Billy Wilbanks inducted into Hall of Fame
Tuesday, 05 June 2012 by Chuck Kelly
The Valedictorian of the Belton High School Class of 1958 and state champion athlete, Dr. William Lee (Billy) Wilbanks was officially inducted into the Texas High School Basketball Hall of Fame at a Saturday ceremony in San Antonio.
The small number of honorees exhibits the selectivity of the Hall regarding its members. Only a few more than 100 former players have been inducted into the group over the years and Wilbanks is the ONLY former Belton player to be so honored.
Wilbanks is only the second BHS athlete EVER selected to any state Hall of Fame. Three-sport All-State Tiger and University of Texas quarterback Bret Stafford was named to the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame in 2007.
Dr. Charles Briethaupt of the University Interscholastic League introduced Wilbanks as he received his plaque as a "contributor" for his 12 years of research of Texas high school sports and also as a "player", due in part for his role in the greatest comeback/finish in the history of the state basketball tournament --- Belton's double-overtime 58-56 victory over New London in the 1958 Class 2A state title game.
"It was a great weekend. The greatest day of my life other than the '58 game. Those two events will always stand out," said Wilbanks. "it was obviously very emotional."
Nearly 60 people traveled from Belton to share in the special occasion including nine of the 12 members of the championship team and the then-assistant coach Joe Pirtle.
"It was one of those special times," Pirtle commented. "I was in 'hog heaven' being with all those guys who played basketball for us."
The coach of the championship squad, the legendary Mack Birtchet passed away early this year and his widow, Frances, was ill and unable to attend.
Wilbanks remembered coach Birtchet in a very special way during his entertaining acceptance speech.
The 5-11 All-State senior guard, praised for his "uncanny" shooting, was having a bad night in the state title gamel when Birtchet called time-out and told him, "Willie, keep shooting, that's how we got here"
"I said a brief prayer and walked away from the huddle," Wilbanks said, and he hit five of the last six field goals and with 20 seconds left in regulation, sank a jumper to send the game into overtime. He then pulled off the same shot with 15 seconds left to advance the big game into double OT where James Brantley tossed in a pair of free throws to seal the victory!
"I had struggled for three years to receive coach's praise but he had always been sparing until he approached me in the locker room after the game, put his hand on my shoulder and said, 'Son, I am proud of you!' That was my most memorable moment! "