1977-1978 Women’s Basketball
We look back upon University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Women’s Basketball and it’s 1977-78 Championship Team. The team was formed when former coach Alma Murphy agreed with the athletic administration to restart the program in the mid 1970s, a program that had ended in 1947. Coach Murphy volunteered her services while teaching full-time in the Health, Physical Education and Recreation Department.
With a group of 12 walk-on players during the 1975-76 school year, the Lady Lions played an abbreviated 12 game schedule – starting in mid-November and ending in mid-February.
The following season things began to turn after Murphy signed three talented Arkansas high school players, along with a walk -on player in the spring of 1976. The trio of scholarship players included 5-foot-7 shooting guard Helen Hughes of Stuttgart, 5-foot-5 point guard Brenda Gulley of Tillar, and 5-foot-9 forward Catha McGehee of Reed. Susan Weaver, a 5- foot-10 walk on forward of Wheatley, rounded out the freshman class.
Hughes led the squad in scoring by averaging 21.3 points per game in 1976-77. Weaver followed with a 15.1 scoring and McGehee averaged 13.3 points per game. Hughes was the lone UAPB player named to the first team All Arkansas Women’s Intercollegiate Sports Association (AWISA) in her freshman year.
Likely, the biggest highlight for the 1976-1977 season was the Lionette’s 80 point margin win over Philander Smith College in a 124–44 rout. This remains a school record to this day.
The foursome that started as freshmen, along with 5-foot-9 junior guard Margie Williams and several key reserves helped the Lionettes capture the AWISA championship during the 1977-1978 season while finishing with a 24-2 overall record and a 16-2 conference record.
The 24-2 record still stands as the best in school history for women’s basketball. The squad consisted of six freshmen, six sophomores, one junior and a senior. The other team members were Lisa Hurt, Carolyn Rodgers, Lois Atcher, Sandra Strong, Janice Roberts, Barbara Smith, Annette Gaines, Dell Mitchell and Eileen Williams.
Hughes, McGehee, Gulley and Weaver, who are members of the UAPB/AM&N Sports Hall Fame, were named to the NBABS All–American team as sophomores.
Murphy, who was still coaching as a volunteer throughout the Lionette’s championship year, was unanimously selected as AWISA’s Coach of the Year in 1977-1978.
Carl Whimper is credited with the story.
Reprint from the Deltaplex news circa: Jan 2020.