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2 on 5
THOMAS LAKE
December 08, 2008
One night in 1992, in a small town in Alabama, the North Jackson Chiefs won a game against seemingly insurmountable odds. Then came the crashes and the gunshots and one man's fateful choice
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December 08, 2008

2 On 5

One night in 1992, in a small town in Alabama, the North Jackson Chiefs won a game against seemingly insurmountable odds. Then came the crashes and the gunshots and one man's fateful choice

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—no good. Murphy Thompson with the rebound. We've got a whistle and a foul.... Did they call it on Murphy Thompson? If so, he's gone.

Seven Chiefs standing. Their school is on the north side of Stevenson, a rusty old town of 2,000 where goats graze in meadows above the vacant redbrick buildings of Main Street and a farmer hands out free yellow squash from the bed of his pickup truck.

Fort Payne is about six times larger than Stevenson and 40 miles to the south. It has mansions on the eastern ridge and enough cotton mills to justify the self-proclaimed title Official Sock Capital of the World.

Fort Payne scores, cutting North Jackson's lead to one. Both teams turn the ball over. The Chiefs get it back on the baseline with about two minutes left.

Collier will trigger the ball inside.

His father has been on Death Row since 1978. They used to be Big Robert and Little Robert, and they rode in Big Robert's Chevy Chevelle convertible to go fishing and to football games. Then Big Robert lost his job and the money dwindled, and he was too proud to ask for help. He drove the Chevelle to Georgia and put his .32 revolver in a grocery bag and walked into a flower shop and pulled the gun and got the cash and sped off. Two deputy sheriffs caught up to him and pulled him over, but he wrestled a gun away from one of them and shot both men. One died. Big Robert drove home and gave his wife $70 from the flower shop. The police caught him the next day. Little Robert was two months from his fifth birthday.

We've got a turnover against North Jackson. Collier moved along the baseline. And you can't do that [after] a turnover, which is what it was. You can do it after a score.

Little Robert became the man of the house. When his mother got tired on the 205-mile drive to the prison in Georgia, he dropped chips of ice down her back to keep her awake. By 13 or 14 he was taking turns behind the wheel. He always said he would grow up and get rich so he could bust his daddy out of jail.

The Wildcats turn the ball over with about 90 seconds left. Chiefs by one. Now they turn it over.

So here comes Fort Payne with an opportunity to take their first lead of the game. And they do!

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