Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

March 8, 2013

Veteran sports writer remembers milestones from W.Va. state boys tournament

CHARLESTON — The 100th anniversary of the West Virginia boys basketball tournament, scheduled for next week at the Charleston Civic Center, is one that Doug Huff doesn’t want to miss.

Then, again, the white-haired sports writing veteran hasn’t missed a title game of that event since watching the 1961 finales.

As secretary-treasurer of the W.Va. Sports Writers Association since 1981, the Wheeling resident keeps up with thousands of statistics — including his own personal sports streak. He noted that he’s watched 156 championship games, spread out across three classes.

“Nothing lasts 100 years without doing a lot of things right,” he said earlier this season.

“The tournament has evolved, like many things in sports, with bigger and better things,” he said. “It started as an open-to-all teams event and now has classes and qualifying tournaments to reduce the size and provide incentives to make the ‘big dance.’

“Coaching is better and teams are better prepared than the early years,” he said.

Huff said he started out writing in the media “some 57 years” ago, when he was in high school.

He said the annual event is “a sports reunion of sorts” for people who have played, coached or backed teams in the past.

“Many fans have attended for years with or without a rooting interest because they enjoy not only the competition but renewing and continuing long-time friendships with fellow athletes, educators, (and) coaches,” he said.

“Tradition, and support for high school sports, is the drawing power of the tournament,” he said. “(It) brings fans back every year to see ‘what’s next’ and to view athletes and teams they've heard or read about but not viewed in person.”

He is full of stories, and stats, about memorable games.

“To single out one title game, it would have to be the 1962 Class AAA at the old West Virginia University Fieldhouse in Morgantown because it was the only Triple-A championship in history to match two unbeaten teams — Woodrow Wilson and Weir.

“And it lived up to its billing — going down to a final second drive-in goal by Woodrow Wilson junior guard Bill Karbonit to gave the Flying Eagles a 71-69 win.

“Weir featured sophomore all-stater Ron ‘Fritz’ Williams, who helped integrate WVU basketball, was a first-round NBA draftee and also drafted by the Dallas Cowboys, and played in the NBA.”

“The best team I’ve seen since 1961 was the 2007 Huntington squad anchored by two current NBA players, O.J. Mayo and Patrick Patterson, who helped the team win the 2005 and 2006 crowns  ... . Huntington defeated South Charleston, 103-61 in the 2007 finals as Mayo scored 41 points.

“Northfork’s run to a then-national-record eight straight championships (1974-81 Class AA), under National Hall of Fame coach Jennings Boyd, was a multiple-year memory never to be erased.

“And, of course, a tournament record 50 points was scored by Herbie Brooks (of Mullens) in a 1983 Class A semifinal win over Parkersburg Catholic.”

More memories await next week.

The anniversary celebration, organized by the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission (WVSSAC), starts Tuesday with a banquet at the civic center “Grand Hall” at 6:30 p.m. Advance tickets at $35 per person may be ordered through a link on the commission’s website, wvssac. org.

The lobby areas at the civic center will include displays of memorabilia from past state tournament teams, including schools that no longer exist. Plans call for Class A schools to be highlighted on Wednesday, Class AA on Thursday, and Class AAA next Friday.

Prior to some of the games in this year’s tournament, there will be 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, beginning with pre-1940 recognitions at 11:15 on Wednesday. The complete list is at bdtonline.com.

The games themselves begin with Class A quarterfinal at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.

The Bluefield Beavers return for a second straight year to Charleston and will play in the Class AA quarterfinals on Thursday. The exact time of their debut is still unknown.

Due to weather delays, some regional co-finals in other parts of the state were not completed until Friday night and the seedings for the Class AA field, along with their games’ start times, will not be set until later this weekend.

The tournament concludes with Saturday’s championship games at noon for Class A, 2:30 p.m. for Class AA and 7:15 p.m. for the large-school class.

It’s a good bet Huff will be there.

— Contact Tom Bone at

tbone@bdtonline.com

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