It’s hard to believe, but it is already tournament time for high school basketball teams in the area.
Belfry will host the 60th District tournament on Monday and Wednesday.
Both the Mingo Central and Tug Valley girl’s teams will be in sectional play next week.
The following week the boy’s will head into sectional tourney play in West Virginia and the gals will be in their regional finals.
The Expo Center in Pikeville will once again host the 15th Regional tournament for both the boys and girls squads from February 25 to March 5.
…. I was sad to see where West Virginia basketball legend Willie Akers, a former WVU standout and coach at Logan High School, is a patient in a Charleston hospital after a fall at the Charleston Civic Center on Wednesday.
Akers is well known in the Williamson area from his days as coach for the Wildcats and the many historic battles his team’s had with the Wolfpack.
Akers, who will turn 76 in July, stumbled on the basketball floor at the Civic Center. The AP report said Akers was in critical condition after fracturing his C6 cervical vertebrae and breaking his nose. He was also on a ventilator.
He guided Logan’s boys basketball teams to four Class AAA state championships and a 402-116 record during his tenure from 1962-83.
The Mullens, W.Va native was a two-time All-State selection at the old Mullens High School, helping his team win the Class AAA title in 1955. He went on to play at WVU where he played on three teams that combined for an 81-12 record and was a co-captain his senior season. His teammate and best friend at WVU was NBA legend Jerry West. They still remain close.
…. Many stories have been told about Barry Harmon over the past couple of days after the well-known sports fan passed away at his apartment in Williamson. Barry was one of the biggest Williamson Wolfpack and WVU fans that there ever was.
He knew how to get under the skin of WHS opponents, visiting coaches and fans from other teams. Many locals – young and old alike – have some great stories about Barry. My old friend and fellow Babe Ruth Baseball teammate Mike Murphy, who now lives in Virginia Beach, wrote to me and talked about how Barry was a fixture on the sandlot fields and outdoor basketball courts in East End.
Barry would do his Curly impersonation (Three Stooges) toward the opposing fans just to get them riled up. This was especially true during the heated rivalry of the Williamson-Logan basketball games.
I recall the story of where Barry got into an argument with someone from his old neighborhood. He ended up with a broken jaw – compliments of a Louisville Slugger. He had to have his jaw wired up after the incident.
A couple of people teased him later in life and joked – and I tell this story with fondness – that was one of the few times that Barry couldn’t talk – or eat. Everyone knows Barry loved to do both.
My friend Tim Dixon told this story about Barry. It was his junior year at Matewan. The Tigers played Williamson in football at Lefty Hamilton Park. Williamson won that game. “If anyone has ever been in the locker rooms at Lefty Hamilton you know there is a door that separates the two locker rooms and it swings open to the visitor’s side. So after we go in the locker room and Coach McCoy and Coach Kinder were talking to us about what we should have done and what we shouldn’t have done.”
“All this time they were talking there was this guy on the Williamson side of the locker room laughing and riding us pretty hard. “How you like that Tigers!” Barry was laughing and saying Pack, Pack, Pack - over and over again,” Dixon recalls. “This seemed to go on forever and all this time you could see Coach McCoy and Coach Kinder’s face getting red and steam coming off their heads. They started trying to get that door open between those two locker rooms, but they were unsuccessful. Almost every time I saw Barry I would bring this up and we would just laugh about it.”
… I started thinking that over the past few months, since I came back as sports editor at the Williamson Daily News, how many from the local sports scene have passed on. Former WHS coach George Ritchie lost his battle with cancer, and young John Fry, an assistant coach at Mingo Central died unexpectedly last summer.
Just recently Phillip Mitchell, the former softball player, softball coach at Burch and basketball coach at Matewan also passed away. Now Harmon, a fixture on the sideline at many local sporting contests, has gone on to heaven.
(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)