By David Elwell
The Decatur Daily

Basketball coach Bob Harpe had a simple formula to building a team.

The Hall of Famer would determine which player was the best scoring threat. Next he would determine which player was the best defender.

“Once you get those two, you find three more who can understand their roles and play with the others,” Harpe said. “Hopefully, it all works out.”

It certainly did for Harpe’s 1992-93 Austin team. Those Black Bears won the 1993 Class 6A state championship with a 54-44 win over Tuscaloosa County.

“We knew we were going to win that championship before the season started,” Jody Witt said. “We were a confident team. Yes, we were a little cocky, but we believed in each other.”

Witt was one of three seniors on that championship team. Fellow senior Rod Bass (6-foot-4) was the No. 1 offensive threat. Senior Brian Kincaid (6-5) provided muscle at center. The 6-4 Witt played forward and was the top inside defender and a key rebounder.

“Jody was a hard worker,” Harpe said. “That’s why he was such a great defender and a great rebounder.”

In the state championship game win over Tuscaloosa County, it was Witt’s offense that kicked the Black Bears into high gear. After leading 23-14 at halftime, the Black Bears opened the third quarter with a 14-0 run with 10 points coming from Witt.

“I remember being in the locker room at halftime and telling Coach Harpe there’s no way we’re going to lose this game,” Witt said.

That winning feeling was something Witt and his teammates were familiar with. They won 30 games and lost just three times, twice in overtime. The Black Bears lost to Frayser, Tennessee, 74-67, to Vestavia, 62-59, in two overtimes and to Walker, 92-90, in three overtimes. They were 9-0 vs. Huntsville City Schools.

Bass, Kincaid and Witt were joined in the starting lineup by junior Arthur Morris and sophomore Shae Reynolds. Coming off the bench were juniors Nick Pisani, Todd Greenlee and Cal Morris and sophomores Quentine Pryor, Chris Weakley, Andreas Stevenson and Shawn Reed.

The road to a state championship was a little different in 1993 than it is today. There were six classifications. The girls championships were played in Hanceville at Wallace State. The boys were split with three classifications being decided in Tuscaloosa and three in Auburn.

After getting past Bradshaw, Lee and Grissom in area and sub-regional play, Austin was one of eight teams in Class 6A to head to Auburn to play at what was called Eaves Coliseum at the time.

Austin survived an opening round game with Central-Tuscaloosa winning 58-56. The Black Bears blew past McGill-Toolen, 69-48, in the semifinals on Friday night. That set up Saturday’s state championship showdown with Tuscaloosa County.

“We woke up that Saturday morning and there was eight inches of snow on the ground,” Harpe said. “We stayed out at the Stillwaters Resort about 15 miles from Auburn.”

Getting to the arena was suddenly an issue.

“I drove out to the main highway and there was a state trooper parked,” Harpe said. “He told me all the roads were closed.”

Of course the team made it to Auburn, but the ordeal left Harpe wondering how his Black Bears would react to a major disruption in their pre-game routine.

“While Coach Harpe went to check on the roads, the whole team got into a giant snow ball fight,” Witt said. “It was crazy, but I think it relaxed everybody. When it came time to play, we were ready.”

Austin surprised Tuscaloosa County with full-court pressure. The nine-point halftime lead just signaled the start. With 3:48 left in the third, the Black Bears led 37-14.

“Coach (Stuart) Allen and Coach (Chip) Miller did a great job coming up with a game plan,” Witt said.

Bass led Austin with 23 points and was named the tournament MVP. Witt scored 14

Because of the snow, the team and most of the fans, who made it to Auburn, didn’t get back to Decatur until the following Tuesday.

That championship season gave Witt lessons that he still carries with him today.

“I learned that when you share a common goal and you are successful, there’s not a better feeling.”

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