D200116 Jacque Carpenter

Jacque Carpenter has been watching basketball games since her future husband Royal got his first coaching job as an assistant at Hatton in 1969. [JERONIMO NISA/DECATUR DAILY]

MOULTON — The disagreement about what happened more than two decades ago during a basketball game at Waterloo High went on longer than most sports conversations between Royal and Jacque Carpenter.

He was head coach at Hatton at the time, and she couldn’t remember that she almost got arrested for approaching an official after a game.

“It was somebody else,” Jacque insisted.

“No, it was you, too,” Royal responded. “You almost went to jail.”

“You know what, maybe it was,” Jacque chuckled. “Too many memories.”

Jacque, arguably the mother of basketball in Lawrence County, will collect more memories tonight when she attends the county basketball tournament in Moulton for the 51st consecutive year.

It will be the 90th consecutive year for the tournament, which is being played at Lawrence County High in Moulton. Events start with a junior varsity game at 3 p.m. and admission is $6. Play continues Friday, and championship games are slated for Saturday.

Jacque, 68, paused when asked how many basketball games she has attended.

“A bunch,” Royal answered before she could respond. “She’s been my biggest supporter and that means a lot.”

The Carpenters — both self-described sports junkies — met in 1968 when he was playing basketball and baseball at the University of North Alabama and she was a junior at Lawrence County High.

She followed his final years as a college athlete, but after Royal got his first coaching job as an assistant coach at Hatton in 1969, she started attending just about every game he coached.

They married on Jan. 28, 1972, after he became the head basketball coach at Hatton “and sports really became the center of my universe,” Jacque said. “Yes, I’ve probably spent every wedding anniversary at a basketball game.”

She said there are too many memories to call one her favorite, but one of her most memorable games at the county tournament came in 1975 when she was pregnant with their first daughter and Hatton was playing Courtland in the semifinals.

Her brother-in-law, Rory Carpenter, was starting point guard for the Hornets and Hatton trailed by two points with three seconds remaining in regulation. The play her husband designed wasn’t for Rory, but Courtland’s defense forced the ball into his hands.

The 75-foot desperation shot Rory made came before the 3-point line and tied the game. The teams played two overtime periods, and Hatton advanced before losing in the championship game.

“It was loud and I thought I was going into labor,” Jacque said.

Robyn Hutto, the Carpenter’s first daughter, was born almost four months later, and in 1978, their second daughter, Courtney Boyll, was born. Just like their mother, the daughters grew up in a gym or on a football or baseball field.

When they started playing sports, however, Jacque became their No. 1 fan and didn’t miss a game.

Hutto, who played three varsity sports at Hatton for six years, said she didn’t realize how important it was to have her mother at every game until she started playing volleyball at Jacksonville State University.

She said one of her college managers remembered seeing Jacque at games, and she made a comment about how her parents worked a lot when she was in high school.

“She mentioned that I was fortunate to have that time with my parents,” Hutto said. “This made me realize what she went through to be at our games. She not only came to games, but she helped with homework.”

Traumatic time

On March 16, 1994, Jacque got a call no parent wants to receive.

“I was at choir practice, someone called the church and told me Courtney was in an accident,” she recalled. “You’re never prepared to process something like this and your heart just hurts.”

Boyll, a high school sophomore and multi-sport athlete who was 16 at the time, was paralyzed with a broken back between the fourth and fifth vertebrae.

Her parents, both teachers, contemplated a change in their lives, but Boyll insisted that they carry on as they had since meeting in 1968.

“Daddy was a coach and Momma was a big part of his support system,” she said.

Boyll is now a teacher in the Lawrence County school system.

Royal retired as a teacher in 1999, but he kept working as a volunteer coach and Jacque kept being his biggest supporter. She also started following her daughters, who had graduated college and were high school coaches.

Jacque, who retired in 2003 after working 30 years as an elementary teacher, currently has five grandchildren and they are multi-sport athletes, which means summers are now spent at a park. Royal is an assistant football coach and co-head basketball coach at Lawrence County High.

Jacque has no regrets about the number of hours she has spent in gyms and at ball fields “because I knew what I was signing up for when I married a coach.”

Hearing critics

She said she has learned to ignore officials, but it’s difficult to listen when spectators criticize her husband and Hutto, who is now the head volleyball coach with more than 1,000 wins at Lawrence County High.

Linda Parker Conwill, the wife of R.A. Hubbard head coach Sonny Conwill, admires Jacque’s longevity as a coach’s spouse “because it’s not easy.”

The Conwills have been married during his entire tenure as a head coach and people don’t realize the amount of time coaching requires, she said.

Linda Conwill said she tries not to sit around people who are critical of her husband’s decisions, but sometimes it’s inescapable.

“It’s very difficult when the bashing continues because you know how much time they spend away from family,” said Conwill, who for many years served as his score-book keeper.

Jacque laughs when she reflects on some of the times she’s confronted fans talking about her husband in the stands.

“One time I was trying to talk with a lady, and she threw a quarter at me and told me to call someone who cares,” she said.

The incident at Waterloo wasn’t the first time she confronted an official at a basketball game, but it was the last. She couldn’t remember the year, but the first incident took place while Hatton was playing in a B-team tournament at Belgreen.

“We got technical fouls for everything,” Royal said.

“The officiating was terrible,” Jacque recalled about the game with Coffee.

Hatton got seven technical fouls during the game. After the game, Jacque went on the court, stood in front of the official and said: “Give me one. You have given everybody else one.”

The following week during a Hatton home game, the same officials were calling the game. Before tipoff, Royal said, the officials asked him where his wife was.

Jacque said the incidents took place “in my younger years.” She’s been upset with officiating since, but hasn’t said anything to the officials.

“He’s a big boy and can handle himself,” Jacque said about her husband. “I worry about the grandchildren now.”

— deangelo@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2469. Twitter @DD_Deangelo.

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