One of the many guest speakers at the dedication for the Gina Cox Center was former Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits basketball coach Jody Musgrove.
Musgrove coached Lonoke for eight seasons and was the coach when the Lady Jackrabbits won the Class AA state championship in 1977.
Gina Cox Wiertelak, who, along with her husband Jim, donated $1 million towards the building of the new multipurpose facility at Lonoke High School, was a senior on the Lady Jackrabbits state championship team.
Musgrove came to Lonoke in 1969 and left after the state championship season. He said it was difficult to leave as went to Joe T. Robinson High School in Pulaski County.
“I had some great players coming back,” Musgrove said. “Sandra Webb (Tester), for an example, was almost unstoppable inside. It was very tough to leave. I had a very special relationship with those kids. It was something really magical. They talked about the whole town being up there. There was electricity in the air when that was happening. To beat Rivercrest on their home court was really special.”
In 1977, girls basketball was played 6 on 6 with three forwards and three guards.
The state tournament was played at Rivecrest High School in Wilson. Lonoke beat Hope 53-41 in the first round. Lonoke then beat DeWitt 65-56 in the second round. The Lady Jackrabbits then routed Fayetteville 53-39 in the state semifinals before beating Rivercrest 53-45 for the school’s only state championship.
Sandra Webb, Erma Terry and Barbara Terry were named to the all-tournament team.
Webb averaged 28 points per game in the state tournament.
In a story from the Feb. 24, 1977 issue of the Lonoke Democrat, Musgrove praised the play of Cox and both Terrys for their “fine job on defense.”
“They were probably not the most talented team,” Musgrove said of his state championship team following Saturday’s ceremony. “There were some great players on it but they seemed to rise to the occasion when things got difficult. Gina would make a steal or a key stop. When we got down, she had a way of firing us up. She just wouldn’t let the team quit. She wouldn’t let them get down. That was worth a tremendous amount.
“They were very special. Everyone had a role on the team. They didn’t care who got the credit.”
Musgrove said the Gina Cox Center was “amazing.”
“I started to say something to the coaches that this place should be worth eight to 10 points per game but I didn’t want to put any pressure on them,” he said. “I think Lonoke could get back to those old traditions of excellence. This will certainly be a great jump start for that.”