With the 100th anniversary of the West Virginia State High School basketball tournament being celebrated last week, my buddy Joe Kinzer, a longtime radio broadcaster for WXCC radio, put his math hat on and did his best impression of a stat expert.
With me using my trusty calculator, Kinzer and I came up with some great stats regarding Mingo County High Schools in the state tourney.
Mingo County schools are now 77-26 after Tug Valley’s three wins this year.
This made the 16th championship for high school teams from Mingo County. There have been 15 runner-up finishes for teams from the state’s youngest county.
The current three class alignments started in 1950. From 1915 to 1929 the tourney was open for any team who wanted to compete. Then the tournament was divided into divisions in a number of years, including 1949 to 1958. This was Class A for larger schools and Class B for schools with smaller enrollments.
From 1959 the tourney was made up of the current three class system, but only four teams made it to the state tourney. In 1971 Class AAA was increased to eight teams and the lower two classes went from four teams to eight teams back in 1985.
Williamson High School had the most with six championships, five in Class AA and one, the most recent back in 2001, in Class A. The others were in 1964, 1983, 1986, 1988 and 1989. The Wolfpack had two Class AAA runner-ups, one in 1965 and one in 1981. In those Triple A title games, each time WHS was undefeated going into the final game and got upset. The first defeat was to Beckley Woodrow Wilson and then the second heartbreaker to Princeton.
WHS finished with a 28-17 overall record at the state tournament. Burch was next with an 18-6 mark, Tug Valley is now 21-7, and Kermit was 5-3, Lenore 3-1, Matewan 2-4, Gilbert 3-4, Liberty of Williamson 1-1 and Chattaroy 2-3.
Burch won the first-ever state title by a high school from Mingo County back in 1957. Future Bulldog head coach John Maynard played on that team. That was in the old Class B division. Lenore was next with an AA championship back in 1962. Kermit won its first in 1964, a Class A title. That Blue Devil team was led by Lewis Hale, who went on to play at WVU, Herschel Sartin and Joe Bryant Dingess.
That same year Williamson won its first in Class AA. The Wolfpack was led by a young coach, George Ritchie and all-state performer Bill Craig.
Kermit came back with another championship in 1975. That team was coached by the late John Preece. He had big Guy Dillon on the squad, along with J. W. Endicott and Barry Richardson leading the team. That small senior class had three players to go on to become medical doctors - Endicott, Bruce Hensley and John Carey.
Then Williamson had its run of four titles in the 1980s. Allan Hatcher coached the team to a title in ’83, a team led by All-American Mark Cline.
Then David Hatfield coached WHS to three Class AA titles in the late ‘80s. Those squads were loaded with talent including Anthony Strother, the twins, Barry and Gary Baker and many others.
Burch won the Class A title in 1989. John Maynard coached that team, which was led by Scott Caudill and Billy Stratton. Then they had two in the early 90s, 1991 and 1993. That team was coached by Mike Smith and led by all-state guard Billy Erwin.
Tug Valley won its first, an AA first place finish, back in 1999. Frankie Smith coached that team which was led by Greg Davis. Then WHS won in 2001, their last before consolidation. Tug Valley won the AA title last year and in Class A this year. They join Williamson’s 1988-89 teams as the only two from Mingo County to win back-to-back championships.
As far as state tournament appearances, Williamson had 25, Burch 10, Lenore two, Kermit five, Tug Valley 10, Matewan four, Gilbert four, Chattaroy three and Liberty one.
There were several runner-ups by some great teams from the county. Kermit finished as runner-up in the old Class B division back in 1950.
Chattaroy had two appearances, but both teams lost in the finals. That was in 1955 and 1962. That was the last year the Yellowjackets would field a team. They were consolidated with Williamson after the 1962 season.
Williamson moved up to Class AAA in 1965, but lost a tough one to Beckley.
In 1966, Liberty High School of Williamson, one of the last all-black schools in the state, went to the Class A state championship. But, they lost a heartbreaker. They were consolidated with WHS the next year. That team was coached by the late Ed Starling.
Matewan got as close as it ever did back in 1972. Joe Clusky coached a Tiger team led by Mike Collins and Billy Roberson to the championship. They lost and finished as runner-up.
In 1981, after finally beating Logan in the sectional tourney, WHS lost to Huntington in the regional final. At that time, only four teams made it in each class to the state tournament. Later that was changed and eight teams went from each class.
In 1984, Lenore, coached by Dick Montgomery, lost in the championship game to Mullens. Mullens was led by future WVU star Herbie Brooks. The Rangers were led by Scotty Baisden, Rodney Goff and Mike Hanshaw. (This is one of the first teams I ever covered as a sport reporter.)
WHS got upset by Greenbrier West back in 1992 in the finals at the Civic Center. David Hatfield also saw his team lose a tough one in 1996 to a great Bluefield team.
Burch lost in the finals in 1994 to Doddridge County and in 1998 to Mullens.
Tug Valley, coached by Roger Harless, lost in the championship game in 2001 to Bridgeport.
Mingo County definitely has played a big part when it comes to the history of the state basketball tournament. Most of those schools are gone. There are now only two high schools left in the county.
Tug Valley has built a solid program under head coach Garland “Rabbit” Thompson. The new Mingo Central High School, under head coach Brad Napier, hopes to build a good hoops program up on the mountain.
Both will eventually add new chapters to the history of Mingo County high school boys’ basketball teams.
Sports writers and reporters will keep adding to the stats as I’m sure they will continue to change, but the legacy will remain.
(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)