CHOUTEAU, OK —
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Devers coached for five years at Chouteau, his alma mater. He was 32 years of age when his team won the state title in 1963.
“We concentrated on our defense. We ran a 1-3-1. If they can't score, they can't win. That's kind of the way we looked at it,” Devers said. “Defense was the name of the game for us. The 1-3-1, if it's not set up right, it's the sorriest zone in basketball. If it is, it's the toughest thing you've got going.”
Chouteau lost just one game in their 1963 state title season, a 38-31 defeat at the hands of Salina. They blazed through the regular season and postseason tournaments, finally winding up in Oklahoma City for the state tourney.
In the first round of the '63 tournament at the Oklahoma City Municipal Auditorium, the Wildcats played Geary. Geary took a seven-point lead with about three minutes to play when Doc called a timeout.
“Our front man, Johnny Justice, he looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, 'Coach, we gotta do something,'” Devers said. “I said, 'Yeah, you're right.'”
Whatever they did, it worked. Chouteau found itself up by three with 15 seconds to play. Devers, along with everyone else in the building, knew who was going to take Geary's next shot: H.L. Brown.
Brown was well-known as a pure shooter. As Devers recalled, he just knew how to put it in the hole. He could knock it down from anywhere on the court.
“If we'd have had 3-pointers back then,” Devers said, “there's no telling how many points he would have scored.”
In the huddle before Geary's final possession, post player Ken Holmes spoke up with authority. “If you all get out of my way,” Holmes said, “I'll get the rebound when he misses.”
Sure enough, Brown missed to the right, and Holmes snared the rebound. The game in hand, Holmes passed out to teammate Robert Steddum ― who happened to be standing out of bounds.
“Boy, I could have cried,” Devers said.
With five seconds left, Geary went to inbound the ball ― and promptly passed it to a Chouteau player. The Wildcats escaped with a 47-44 win.
“When we got back to the hotel after that first game, I took off my coat and looked down. There were sweat rings that went to my belt,” Devers said. “There was a good deal of pressure in that game.”