“Defense, defense, defense.”
That was the key to Alcoa’s dream season on the basketball court in 1967, Garry Godfrey said. With time waning on the clock in triple overtime in the state title game that year, the Tornado guard would prove those words prophetic with arguably the biggest defensive play in school history.
“In the third overtime the game got kind of crazy,” Godfrey said. “With about 25 seconds left I fouled Jimmy England. Jimmy England, who went on to be an All-American at UT, wasn’t going to miss free throws, so its 45-42.
“I knew I had lost the game for everybody in Alcoa, and I was going to leave town. I was going to move to Idaho. I had my mind made up. We go down and hit an uncontested layup because they aren’t going to foul us; it’s over.”
Not so fast, former Alcoa coach Vernon Osborne said.
In the days before classification, the Tornadoes had entered the championship game with powerhouse Holston at Stokely Athletics Center a decided underdog, but “the Cinderella team that dared to stay past midnight,” as the 1967 Alcoa yearbook described the team, was quickly back within a point. The stage was now set for Godfrey’s memorable moment in time.
“Garry was tough in the press game and an outstanding guard,” Osborne said. “We were losing the championship game by one point, and we were pressing. As they were bringing the ball up the court Garry intercepted a pass at the end of the game that let us set up the last shot.”
The Tornadoes called timeout with nine seconds left, their state championship hopes hanging on one last possession.
“We huddled and coach Osborne said to us, ‘Nine seconds is an eternity,’” Godfrey said. “We tried to set David Davis up for an alley-oop, but Holston had seen that too many times, so they forced him to shot from the outside.
“He took a turnaround jump shot, and as soon as the ball left his hand, the buzzer went off, and the ball is just floating up there. The whole place went quiet. The ball hits the back of the rim, and it circled two or three times before it finally fell in. It’s an unbelievable feeling.”
After three overtimes, Alcoa 46, Holston 45.
A capacity crowd at Stokely roared in celebration, and the excitement followed the team all the way back to Alcoa, with a caravan of cars stretching the whole way.
The ‘67 Tornadoes will always be known as the team of “the two Davids,” in recognition of All-State guard David Marsh and Davis, the first black player to play in the TSSAA state tournament. Thanks to one timely steal, their decorated careers would finish with a fitting exclamation.
Today, “March Madness” has an entirely different meaning to Godfrey. As April 15 approaches, work days get longer, and the work week extends to seven days for the certified public accountant.
“It’s tough right now working seven days a week” Godfrey said. “During tax season sometimes you just want to walk out. Just like when I was playing for coach Osborne, it would be hard, it gets tough, but you know you have to do it. I’m glad I never did walk out.”
The sense of responding to a challenge he learned all those years ago has never left him, Godfrey said.
“I really like the challenge of this job,” he said. “Everything we did with coach Osborne was a challenge, and ever since way back when, I liked to be challenged.”
Godfrey operates his own accounting firm in Maryville along with his wife, Barbara. The couple has been married for 40 years.
“We started the company in our garage at home, just me and her,” Godfrey said. “Then we expanded out a little more, and we’ve been in our current office 21 years. It worked out really well. I’ve had other people comment, ‘How do you work around your wife?’ but it’s worked out tremendously.”