The faces have changed over the years, but the memories remain the same for Hurst L.D. Bell boys basketball coach Willie Henderson. Every time his team faces the rival Euless Trinity Trojans, he remembers that he once wore that uniform.
Henderson is a 1983 graduate of Trinity. He fondly recalls leading the Trojans to the basketball playoffs for the first time in their history that season.
“It’s always nice to be the first,” he said with a smile. “No one can ever take that away.
“We lost in bi-district to Irving MacArthur, the No. 1 team in the state, in double overtime. They were 30-0. They went on to lose to Dunbar in the next round, and I like to think that maybe part of that was because we took so much out of them.
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“We almost pulled off the big upset. It still stings. We should have beaten those guys.”
I practice every day on the same floor I lost the district championship on as a senior.
Bell boys basketball coach Willie Henderson, on his playing days at Trinity
Henderson also gave the Trinity faithful many memories. Among his many accolades, he was all-tournament and MVP in three tourneys that season, MVP of District 7-5A, all-state, and received a basketball scholarship to Midwestern State University. In 1994 he was named the Silver Anniversary Best Outside Basketball Player in Trinity High School history 1994.
Ironically, Henderson and the Trojans played Bell on the Blue Raiders’ home court for the district championship that season. Bell won. In that time, only the district champions and runners-up advanced to the postseason.
That game against Bell, by the way, was played on the same court Henderson coaches his Blue Raiders today. Bell and Trinity still play in the same gyms.
“I practice every day on the same floor I lost the district championship on as a senior,” he said with a slight chuckle. “My oldest son played on the same floor I played on when we visited Bell and on the same one I played on at Trinity.”
Last season likely brought back some similar memories when Trinity defeated Bell for the fourth and final playoff berth. That game, just like the showdown more than three decades ago, was sold out, with fans hanging on every possession.
“That was a great atmosphere,” Henderson recalled.
Henderson said the folks in the HEB school district were as tight then as they are today. He lived one block from the Bell attendance zone.
“I grew up with friends on both sides of the district,” he said. “Back then in HEB youth sports, you grew up playing them together. We didn’t have all the other options kids have today. I think it made both sides of the district tighter.
“Saturday mornings, we’d play peewee football at the old Central Junior High. Then, later, tons of teammates went to Bell and lots to Trinity.”
Henderson remembered the game against MacArthur being part of an HEB community evening at Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center. The facility hadn’t been open long and was the place to play. Their game was preceded by Bell and Irving.
“That place was rocking,” Henderson said. “And back then, that was all for kids to do, so pretty much every student at both schools was there, along with all the parents and other fans.
“They moved the Whataburger Tournament from TCU to Wilkerson-Greines that same year.”
Henderson isn’t the only former Trojan or Blue Raider who has returned to the district to work for a rival program. The list includes Bell baseball coach Paul Gibson, a 1982 Trinity graduate who has led the Blue Raiders for more than two decades. Also, Trinity assistant football coach Jay Fitch was a teammate of Henderson’s on the 1983 basketball team.
Henderson has been back in the district 11 years at Bell. But even before returning, he kept up with several of his former teammates over the years.
“I talk to four or five of the guys regularly, but I also keep up with several of the Bell kids,” Henderson said.
“The people who grew up in HEB, we were very fortunate to grow up when we did. Sports was huge here. We had such a good taste in our mouth, after we left we wanted to come back.”
But make no mistake, these days when Bell and Trinity meet, Henderson has one goal — to defeat the rival Trojans. When they aren’t facing each other, however, he, like many in the community, are wishing the other success.
“You root for your school district first. They’re still family,” he said. “There’s kids over there I coached in youth sports. And, just like back then, there’s families at both campuses.”