Athens seemed to take command at the end of the third quarter by a score of 43-35.
However the Vikings refused to die as Al Horne hit four straight goals to bring Lakeside back to 46-50 midway through the fourth quarter.
Captain Mike Hale then hit two field goals and two free throws to seal the victory for Athens. Hale finished with 16 points, 14 in the second half, and DuBose scored 20.
This was Athens High’s first region title since the 1955 squad won Region 4A, abut there were still more mountains to climb as Athens had not been to the state tournament since Arnold DelaPerriere’s team made the trip in 1957.
Athens came out firing in the opening round of the Region 4AAA tournament and destroyer Dykes 74-38.
Once again Hale and DuBose led the onslaught as the forwards combined for 23 first half points and then sat out most of the rest of the lopsided win.
Coach Robinson was able to play everyone including members of the Trojans’ undefeated B Team who were accompanying the varsity to the tournament.
Next up was a Briarcliff five that had caught fire at the end of the season and had many people thinking of them as title contenders.
But the Trojans doused the Briarcliff fire behind a balnced scoring attack once again by Dubose (20 points).
Bobby Holmes and Donnie Wood kicked in with 15 each and Harold Williams scored 13 as Athens won 73-62 to set up a rubber match with Tucker for the undisputed Region 4AAA title.
It wasn’t going to be easy as the tournament was being played in Tucker’s Home gym, but the Trojans would not be denied.
Tucker took the lead early and held a 15-11 advantage at the end of the first period.
DuBose came out smoking in the second, scoring 10 straight Athens points and putting the Trojans up by 21-19.
After Tucker went ahead once again, Holmes scored a couple of goals and Athens led 27-25 at the half of the see-sawing contest Athens never again trailed.
With the score at 33-32 in the third, Athens went to their press and behind big plays from Holmes, Hale and DuBose the Trojans led 48-40 after three quarters of play.
With a six point lead and seven minutes left Athens went into a stall and Tucker cut the lead to 49-47 before foul shots by DuBose and Holmes put Athens up by five.
Tucker kept fighting back however and cut the lead to 54-53 with two and half minutes on the clock.
Donnie Wood hit a bucket with 1:04 remaining to make the score 56-53, thenhit two foul shots with 31 seconds on the clock to make the score 58-55.
Then the clock operator got into the game. All of a sudden there was 41 seconds on the clock and Tucker hit a 25 footer to cut the lead to 58-57 with 20 seconds still left.
DuBose then hit two free throws to put Athens back up by three and Wood hit a bucket at the buzzer for the final five point margin of 62-57.
The Trojans brought a region championship trophy back to the Classic City for the first time as a AAA school by virtue of a strong senior class that played together as a team, using speed and defense to defeat taller teams.
Against Warner Robins in the first round of the state tournament a Mike Hale jumper gave Athens a 33-31 lead on the first shot of the second half and the Trojans held the advantage until the final seconds of the game, but ended their season with a 64-61 loss to the Demons. The game was played at Alexander Memorial Coliseum in Atlanta.
Even though they were unable to advance in the state tourney the Trojans had a great season.
Their 21-7 record was the schools’ best since the 1956-57 team went 20-4 and the most wins since the 1954 team chalked up a 22-3 record.
The seven losses all came at the hands of strong teams. Class B contender Oconee County beat Athens twice, Class A favorite Madison County beat the Trojans once, and Anderson was South Carolina’s top AAA team, in addition to the region losses to Briarcliff and Tucker.
This was one of Athens’ most exciting basketball teams ever.