(Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two part series on Williamson’s historic win over arch rival Logan in the Class AAA sectional tournament at the Fieldhouse.)
It was a long tip-in from the right side of the goal at the Williamson Fieldhouse.
It is arguably one of the biggest shots ever made in Williamson High School basketball history. It gave the Wolfpack a 66-64 victory at the buzzer over arch rival Logan back in 1980.
Julius “Boo Boo” Hatcher, at that time a young junior guard for head coach Allan Hatcher, is still remembered in the laurels of Wolfpack basketball history for that shot.
Hatcher had been on the bench, but was placed in the game by his coach, who had confidence in his abilities. But what a lot of fans might not know, Boo Hatcher was nervous. “I told Jimmy (Barker) ‘I’m scared,’ but once I got into the game, I was okay and settled down.”
Known as a defensive stopper, the lighting quick guard was put into the game.
With 1:21 left on the clock with Logan leading by four, 62-58. To beat it all, the Wildcats had possession of the basketball.
Williamson had not beaten Logan in the Class AAA sectional since 1969. After a Wildcat miss, Boo Hatcher, who stood 5-10, worked his way under the basket for a 2-pointer with 1:10 left on the Fieldhouse clock. That pulled the Pack to within two points.
Right before that, the late Robert Williamson hit a basket with 1:21 to cut the lead to four.
Another key play was a steal by Williamson’s Jimmy Barker, who passed the roundball to Donald Hairston, who drove the lane and tied the game at 62-all.
Logan’s Steve Zappia went to the line for a bonus free throw situation, but missed the front end of the one and one.
With the game tied, Williamson set up a play for senior guard Jimmy Barker to fire in one of his patented jumpers. He had scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half.
Barkers’ shot was long, but Boo Hatcher was in the right place at the right time. Moments later the hundreds of fans wearing maroon and white rushed the floor. (This writer was one of those 4,000-plus fans and one of those who celebrated the Wolfpack victory on the court.)
“A lot of people think it was a tip-in right under the basket,” Boo Hatcher recalls. “It was more from the elbow. I just out-jumped the Logan player and the shot fell in.”
“I can still remember the ball going in on Julius’ tip,” said former WHS coach Allan Hatcher. “It was one of the most exciting plays I have ever been involved in. The crowd erupted.”
Boo Hatcher and his teammates were mobbed and the historic Williamson Fieldhouse erupted into a frenzy of exultation.
“At that time – I wasn’t sure what happened,” Boo Hatcher remembers. “Then I saw the fans rush the court and I realized we had won the game.”
“I ran straight to the locker room,” he recalls. There he continued to receive a long line of congratulations from fans and former Wolfpack players. At that moment it was almost surreal for the WHS guard.
Coach Hatcher (no relation to the player), said he had been “extremely tough on Boo Boo” the day before in practice. Boo Hatcher also recalled that he and his coach had gotten into an argument in practice just the day before.
“He was one of the toughest players I ever had,” coach Hatcher said. “He was the glue that held our team together. That was just the kind of relationship we had.”
The leading scorer of that team was Hairston, a stocky, pigeon-toed 6-1 forward, who could jump out of the gym. Hairston had a measured 42 inch vertical leap and had carried the Wolfpack offensively most of the season. He scored 22 points in the game, including 14 in the second quarter that helped WHS stay close to legendary coach Willie Aker’s squad.
Other members of the team were smooth southpaw junior guard Curtis Townes, scrappy junior Robert Williamson, lanky 6-6 junior center Kenny Schwartz and 6-5 junior forward Bobby Fletcher.
Williamson and Logan had been two of the top rated Class AAA programs in the state for many years. In the late 1960s, WHS held the edge, but then Logan turned the tide in the 1970s and had beaten the Wolfpack in 10 straight sectional tournaments.
Throw in the fact that Allan Hatcher was a Logan native and had been an assistant for Akers before taking over the reins at WHS when George Ritchie retired.
There had been some historical battles on the hardwood between these two coal mining towns that are only separated by about 30 miles.
Unfortunately for Williamson, they lost a heartbreaker to Huntington High School in the Region 8 championship game played at the old Huntington Veterans Memorial Fieldhouse the following week. WHS had beaten the Pony Express twice in the regular season.
The next season, with Hatcher, Townes, Bobby Fletcher, Kenny Schwartz and a young sophomore named Mark Cline, Williamson went undefeated in the regular season and went through the tournament unscathed, before losing a heartbreaker in the state AAA finals to Princeton. They had beaten the Mercer County team, led by all-state center Jimmy Miller, twice that season.
The Pack lost 51-47, a real thriller to Miller and Princeton High School in that 1981 Class AAA finals. Just like Huntington in 1980, Williamson had defeated Princeton twice in the regular season.
However, Hatcher’s shot helped the Wolfpack turn the corner after a rough patch during the 1970s. The 1980s belonged to the Williamson Wolfpack.
Because of the drop in enrollment, Williamson eventually had to drop down to Class AA and the later even Class A in recent years.
Eventually Williamson won four state championships in the 1980s. Allan Hatcher earned one in 1983 led by senior All-American Mark Cline.
David Hatfield took over as head coach and with a covey of talent won three titles, 1986, 1988 and 1989.
But it was Boo Hatcher’s shot that turned things around with his memorable tip-in. Hatcher now is an assistant coach at Mingo Central and also the head coach for the girls at Williamson Middle School. His son Julius IV is a starting junior guard for the Miners.
Many of the younger generation has no idea of the legacy that Hatcher left at Williamson.
But most Wolfpack fans will agree, they are sure glad he made that shot that echoed around the state and got the Williamson program over the hump.
(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.)