Basketball in southern West Virginia has long been king when it comes to high school sports.
James Monroe became the latest school to add its name to the storied tradition of boys basketball teams from the coalfields when it hoisted the coveted championship trophy on championship Saturday this past March.
Lets take a look back at the championship teams from our area that celebrated a special anniversary in 2022.
1942 – Marsh Fork Bulldogs
When March rolled around in 1942, “The Pride of Montcoal” was making its second consecutive trip to the Boys Basketball State Tournament at the famed West Virginia University Field House in Morgantown.
Playing in the Class B division at that time, Marsh Fork dominated Barracksville 57-42 in the championship game.
The Bulldogs trailed just once in the contest at 2-0 before their fast breaking style of offense was too much for the Bison to overcome. Marsh Fork led by as many at 17 points in the opening half and was never really contested in the second half.
Glen Tabor led the scoring for Marsh Fork with 21 points, while Dean Jarrell had 15 and Orville Carr scored 10.
Tabor, Dewey Romine, Dean Jarrell and Don Lamb were named to the All-Tournament team.
Marsh Fork entered the tournament with a 15-3 record before defeating Clear Fork and Talcott in sectional play. Huntington Vinson and Sandyville were the next triumphs for the Bulldogs in the regional tournament.
The opening round contest in Morgantown brought a rematch with Athens which had beat the Bulldogs in the regular season.
A 48-39 win sent Marsh Fork (23-3) to the title game against Barracksville (21-5).
1952 – Woodrow Wilson
The last time a West Virginia high school basketball team had successfully defended a state title prior to 1952 was 23 years earlier.
A layup by leading scorer Willie Bergines with just over one minute to play, lifting Beckley to a 53-52 win for it’s second consecutive title.
The likelihood of Beckley pulling off the rare feat seemed quite improbable entering Saturday’s championship game against Fairmont West, now known as Fairmont Senior.
The mighty Polar Bears were an overwhelming favorite going three deep at every position and had bested Beckley 54-29 earlier in the regular season.
Add in the fact that the Flying Eagles would be without their best play-maker, guard Bill Turner, title hopes seemed dim.
Turner was stricken with a case of German Measles and was forced to spend two days in the WVU Infirmary.
The scene was set for the emergence of a star and Beckley sophomore Dwayne Wingler stepped into the spotlight.
Wingler, who averaged around six points per game, poured in 19 points, along with Bergines’ 21 points to beat South Charleston by 19 points in the quarterfinals.
Beckley (24-4) routed Warwood in the semis, 64-38 behind 24 points from Bill Collier, the most points scored at the state tournament.
In front of a highly partisan crowd of over 6,400 people, Beckley trailed by seven points early in the fourth quarter when the Flying Eagle fans helped turn the tide.
With Turner on the bench in street clothes, the Beckley cheering section and started chanting, “All the way for Turner, all the way for Turner.”
Beckley cut the advantage to two points before the Polar Bears (22-3) pushed the lead back to five. However, when a young Pete Culicerto tipped in a Beckley miss later, the Flying Eagles were again back within two points.
A score by Wingler with 2:36 to play cut the lead to one-point setting up Bergines heroics with 1:04 to play.
Fairmont missed three scoring opportunities down the stretch and the Flying Eagles survived for the win.
The game featured 72 fouls and the teams combined for over 80 free-throws. Bergines, Davis and Collier were named to the All-Tournament team.
The basketball win was the fourth state title that year for the “City of Champions.” Beckley also claimed the title in football and wrestling, while Beckley Junior High routed Farmington, 70-28, in the state junior high championship.
1962 – Woodrow Wilson
The 1962 state championship game was was a showdown of undefeated teams.
Beckley and Weirton both entered Saturday’s clash with an unblemished record at 24-0.
Outscoring the Red Riders 22-7 down the stretch, the Flying Eagles stunned Weirton 71-69 for the win.
Weirton was led by Ron “Fritz” Williams who scored 28 points in the game. Williams had helped stake the much taller Red Riders to a 64-49 lead early in the final quarter.
With the Beckley crowd mostly in stunned silence, Pack Hindsley, Dave Barksdale, Bill Karbonit, Ron Cimala and Bane Sarrett help orchestrate a comeback for the ages.
