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Former Freeport coach set for Clarion induction

| Saturday, May 4, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Cecil Willoughby has great memories of his time at Clarion University — on and off the field.

Willoughby, Class of 1951, played football and basketball for the Golden Eagles.

“I met my wife (Martha Jane) there, and I've been married to her for 62 years,” Willoughby said. “I held the school scoring record, but not for too long, one of my teammates broke it.”

Indeed, Willoughby held the career scoring mark in basketball with 849 points and lettered all four years on the hardwood.

On Friday, Willoughby will be one of five inductees into the Clarion Sports Hall of Fame.

During the 1950-51 basketball season under coach Benton Kribbs, Willoughby was one of six players who averaged scoring in double figures.

“Each game, our coach could plan on us scoring 70 points,” Willoughby recalled. “We were like a family. Every night there was formal dining, and we wore coats and ties.”

To some area sports fans, Willoughby is best known for his 15 seasons as Freeport's basketball coach.

During that period, the Yellowjackets never finished lower than fourth place in the section. Under today's WPIAL playoff format, it means that Freeport would have qualified for the playoffs all 15 seasons under Willoughby.

The top season under Willoughby's guidance was the 1966-67 campaign. Freeport finished 23-3 and made it to the WPIAL finals before losing to Turtle Creek at Pitt's Fitzgerald Field House.

The 43-38 semifinal victory over perennial powerhouse Braddock remains the top win in school basketball history.

“Our record of 23 wins in a season is still tops there,” Willoughby said. “Braddock was coached by Moe Becker, and we were fired up for that game.”

Like Becker, Willoughby's calling card was defense, as Freeport pressed and employed a 2-2-1 scheme.

“It was the same as what John Wooden ran at UCLA; I took my guys to Pittsburgh when UCLA played Pitt, and I said, ‘Hey, look, they're copying our defense,'” Willoughby said with a laugh.

Today, Willoughby lives in a retirement village near Lakeland, Fla.

“I got a hole-in-one not too long ago,” Willoughby said.

Willoughby graduated from Beaver Area High School in 1947, following in the footsteps of his father, also named Cecil, who played for the Bobcats from 1921-25.

George Guido is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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