Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

January 31, 2013

Centennial celebration

A century of West Virginia state basketball championships

BLUEFIELD — Along with Christmas, Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July holiday, a significant week that West Virginia coaches and basketball fans highlight on their calendars is a stretch from Wednesday to Saturday in mid- to late March — the annual boys basketball tournament at the Charleston Civic Center.

The 2013 event coming up on March 13-16 in the capital city shapes up to be more significant, perhaps, than many through the years.

It’s the 100th anniversary of the tournament, and observations are planned that will trigger many memories for longtime state hoops fans.

Ralph Ball Sr., who coached Princeton to the Class AAA state crown in 1979 and 1981, said on Tuesday the tournament is full of “a lot of fellowship” among the coaches. “We battled the hell out of each other, but most of us are friends.”

He should know. He’s attended more than 30 of the 99 tournaments so far.

The 100th anniversary celebration, organized and sponsored by the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission (WVSSAC), will tip off on March 12 with a banquet, open to the public, at the civic center.

Advance tickets are available at $35 per person and may be ordered through a link on the commission’s website, wvssac. org.

“We plan to have speakers who have participated as players and-or coaches in previous tournaments and possibly videos from other tournament players,” said WVSSAC executive director Gary Ray.

Among the speakers is expected to be Ergie Smith, who won state championships in 1965 and 1973 while coaching at Gary in McDowell County.

Other speakers announced by the WVSSAC are Willie Akers, Dave Barksdale, Jeff Schneider, Warren Baker, Bob Burton and Pat C. Fragile. Ray said other special guests will be recognized at the banquet, and some may bring greetings via video.

Toastmaster for the evening will be Fred Persinger of MetroNews.

Banquet attendees will be given a limited-edition 100th Tournament souvenir program which will include team photos of most, if not all, of the 229 past state champions as well as lists of all championship coaches, all-tournament teams, tournament trivia, feature stories, statistical lists and photos.

The lobby areas at the Charleston Civic Center Coliseum will include displays of rare memorabilia from past state tournament teams, including schools that no longer exist. Plans call for Class A schools to be highlighted on March 13, Class AA on March 14, and Class AAA on March 15.

People wanting to display items may contact Ray Londeree, A WVSSAC assistant executive director, by email at ray. londeree @ wvssac. org.

His list of possible items suggests trophies, uniforms, scrapbooks, programs and newspaper articles, but he noted that items should not be sent to the WVSSAC offices in Parkersburg. Schools and people supplying items are responsible for their display and safety.

A historic game action video is planned to be shown at the banquet and on monitors through the rest of the week.

Mass recognitions are planned for people who have been involved in past state tournaments as players, coaches, cheerleaders or officials. Those moments have been organized by decades, and are listed in the accompanying box.

The state girls tournament, traditionally a week prior to the boys’ tourney, is set for March 6-9 at the civic center.

— Contact Tom Bone at

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