Two FHS championship teams to be honored

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 3, 2008

FRANKLIN—Since the Franklin City Schools consolidated in 1970, the girls’ basketball program at Franklin High School has had just two head coaches.

Both of those coaches and their state championship teams will be honored this month.

The Franklin City Education Foundation will recognize the 1981 state championship team, coached by Peggy Wilkins, and the 1985 state champs, coached by Mona Sumblin, at halftime of the Franklin-Sussex Central game on Feb. 12.

Peggy Wilkins holds the state record for winning percentage. She won 89 percent of her games with a career record of 312-39 at Franklin from 1970 through 1983. Wilkins also coached at Hayden High School from 1960 through 1969. Incredibly, Wilkins came into the coaching ranks not knowing a thing about basketball.

&uot;When I first came to Franklin in 1960, I didn’t know nothing about coaching basketball, not one thing,&uot; Wilkins said. &uot;By me teaching PE (physical education), they expected the PE teacher to coach. I attended a lot of conferences, workshops and clinics. I talked with other coaches and I just loved Dean Smith (legendary coach of the University of North Carolina). I attended a lot of his clinics during the summer. I just came to love it.&uot;

Wilkins coached three generations of players in one family — Joyce Smith at Hayden, her daughter Jackie Smith at Franklin, and Joyce’s granddaughter, Linda Smith, at Franklin.

In 1981, the Bronkettes, as they were then known, went 25-0 and beat Harrisonburg 54-47 to win the state Division A championship. On the way to the state championship, Franklin scored 80 or more points seven times, including a 102-35 win over Kennedy.

Wilkins said the 1981 group worked hard for the championship. She remembers the win over Harrisonburg because Ralph Sampson, who played ball at Virginia and later in the NBA, had two sisters on the team.

&uot;The one sister had long finger nails and was protecting those nails,&uot; Wilkins said. &uot;I said, ‘eat her up because she’s too dainty and pretty to play ball like y’all play.’ ”

The assistant coach on that 1981 championship team was Mona Mayes (now Sumblin), 21 years old. Sumblin knew Wilkins from having played against Franklin as the point guard at Greensville High School. ‘I remember being double teamed all night,’ Sumblin said as she recalled her first encounter with Wilkins. ‘We couldn’t do anything all night.’

Sumblin, who refers to Wilkins as a legend, said she learned from the best while an assistant coach. Sumblin was also the JV coach that year, and those players ended up winning a state championship at the varsity level under Sumblin in 1985.

She had taken over the head coaching job in 1984 after Wilkins retired. She has forged a 322-207 record as of Jan. 24.

The 1985 team started the season 0-3, but lost just one more game that year, going 21-4. Franklin beat Martinsville 56-48 to secure its second state title.

&uot;I didn’t know what I thought then,&uot; she said. &uot;You just believed that

you got the best team in the state. &uot;We had good leadership ability. They decided they wanted to win and guess what, they won. It matters when they know the game.&uot;

Between the two coaches, since 1970, Franklin has won 21 district championships and 10 regional championships.

Jim Jervey, who represents the Franklin City Education Foundation, and Sumblin are searching for the players from those two teams and are asking former players to call them in advance of the ceremony on Feb. 12. Jervey can be reached at 562-5591 and Sumblin at 562-5187.