The first time I ever worked in the newspaper business was way back in 1984.
It’s hard to believe but that was 30 years ago. I was a young sports reporter for the Williamson Daily News. I grew up reading the paper and now I was working for them covering sports.
That spring I had the pleasure of covering the Lenore Ranger’s basketball team that made it to the state tournament championship game.
Coached by Dick Montgomery, the undersized Ranger squad was senior dominated, and a fun team to watch and cover. Lenore had a starting lineup of Rodney Goff, Scotty Baisden, Mike Hanshaw, Mike “Bird” Hall and Johnny Shrum. Barry Mounts and Mark Kirk also saw significant action. Ed Hickman was the next man off the bench if needed. Montgomery primarily went with a 7-man rotation.
Lenore first had to make it out of a tough six-team sectional that included local rivals Kermit, Matewan, Burch and Gilbert from Mingo County and Crum from nearby southern Wayne County. That local tournament, played at the historic Williamson Fieldhouse, was really competitive.
I recall Lenore coming back and beating the Blue Devils before a packed house at the local venue. The entire section was competitive and all of the local teams were natural rivals.
Lenore went into the Class A sectional with a regular season mark of 18-3.
The Rangers had an easy time with a young Burch Bulldog squad coached by John Maynard in their first game winning 59-41. Matewan, coached by the late Joe Clusky, advanced in the other first round game with a close 59-57 victory over Gilbert.
In the next round a good Kermit team beat Matewan 85-72. Kermit was led by Rocky Brewer and Mike Smith, while the Tigers were led by a young Andre Cunningham. MHS also had Sam Hinkle and Gary Adkins to compliment Cunningham.
Other players of note to mention are Reggie Gravely of Burch and David Fields of Crum.
Lenore advanced in the next round with an easy win over the Mountaineers of Crum 76-47.
Then came the sectional championship game. I recall sitting under the basket taking pictures and notes as this heated contest evolved. Kermit led at halftime 35-21.
However, the scrappy Lenore team kept chipping away in the second half. Then Hanshaw hit the game winning basket to beat the Ranger’s arch rival 59-57.
The Rangers happily cut down the nets and advanced to the regional tournament.
Lenore then had to play an always tough Huntington-Vinson squad, but luckily got to play at the local Fieldhouse. In double-overtime, they upset the Tigers 62-56 in another nail-biter.
Next it was Mt. Hope in the regional finals in a game played at the old Chapmanville High School gym. Once again Hanshaw was the hero with a last second shot – a 20 foot jumper – that helped the Rangers corral the Mustangs 50-49.
Then it was on to the state tournament in Charleston. The Class A and AA only had four teams in the state tourney at that time. Lenore won the semi-final game over Tygarts Valley 69-47 to advance to the championship game.
Their opponent was the Mullens Rebels, led by future WVU star Herbie Brooks and all-state center in Jeff Mullins. Lenore led 34-32 heading into the dressing room at the half.
But, it was a nightmare third quarter for the Rangers. They failed to score and trailed 47-34 heading into the final eight minutes. Lenore was never able to get over that hump and lost a heartbreaker in the championship game as Mullins poured in 26 and Brooks 18 to lead their team to the comeback win, 78-54.
Baisden scored 16, Hall 14, Goff 12, Hanshaw 9 and Mounts 5 for LHS in a losing effort.
Although the Hoosier-type ending didn’t happen for the Rangers, it was an entertaining group of kids to travel with and cover back in 1984. The coaching staff and administration were also hospitable. I even rode on the bus to a couple of the road games.
That season is a good recollection of my early career and I’m sure a fond memory for those players and fans from Lenore. It’s hard to believe how time flies by, but the recollections will never fade away.
(Kyle Lovern is the Sports Editor for the Williamson Daily News. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 304-235-4242, ext. 33 or Twitter @KyleLovern)