The 56ers basketball team win fourth title.
by Becky Kimbrell-Norris
WAKE FOREST — Some of the players on the 56ers senior basketball team played the sport in both high s
chool and college.
And as the years passed, they have stayed sharp with pickup games, spending many hours at the gymnasium.
And now, 75-year-old Youngsville resident Twig Wiggins and his 56ers teammates have once again earned the distinction of being national champions.
Wiggins and the 56ers, named after the 1956 Youngsville High School state championship team, roared through their opponents at the recent National Senior Games to win their fourth gold medal in 18 years. The squad won the title in 1995, 2001, and 2003.
“We played really good defense,” said Wiggins, who stands 6-6 and was a member of the 1956 Youngsville High School team before he went on to play at Wake Forest University.
Wiggin’s wife Sarah, a former Youngsville High School basketball player, still plays the game as well and her team, the Fabulous 70’s, took third place in the women’s 75 and over age division. In 1995, they won the tournament.
Her teammates are former Bunn High basketball stars Shirley Pearce and Mary Turner.
“They were all great players,” Twig Wiggins said.
The 56ers meanwhile dominated their age division in the four-day 3-on-3 double elimination tournament, which was held at Cleveland State University.
They defeated all of their opponents by 10 or more points and lost just one game by two points to a team from Atlanta but bounced back to defeat them twice by 20 or more points to claim the championship.
“We knew we had to beat them two times and we didn’t know much about them but we learned fast, especially after we lost to them,” Wiggins said.
Wiggins, who is also the 56ers coach, said his team played two to three games a day, which put a toll on their muscles.
“It’s really physically tough on us,” Wiggins said. “We rest between games and that’s usually about 45 minutes.”
The National Senior Games are for athletes 50 years and over and are held every two years at different locations. Participants compete in archery, bowling, basketball, cycling, golf, horseshoes, pickle ball, softball, race walking, racquetball, road race, shuffleboard, swimming, table tennis, track and field, triathlon and volleyball.
The basketball games are played on a half-court and consist of two 12-minute halves with referees. The half-court games, Wiggins said, are more physical and fast-paced than full court games.
“The games are competitive and it does get very physical on the court,” Wiggins added. “It’s definitely hands on and a lot of bumping. If you’re guarding someone who is heavy, you’ll get your share of bruises.”
It’s not too often one can be part of a national championship team and the 56ers have been competing in the Senior Games since 1995.
Wiggins said the original team consisted of himself, former Youngsville High School coach Al DePorter and the late Jerry Mitchell.
“That was the first year we played together and we won the nationals and it was the most exciting,” Wiggins said. “From there, the 56ers have never finished below fifth place.”
This time, Wiggins teamed with Danny Sewell, a former basketball player at High Point University, Ray Carroll, Don Coopman and Gordan Gibson, all from different cities; in their quest to win gold medals.
“We had a great time playing,” Wiggins said, “and I’m just thankful I can still play.”
The 56ers had to win on a county level in the spring and then competed in the North Carolina Senior games in October and won there, earning the trip to the national senior games.
Wiggins said players over the age of 70 are allowed to team with players from different states.
“We never practice as a team because we can’t get everyone together,” he said.
“When it gets close to tournament time, I go to the gym regularly and work on my shot,” he said. “But twice a week, a group of us play competitively and there are usually about 25 people to show up.”
Wiggins admits he will probably compete again and play for the 56ers fifth gold medal.
“I say ‘no,’ sometimes, that I won’t play,” he said. “But when the time comes, I am ready.”
“When you’re bouncing a ball, it’s hard not to keep playing and its fun,” Wiggins added.