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From Akers to Zamberlan, things I'd like to see at the state tournament again

By Frank Giardina

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- THE 100TH BOYS state high school basketball tournament concluded Saturday. With that in mind, here are some things I would like to see just one more time:

  • Willie Akers - The legendary Logan coach standing on a ladder after a Class AAA title game cutting down the nets.
  • Warren Baker - Who wouldn't want to see the former Greenbrier East star play one more time. "Wonderful" Warren and the Spartans played in three straight state tournaments from 1970-72.  
  • 1968 Charleston High Mountain Lions - Lou Romano's team won the AAA title in 1968 with Curt Price, Larry Harris, Levi Phillips, Sonny Burls, Skip Mason, Charles Rush and others. These guys were Showtime before Magic and the Lakers.
  • 1973 and 1974 Charleston High Mountain Lions - It was Showtime II with stars such as Mike Jones, Dennis Harris, Charles "Dickie" Russell, Curt Cabell, Ameche Watson, Sam Brooks, John Britton and Lowell Harris.  This team beat Parkersburg in the 1973 final and Logan in 1974.
  • 1966 Dunbar Bulldogs - One of the greatest teams in Kanawha County history, the Bulldogs hammered Moundsville in the AAA title game in Huntington. I would love to see a young Melvin Walker play one more time.
  • 1994 DuPont-Woodrow Wilson - Many long-time observers of the tournament say this Thursday morning quarterfinal game was the best-played game in tournament history. Who wouldn't want to see Jason Williams and Randy Moss put on that show just one more time?  
  • Earl Jones and Russell Todd - In the 1978 Class AA title game, Jones and Mount Hope lost to Todd and Northfork. A 6-foot-11 player with guard skills, Jones was a high school phenom known across the entire country and would later be a first-round pick of the Lakers. Todd went on to a great career at WVU.  That was a special matchup in the old Civic Center.
  • 1973 Gary Coaldiggers - Led by the powerful John Billups, who went to Ole Miss, and the smooth Paul Hamilton, Gary brought pride to the tiny coalfield community by winning the AA state title over Magnolia.
  • 1971 George Washington Patriots - Not many teams played better as a team than this bunch. Coached by Fred Aldridge, every player played his role.  Among the players were Trippi Adams, Clyde Childers, Rick Greene, Albie Wiliams, Ned Tiley and Joey Holland. They had size and high basketball IQ's.
  • Kermit Blue Devils - Support was incredible for small-school teams in the coalfields. The 1975 Kermit team won a Class A state title under coach John Preece and were led by Guy Dillon, J.W. Endicott, Barry Richardson and Manny Rose. Even more impressive has been life after basketball for students at the school. Of the 25 students in that graduating class at Kermit, three are now doctors, including Endicott.
  • Northfork Blue Demons - When the Blue Demons from McDowell County came out in their red, white and blue uniforms, the games were over before they started. Northfork set a national high school record by winning an amazing eight straight AA titles from 1974-81.    
  • Oak Hill tradition - Overshadowed sometimes by Woodrow Wilson in the Fayette-Raleigh county areas, the Red Devils also have an incredible tradition. Who wouldn't want to see Tom "Speedy" Jones (Maryland), P.G. Greene (WVU) and Tracy Shelton (WVU) play one more time.
  • Dwayne Wingler - In the rich history of Woodrow Wilson basketball, Wingler is considered the Flying Eagles' greatest player. Think about that. In his era, Beckley won four straight state championships in 1951, '52, '53 and '54. Wingler scored 44 points in his state title finale, and went on to Kentucky to play football for Bear Bryant and basketball for Adolph Rupp. In high school, in a head-to-head game with Jerry West and East Bank, Wingler scored 34 while West scored six. Jerry, though, was only a sophomore.
  • George Zamberlan - For a time, the Secondary School Activities Commission had a rule that it was an automatic technical foul for coaches who stood up on the sidelines. At the state tournament, the former Charles Town coach would take a rope and tie himself to his chair so that he would not stand.  Fans loved seeing him scoot along in his chair on the floor.  
  • Finally, here are some coaches I would love to see on the sidelines one more time:  Jennings Boyd (Northfork), Bob Burton (Paden City), Lewis D'Antoni (Mullens), Paul Greer (Oceana), Sam Mandich (Parkersburg), Skip Prosser (Wheeling Central), George Ritchie (Williamson), Romano (Charleston), Donnie Smith (Huntington Vinson), Joe Snodgrass (DuPont), Don Stover (Stonewall Jackson), Stewart Way (Huntington), Tex Williams (St. Albans) and "Preach" Wiseman (Woodrow Wilson).

    Frank Giardina is a free-lance columnist for the Sunday Gazette-Mail.


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