June 21, 2013 at 1:20 am

Terry Foster

Alums of Kettering, Southwestern to play benefit wheelchair basketball game

They were in the back of civics class cutting it up, thinking of a nickname for a group of players from Detroit Kettering High.

Derrick Kearney, Terry Payne and Robert Godbolt believed they were the best team in the city in 1982. But Detroit Southwestern, led by Antoine “The Judge” Joubert, was the preseason No. 1.

The boys kicked around some more names, then Payne came up with the one.

If Joubert was “The Judge,” then Kettering was “The Supreme Court.”

“I guess they were like ... we are going to overrule you,” Joubert said. “The rivalry started there with them being The Supreme Court. I thought it was good for high school basketball.”

This weekend, the bitter rivals converge on Cass Tech — for a cause.

At 3 p.m. Saturday, the teams will join forces to play a wheelchair game against The Detroit Diehards, with proceeds benefiting Holmes Elementary and Wheelchair Awareness.

Tickets are $10 for adults, $7 for children 6 and under.

This marks the 30th anniversary for both graduating classes. Sadly, both Kettering and Southwestern are closed. Holmes is a struggling school in the old Kettering district badly in need of supplies.

Angling for publicity

In 1982, Kettering defeated Southwestern in a Christmas tournament game before 6,100 at Calihan Hall.

Southwestern, however, won the Detroit Public School League title later that season before 10,000 at Cobo Arena.

“I remember walking into that arena and I had goose bumps,” Kearney said.

Those were magical days for the PSL, and the rivalry.

“We were not jealous and there was not any animosity, but we felt (Joubert) was getting a lot of publicity,” Godbolt said. “He was a really great player, but at the same time, we felt we deserved some of that publicity. We had a great collection of guys who were just as good. We needed to do something to bring attention to ourselves.”

No extra pressure

Joubert was a high volume shooter — he routinely had 30-40 points a game — but an underrated passer.

“I give mad props for what Twan did back then,” Kearney said. “He was the No. 1 player in the country, and there was a lot of pressure on him. But he was able to live up to the hype.”

Said Joubert: “I did not feel the extra pressure. I just knew playing (Kettering) was tough. Their team was very, very proud and very good. They had good size and very good players. It was challenging.”

Joubert, however, got the last laugh, leading his team to the Class A championship game.

He scored a championship record 47 points, but Flint Central won its third straight title with an 84-80 victory.

“It was a great time to play in the city,” Godbolt said. “There were a lot of great players and teams, but we ruled it back then.”

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Derrick Kearney, standing in white shirt, and Antoine Joubert, standing in blue shirt, stand with some of the alumni and wheelchair players during a practice Thursday. / David Guralnick/Detroit News
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