By KYLE LOVERN
To say that Mingo County was the basketball capitol of West Virginia back in 1964 might have been putting it mildly.
Both Williamson and Kermit High Schools brought home state championship trophies that spring. The Wolfpack won the Class AA title, while Kermit won the Class A title. Not very far away from our county, our neighbor, Logan High School, brought home the Class AAA championship.
So that year the three state champs were all located in the southern coalfield - within a 50-mile radius of each other.
Kermit finished the season undefeated with a perfect 27-0 record. The starting five on that squad all averaged in double figures.
The Blue Devils had one of the best teams in the state in 1964 regardless of classification. They beat Barracksville in the championship game 92-90. This was the school’s first state title. They had a Class B runner-up team back in 1950.
Kermit stayed undefeated beating a tough Conley High of Mullens team in overtime in regional action 74-70. They got by a great Northfork-Elkhorn team in the regional finals.
Only four teams made it to the state tourney in each class at that time. The Blue Devils defeated Paw Paw 94-72 in the semi-finals in the state tourney played in Morgantown. Members of the team in no particular order included Joe (Spaulding) Dingess, Herschel Sartin, Lewis Hale, Larry Weddington, Bill Parsley, Odell Sartin, Kent Hoke, Dick Goff, Teddie Parsley, D. Sone and B. Maynard. This outstanding squad was coached by Boyce Preece.
Hale went on to play at West Virginia University. The 1965 freshmen team he played on for the Mountaineers went 20-1 and was deemed one of the best frosh teams in the country.
The Williamson High School team of 1964 was coached by George Ritchie. The Wolfpack got on a roll at the end of the season, which was highlighted by winning the double A title, the first in the school’s history on the hardwood.
Members of that team included Doug Layne, Johnny Brooks, Greg Slater, Freddie Campbell and Bill Craig, Harlan White, James Young, Buster White, Clarence Chapman. The managers were Ivan Albert and A. J. West. Some of these players went on to play college basketball.
The Pack beat Summersville in a romp in the semi-finals by a score of 89-59 and they defeated Magnolia 80-68 in the state championship game.
This was a balanced squad, and many times they would have four or five players score in double figures each game. Brooks, Slater and Layne made the all-tourney team.
In one state tourney game Slater was a perfect 7-7 from the field, a state record he held for many years. The Wolfpack finished with a 20-6 record.
Logan defeated Weir 81-73 in the AAA finals and finished with only one loss and a record of 25-1. Logan had been defeated by Weir the year before in the finals. Logan was led by Jim Davidson, who went on to star at Marshall.
Both of the Mingo County schools went on to have some other great teams in the future. Kermit won the Class A title in 1975 under the guidance of the late John Preece.
Williamson won five more state titles in 1983, 1986, 1988, 1989 and 2001. They also had four runner-up finishes. Those titles were under former coaches Alan Hatcher, David Hatfield and Curt Fletcher.
The 1960s were some of the best years for local high school basketball teams. The state tournament history of March, 1964 was very memorable for many Mingo County fans.
(Kyle Lovern is the sports editor for the Williamson Daily News. Comments or story ideas can be sent to email@example.com)