WESTWOOD – Could it get much better in Westwood?
Two of the most memorable teams in Fairview basketball history, stocked with All-Area players and a pair of legendary coaches.
It was a good to be in the ‘Wood.
Hours before tipoff they started to get in line for tickets. The gymnasium wasn’t going to hold all that wanted to get in to watch the 1975 Eagles play the 1990 Eagles in a simulation battle like Westwood had never seen. It was Dog Rigsby and Co. vs. Mike Helton and Co. It was a pair of freewheeling offenses that liked to shoot more than they liked to breathe.
George Cooke and Rex Cooksey would be matching coaching wits on the benches. Cooke was wearing his plaid sports coat and Cooksey a short sleeve polo with a Fairview logo on the pocket. They were kidding each other at midcourt as the teams started warming up.
“You know those jackets were out of style even when you were wearing them in 1975,” Cooksey said.
“What the hell do you know?” Cooke shot back. “You look like you’re getting ready to cut the grass. Don’t forget I taught you everything you know. You were nothing but a little pup who couldn’t wipe his own butt.”
They both laughed, slapped each other on the back and turned their attention to the game.
“How good is the Helton boy, Rex?” Cooke asked.
“When he gets hot, I’ve never seen anything like him. He can put a team on his back. I’m not sure we’re ready for your bunch though,” Cooksey said. “I’m afraid we’ll have our hands full with Rigsby and Rowe.”
“You’re full of crap as usual,” Cooke said.
The noise in the Fairview gym was deafening. Both sides had bands playing and the noise was bouncing off the metal walls and reverberating with nowhere to go. Everybody’s ears were ringing. It was hard to tell the piercing shrill sound from the referee’s whistles.”
The little concession stand had never been busier and ran out of popcorn before the game even started. That was OK because nobody was about to leave their seat for fear they’d never get it back. It was that crowded.
Cooksey started out in a triangle-and-two with Rigsby and Renfroe being the targets. He was going to collapse around David Rowe if necessary. He was concerned about all three players.
The strategy seemed to backfire early, with Rowe getting loose inside. The 75 Eagles shot out to an 18-14 lead and it grew to 38-28 at the half. Rowe already had a double-double with 12 points with 10 rebounds. Don Rigsby and Rick Renfroe had been controlled a little, combining for 16 points at intermission.
On the other side, Cooke had spun around several times after Mike Helton worked his way for baskets. He had 14 points at the half, making acrobatic shots that seemed unlikely. Cooke turned to sidekick Bob Morrison and grimaced with every basket.
“We couldn’t do anything with him and it was making me mad,” Cooke said after the game. “I didn’t know how we were going to win if we didn’t figure out a way.”
So the script was playing out like everybody else thought it might and it was headed for an exciting finish.
Both teams abandoned gimmicks and went straight man-to-man in the second half. The 90 Eagles came back strong, outscoring the 75 Eagles, 22-13, in the third quarter to pull within 51-50. They took their first lead at 48-47 when Chris Whitlock muscled in a rebound. Two free throws from Chuck Queen put the 75 Eagles back in front at 49-48 before Helton answered with a driving layup and 50-49 lead.
Queen had the answer again, scoring from 15 feet, to put the 75 Eagles ahead 51-50 after three quarters.
But the momentum had clearly swung to the 90 Eagles. Steve Schultz sank a pair of free throws and they had mounted their biggest lead at 63-55.
However, the 75 Eagles picked its collective bodies off the mat and began 10-1 run that put them back ahead 65-64. Rowe and Renfroe combined for eight of those points.
“I knew we couldn’t keep those guys down the whole game,” Cooksey said. “We did a pretty job on them.”
Bobby Clark put the 90 Eagles back ahead 66-65 with a short jumper but when Renfroe answered by scoring on the end of a fastbreak the 75 Eagles never trailed again. The 90 Eagles were within a bucket at 70-68 and 72-70 but consecutive buckets from Rigsby settled it.
“I’ll tell you the honest truth, I wasn’t sure we were going to win this game,” Cooke said. “Rex did a good job with those boys and that Helton kid, he’s something else.”
Helton scored a game-high 28 points and Schultz had 15 points, 10 steals and six assists. Whitlock had seven points and nine rebounds.
Rigsby scored 23 with eight rebounds and Rowe collected 18 points and 14 rebounds. Renfroe scored 13 with four assists.
“I knew it was going to be tough to beat the ‘Wizard’ on his own floor,” Cooksey said of Cooke. “Our guys gave a great effort. Just a little bit short.”
Fairview’s 1990 team got hot at the right time and made a run at the 16th Region title before losing to Boyd County in the finals. Mike Helton scored a record 118 points in three regional tournament games, including 43 in the championship game. The Eagles finished 17-11.
Fairview’s 1975 team went 21-12 and is the only 16th Region champion in school history. Don Rigsby scored 27 per game and the Eagles made history but bowed out in their only Sweet 16 appearance.
1975 FAIRVIEW (76) – Renfroe 5-7 3-7 13, Clark 3-8 0-0 6, Rigsby 8-13 7-10 23, Rowe 5-12 8-9 18, Canfield 1-1 0-3 2, Stevens 0-1 3-4 3, Kouns 0-0 0-0 0, Queen 2-6 7-8 11. FG: 24-48. FT: 28-41. 3FG: 0-0. Rebounds: 37 (Renfroe 1, Clark 5, Rigsby 8, Canfield 2, Rowe 14, Stevens 1, Kouns 4, Queen 2). Assists: 12 (Renfroe 4, Clark 3, Rigsby 1, Rowe 1, Stevens 3). PF: 27. Turnovers: 22.
1990 FAIRVIEW (70) – Schultz 4-13 7-11 15, Cannoy 0-2 0-1 0, Helton 10-21 7-10 28, Whitlock 2-5 3-4 7, Clark 3-6 3-4 9, Hammonds 3-6 0-0 6, Howard 2-5 1-4 5. FG: 24-59. FT: 21-30. 3FG: 1-8 (Schultz 0-1, Cannoy 0-1, Helton 1-6). Rebounds: 26 (Schultz 3, Cannoy 1, Helton 4, Whitlock 9, Clark 4, Hammonds 4, Howard 1). Assists: 13 (Schultz 6, Cannoy 3, Helton 2, Whitlock 1, Clark 1). PF: 30. Turnovers: 16.
1975 FAIRVIEW 18 20 13 27 – 76
1990 FAIRVIEW 14 14 22 20 – 70