Where are they now? Spartan state champs, 25 years later
Film of the final moments of the 1990-91 PIAA Class A girls basketball championship, which McConnellsburg won 66-60 over Nativity BVM. The Lady Spartans were inducted into the Fulton County Sports Hall of Fame during their 25th anniversary year. Lizi Arbogast, GameTimePA.com
Every March 23 for the last 25 years, Tiffany Bard Spitler has found herself reliving her glory days.
And for good reason.
"Whenever March 23 rolls around, I wear my state championship ring," Spitler said. "I break out the bling, and I wear it for the day."
Every March 23 marks the anniversary of McConnellsburg's girls basketball's state championship. In 1991, the Lady Spartans defeated Nativity BVM, 66-60, for the PIAA Class A crown.
On Friday, members of the team were recognized with an induction into the Fulton County Sports Hall of Fame.
"It was amazing," former player Nikki Seiders Hill said. "It hits me more now that I'm older and looking back."
Four of the six main cogs of the team were present at the McConnellsburg Alumni & Friends Community Center for the hall of fame banquet, along with coach Audrey Hall and several other members of the team.
"This is such a nice memory, and it's like a reunion for us," Marla McElhaney Wyland said. "It doesn't seem like it's been that long; it feels like it could've happened last week. It's something we'll always have, something that can't be taken away."
Upon entering the banquet hall, community took a step back in time. Projected on a big screen above the stage was film from the 1990-91 season, along with tape from the championship game.
Twenty-five years later, the tape wasn't needed to bring exact memories back to the girls.
"It was down to the last 11 seconds in the game, I was along the foul line," Wyland said. "I saw 11 seconds on the clock, and we were up by four. Tiff was at the foul line, and we knew it was over at that point. That was such a cool moment because I knew what was coming in the next 10 seconds."
Hill said, "The poofy hair is embarrassing, but I enjoy watching it. I haven't watched it for awhile, and it still gets me. I remember the big reception coming back into town. It was such a big deal for this little community; we had fire trucks escorting us into town."
Fast-forward 25 years, and the memory seems to become that much more important.
"When I come into town, I still get the young kids saying, 'Are you Dee Deshong?'" said Deshong. "At first I was like, 'OK, whatever,' but now it's like 'Wow, yes I am," and I'm glad I'm a good example for those young kids."
Deshong currently resides in Reading, and is in business with her brother. Deshong was the only sophomore in the starting lineup.
Wyland, who still holds the all-time scoring record for McConnellsburg girls basketball, also remained in the state, and is now living in Hollidaysburg with her husband and three children. Also a volleyball star for the Lady Spartans, Wyland was inducted into the Gannon University Hall of Fame in February 2012, and is currently coaching the varsity girls volleyball team at Hollidaysburg.
Also still heavily involved in sports is Spitler, who now lives with her husband and three children in Lucas, Ohio. Spitler spent 15 years as an athletic trainer and is now a P.E. teacher at the middle school level. Her children are all athletic, as well.
"We put a ball in their hand, and they took it from there," Spitler said. "They had the natural ability of both my husband and I, but we never pushed them into something they didn't like. We always gave them an opportunity, and we tried everything possible to make them successful."
Sticking closer to home was Hill, who is now a nurse at Waynesboro Hospital. She recently celebrated her first wedding anniversary with her husband, John, and has three children. She and Spitler maintain regular contact.
Not present at Friday's banquet were Misti Soter Bishop and Amy Booth Turcinov. Booth is currently living in Seattle with her husband and two children.
Other members of the team honored were Angela McElhaney Gregg, Rochelle Swope Barvinchack, Paulette Carbaugh, Leslie Kendall Rotz, Beckie Eisaman Rotondo, Stacy Peck Bell and assistant coach Dot Doyle.
"I have a lot of good memories in my life, but this ranks right up there in the top five of things that have happened to me," Deshong said. "You don't realize how big it is until all of a sudden, you see so many come after you and they struggle to reach that goal. There's nothing better you can do in the state, so it's pretty outstanding."
Hill said, "We knew how good our team was, and it was really special to happen to such a small school. I was just telling my husband - when you're that small and you have girls who all come together like we did, that was once in a lifetime."