Books By Leon Combs
Bradleyville My Hometown Synopsis
For decades, Bradleyville, located deep in the Missouri Ozarks, did not provide support for a high school program. The team played basketball on a dusty or muddy outdoor court, depending on the weather. Basketball ranked low on the community's list of priorities. Hunting, fishing and chores dominated the players' lives away from school; sometimes they coon hunted all night before a game.
From the 1920s through the 1950s, area high school teams romped over Bradleyville's rag tag teams, beating them by lopsided scores of 40 or 50 points. In 1952, however, the school board appropriated $1,200 to build a tile-floor gymnasium, and in the process, awakened a sleeping giant.
Bradleyville High School had never won a first place trophy in any tournament, but things changed in 1961. The school hired 28-year-old Ray Gibson as coach. He put together a team of four seniors, including the renowned coon hunter, Leon Boyd, and a 14-year-old freshman, Darrell Paul. Gibson led his team to the final four of the state tournament in 1962, then coached them to the championship.
Twenty-two-year-old Argil Ellison took over the coaching reins of Bradleyville in 1962-63. His tenure lasted through 1968, including two more state championships and a 64-game winning streak, a state record still unbroken 31 years later.
The all-white Bradleyville Eagles won 63 straight games before meeting Howardville, an all-black school from Southeast Missouri, for the state championship in 1968. The Eagles won in four overtimes, the longest game ever recorded in Missouri state championship play; state basketball fans consider the game a classic.
The Hicks From the Sticks title was taken from a radio call-in show the day Bradleyville played Parkview High from Springfield, Missouri, a school of 1,900 students compared to Bradleyville's 75. The caller told radio announcers Bradleyville had won lots of games against the weak competition, but "the hicks from the sticks meet their match tonight." Parkview was ranked number one among large schools in Southwest Missouri. Bradleyville won.
In that critical game, after Parkview jumped to a 9-1 lead, Bradleyville's star center, 6'5" David Combs, complained after the coach called timeout twice in quick succession. "Coach, how come you're callin' so many timeouts? Me an' Rex Maggard's goin' coon huntin' tonight. We'll never get out of here if you keep callin' timeouts!"