’49-50 Rebels bring back memories

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 5, 2001

It inevitably happens: I’ll mention some year some year in the past, and a reader will make me happy by bringing up perhaps a more memorable year.

Such was the case recently when Gene McGehee and I talked old Natchez High School boys basketball over coffee at McDonald’s-Tracetown. How old?

Well, the late coach A.I. Rexinger’s 1949-50 Rebel basketball team that came from nowhere to win the Big Eight Conference championship.

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It happened in Hattiesburg where many Big Eight tournaments were held. Like so many times back in those days I had my Natchez Democrat scorebook in hand and much enthusiasm . . . on the scene and rarin’ to cover Coach Rex’s Rebels!

NHS had shaded Greenville 31-30 the last game of the ’49-50 season behind Gene McGehee’s 12 points, six by Charles Gilbert. Five by Johnny Smith, and Carl &uot;Little Flop&uot; Thomas’ four. Center Benny Jack Wilson surprisingly had but three.

But not to worry, Benny Jack hit his stride after that and he and McGehee started a one-two punch that carried coach Rex’s Rebels all the way to the conference tourney title.

Moss Point had to go, 64-28, then big Jackson Central 55-34, a game in which Natchez’s balanced attack saw McGehee score 20 points, Wilson 14 and Smith 10. Eyebrows were raised.

Typically, though, the Rebels of wily coach Rexinger then put away highly regarded Tupelo 58-51 behind jam-up overall play by Little Flop Thomas, who scored eight points but was a leech defensively guarding Tupelo ace Hilton Collier.

Little Flop had to be pressed into full-time action when starter Charles Gilbert came down sick, but he delivered in spades.

Smooth, hustling Benny Jack Wilson scored 20 points against Tupelo on seven field goals and six free throws. Blackie Herring added 17, McGehee 10 and Thomas eight. You can imagine that reporters write themselves little personal notes when action gets hot. Well, I scratched myself the following note:

&uot;Little Flop is playing a jam-up game. He has come through just like I thought he would.&uot;

Upon graduation Little Flop joined the Army and shortly after that he was reported missing in action. Natchez was devastated. He was a great young man.

At any rate, NHS had subsequently clipped Hattiesburg (again) 41-37 for the Big Eight championship. Wilson had 15 points, Herring 10 and McGehee, whom I remind was NHS’s floor leader, eight.

Hope you don’t mind my &uot;going back&uot; now and then. It’s fun.

Hurried Hash – Adams County Christian continues strong in baseball, and one big reason is the Rebels’ head coach, Gill Morris, who is already thinking next season after having played for the state championship this year.

One reason is the young Rebs finished 22-8 this past season and at one time strung together 13-game winning streaks – one at home and another 13-game winning streak, period. Not bad for his first stint in private school coaching. Gill’s always been competitive, and that’s not to put him on the spot.

If Gill Morris has potential, he’s coached long enough to know how to manage his material. Trust him to do it.