The 1979 Longhorn boys basketball state championship team has been inducted into the Payson High School Hall of Fame.
The players were tapped into the hall during ceremonies held Oct. 19 at the Mazatzal Hotel and Casino. The ceremony also honored two past coaches and several current student-athletes.
The HOF induction was not the first the team has received. On Feb. 28, 2004 at then-America West Arena in Phoenix, the Arizona Interscholastic Association recognized the team during a 25th anniversary celebration.
During the season of 1978-79, the Longhorns compiled a 20-5 overall record and captured the B Central Division championship with a 7-1 mark.
In the state tournament, Payson opened with a 77-63 quarterfinal victory over Antelope and beat St. Johns 61-46 in the semifinals to reach the championship game against a talented Williams team.
On the Viking roster were two of the finest athletes to ever come out of Arizona — brothers Johnny and Billy Hatcher. Billy went on to have a long professional baseball career with the Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago Cubs.
Chuck Hardt, then a young assistant to head coach Dave Bradley, remembers well the gold medal game played at Arizona State University.
“We are up one (point) with three seconds remaining and Williams has to foul Jeff Pettet,” he said. “Then they call a timeout to ‘ice’ him.”
During the timeout, Bradley and Hardt gathered their troops on the sideline.
“Jeff comes over (to the bench) with (Beau) Bobier and stands outside the huddle,” Hardt said. “I ask him if he’s having fun.”
“He senses my nervousness and says ‘Coach, don’t worry, I’ve been in this situation a hundred times in my backyard.’”
With the outcome of the game on the line, Pettet went to the line and calmly sunk both free throws.
Because there were no three-point shots in 1979, the Horns’ strategy was to give up an uncontested layup and let time run out.
Williams’ last-gasp layup pulled the Vikings to within 49-48. Following the score, a Payson player cradled the ball out of bounds while the final few ticks of the clock wound down.
Once the buzzer sounded, the Payson bench — accompanied by Longhorn fans — erupted in a wild celebration.
Although the final moments were crucial in the Horns’ victory, Bradley remembers it was a basket in the first half that set the stage for the win.
“With two seconds remaining just before halftime, Beau Bobier hit a rainbow from beyond half court to put us up by one point,” he said. “I turned to coach Hardt and said that would make a difference for us and we would win.”
Hardt recollects that during the regular season, he didn’t think the team was championship material.
“But the kids kept finding ways to win,” he said.