By Kyle Lovern
January 3, 2014
I really miss the storied rivalries before the local high schools were consolidated.
Perhaps the best-ever basketball rivalry was Williamson and Logan. Thousands would pile into either the Williamson or Logan Fieldhouse, packed in like sardines, to watch these two southern W.Va. high schools - 30 miles apart - battle it out on the hardwood.
I can remember people lining up at 5 p.m. all the way back to the old Dairy Queen at the foot of Sunset Addition street.
There were so many memorable games between the Wolfpack and Wildcats.
There were also several other local rivalries that were fun for the diehard fans to watch and participate in.
Battles led by players like Billy Wells, Danny Moses, Rod McCoy, Harvey Austin, Mark Cline, Anthony Strother, the Baker twins and so many more.
Logan had the likes of Mark Hatcher. John Monroe, Robert Bass Moore, Vic Herbert, Mike Stone, Scott Ellis, Kenny Ross and so many other talented players wearing the blue and gold.
I will never forget the fiery Willie Akers on the sidelines for LHS and the late George Ritchie sitting patiently on the WHS bench. Later Allen Hatcher, a Logan grad, battled it out with his old coach.
Williamson was also big rivals with the Belfry Pirates. The boys in maroon and white would take on those Pond Creek boys in red and white. This was another rivalry that was for local bragging rights.
The Wolfpack had some memorable battles with the Matewan Tigers, especially through the 60s and early 70s. The Tigers had players like Jerry Epling, the Joplin brothers, Mike Collins, Billy Roberson and others. MHS was coached by the late Joe Clusky, and before that, Jim Melmidge.
There were other rivalries that I enjoyed covering in my early years as a journalist. The Burch Bulldogs battling the Hart Lions. John Maynard matching wits with Harry Kirk. I can remember Andy Paul Williamson leading the Harts Creek boys into Delbarton to go up against the Dogs in the old Burch gym.
Another local rivalry before consolidation was Lenore versus Kermit. Those small gyms at KHS and LHS were packed with fevered fans wearing blue and white or red and white. I also remember the late John Preece coaching against Ken Maynard for local supremacy between two Mingo County schools.
I always loved covering the Class A sectional tournament with all of the local schools battling it out. Gilbert, Matewan, Burch, Lenore, Kermit and even Crum. There were many talented players who dribbled and shot their way to local celebrity in those small communities.
The state titles for Kermit in 1964 and 1975 are still legendary. Players like the late Hershel Sartin, Joe Dingess, Lewis Hale, Guy Dillon and J. W. Endicott and others are still local heroes.
It seemed like the Rangers always had a Runyon, Preece or other home grown star firing up jumpers or patrolling the paint on their squad.
If you’re like me you miss those simpler times with the small schools in each community.
Those teams were a sense of pride for those towns. On any given night magic could be found. Someone coming off the bench to hit a game winning shot.
Then you had the Mingo County Junior High Tournament that was always held at the Williamson Fieldhouse. Eight teams would battle it out for the county championship.
Teams like the Chattaroy Yellowjackets, Red Jacket Indians, that no longer exist, and all of the other towns in the county hit the hardwood hoping to have their moment in the sun. Coaches like Bob Meade, Sid Copley and many others sat on the pines of the old wooden benches and coached junior high for many years.
On the first day of the tournament school was let out and student cheering sections were bused to the game to root for their teams. The next night you had the semi-finals and then on Saturday the consolation and championship games were held.
It was an exciting time for 8th and 9th graders.
Now we only have two high schools in the county, and six middle schools.
Times have changed, but there are so many fond memories of those years.
I get a little sentimental from time to time when thinking about the good ol’ days.
I’m sure many of you do too.
The Mingo Central Lady Miners basketball team will be holding Middle School Night on Thursday, Dec. 9th when they host the Belfry Lady Pirates. Players from on four feeder schools to Mingo Central will be admitted free and their teams introduced at halftime.
… Eugene Deskins, 61, of Logan, passed away on Monday, Dec. 30, 2013 at CAMC General in Charleston. Deskins played basketball at WHS back in the early 1970s. He was also a fixture at the old City Softball Park in West End for many years.
… The West Virginia University men’s basketball game at Texas Tech on Monday, Jan. 6 has been moved to the Big 12 Network and ESPN3. The game time will remain at 7 p.m. EST.
… And finally, I have received several nice comments, Facebook messages and e-mails on my column last week about remembering Williamson at Christmastime. Some were former residents who now live out of state – Florida, North Carolina, Virginia. I thank all of those who have sent kind messages and I’m glad the essay brought back many fond memories for those who grew up in the Tug Valley area.
(Kyle Lovern is the sports editor for the Williamson Daily News. Comments or story ideas can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com)