Mike Payne is 70 years old now. He has lived a good and productive life as a Delta farmer. In college, he was a star pitcher for Delta State University. He has seen it all, and then again. But, perhaps, nothing makes his eyes light up more than when he goes back in time and talks about the basketball game he played in back in 1967.
Payne’s Leland Cubs won the game over Drew 4-2. That’s right. The final score of the basketball game was 4-2, and this one was for the North Mississippi Class A Boys Championship. It is considered to be the lowest scoring game in Mississippi high school history.
Making the memory even sweeter for Payne was that Drew was led by a certain young athlete by the name of Archie Manning. While Manning had not yet gone on to college and NFL fame, even back then he was still “the big gun of the Delta,” as Payne describes.
Payne was the point guard for Leland back then, and he delivered the winning assist to Peanut Horton with one second left in the game. Horton had to break free a couple of times from his man before Payne found him.
Tales have long been told of the low-scoring stalemate. Leland and Drew had met five times prior to the fateful night of Feb. 25, 1967, at Philadelphia High School.
Even though the game was played more than 50 years ago, Payne can still rattle off the play by play of each possession and how each precious point was scored.
“The game started off and Peanut got the tip, and then he missed all three shots after he got after his own rebounds. Then Drew got the ball, and they started to stall. We finally scored in the second quarter when Joel Ferriss made a free throw. George Stallings hit another free throw for us to put us ahead 2-0 with two minutes left in the game. But, then Bobby Holder for Drew made a put back with 12 seconds left in the game to tie things up at 2-2,” Payne said.
Then it was Payne and Peanut’s time to shine for the game winner.
“It was quite something. We were really happy, but the folks in Philadelphia were used to seeing run-and-gun basketball, so they weren’t happy about how the game was played, and they let us know it,” Payne said.
While both teams had used stall tactics throughout the season, Drew used the tactic first this time.
Both teams circumvented the rules by holding the ball inside the time line and the other team would not guard them. There was no rule that said the defense had to attack the offense so an offensive man could hold the ball as long as he was inside the timeline.
According to an article written in 1982 by Meridian Star sports writer Joe Culpepper, Drew player Roger Owen recalls, “The way we looked at it, we were going to state anyway. Our strategy was to hold the ball and try to take a shot inside of 10 seconds left in the quarters. It wasn’t much fun playing in the game. People were throwing popcorn and hollering at us. It got kind of ridiculous.”
Also in the article, Manning recalls, “The story I remember most of all was after the game they gave Leland a trophy for winning and gave us the game ball for runner-up. Me being the captain, I walked to center court to accept the ball. The crowd was quiet for the presentation when somebody in the stands hollered, “Now dribble that S.O.B.”
Drew, it has been said, decided to slow things down because it was worn out from the game it played against Philadelphia the night before. The coaches decided to freeze it and told the Drew players to not even go for a shot until the end of the first quarter.
“It was a good strategy for Drew, but it didn’t work well enough,” laughed Payne.