A basket from Karbonit, along with two from Cimala and one from Hindsley cut the lead to eight points at 65-57.
Nine points combined by Hindsley and Sarrett off-set a basket by Weirton and brought Beckley within one-point of the Red Riders.
Williams scored to build the lead back to three points, but a 3-point play by Cimala knotted the game at 69 apiece.
Looking to hold for the final shot, Williams dribbled the ball off his foot out of bounds, giving the ball back to Beckley with 52 ticks on the clock.
Beckley was successful in holding for the final shot and the ball went to Karbonit who slashed between two Weirton defenders for the game-winning score with under five seconds to play.
It was the second come from behind win of the tournament for the Flying Eagles who had rallied for a 62-55 win over South Charleston the day before.
Hindsley finished with 23 points and Sarrett had 17. Karbonit scored 15 and Cimala added 10.
Sarrett, Karbonit and Hindsley were all named to the All-Tournament team.
1972 – Greenbrier East, Mullens, Oakvale
Championship Saturday at the Charleston Civic Center saw Greenbrier East and Oakvale secure the lone boys basketball titles in school history, while Mullens earned its third title.
The Class AAA Spartans were led by future WVU standout Warren Baker who was virtually unstoppable that season.
After defeating George Washington in a lackluster quarterfinal matchup, where Baker scored 22 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked seven shots, top-ranked Greenbrier East had its hands full with Huntington on semifinal Friday.
Baker dropped in 36 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in the win, but the Spartans had to go to overtime for an 88-80 win over the Pony Express.
The lead changed eight times in the final period before heading to extra time. The athletic Baker converted two 3-point plays and hit a a jumper on the overtime period to give East the win.
The Greenbrier East (25-1) big man was equally as dominate in the championship game scoring 33 points in a 64-58 win over Dunbar (22-4).
After Baker had helped the Spartans build a 12-point halftime lead, the Bulldogs ran off six straight to open the second half.
Clinging to a two-point lead late in the contest, a basket from Baker and two free-throws from Chink Ballard sealed a 64-58 win.
Baker, Bruce Johnson and Lester Tharp made the All-Tournament team.
Mullens rolled into the Class AA championship game on the heels of a 66-46 semifinal thrashing of Petersburg. The Rebels outscored the Vikings 22-9 over the final eight minutes to advance to the state championship tilt.
Waiting for Mullens was a solid Matewan team who gave the Rebels all they wanted in a 46-41 decision.
Keeping the Tigers at bay with its zone defense, Mullens led 25-18 at halftime. The offesnive struggles for both teams continued in the second half before two baskets by Matewan closed the gap to three points.
The Tigers evened the game at 27-27 before four more ties knotted the game at 33 heading to final quarter.
Mullens (16-10) scored first in the final period, but Matewan (18-9) answered and took its first lead of the game at 37-35 with 5:38 to play.
A free-throw from Carl Coleman and a jumper from Billy Mizell put the Rebels back in front by one point.
Ronnie Bowling made it a three-point Mullens lead before two free-throws from Ed Allen helped Mullens pull away for a 40-35 advantage.
Free-throws from Bowling and Mike Anderson sealed the Rebels second title in the last three years.
The Class AA All-Tournament team included Coleman, Mizell, Bowling and Allen.
Prior to 1972, Oakvale (23-2) had never made an appearance past the sectional championship.
Vincent Ford made sure the Owls would leave Charleston with a memorable experience. Pouring in 35 points, Ford led Oakvale to a 70-55 win over Paden City for the schools only basketball title.
The Owls made the championship game after defeating Tunnelton 56-46 behind 19 points from Wayne Alexander and 18 from Ford.
Six straight points from Ford late in the second quarter of the championship game gave Oakvale a 31-23 lead at the break and the lead was 12 heading to the final quarter.
Paden City has no answers for Ford however. The Oakvale standout was 11-for-21 from the floor and made 13 of his 15 free throw attempts. Ford also grabbed 11 rebounds in the win.
Alexander was also impressive with 15 points, while Howard Smith scored nine points and had 10 rebounds. Ford, Alexander and Smith were All-Tournament selections.
1982 – Mullens
The 1982 version of Don Nuckols’ Rebels could flat out score. Five times over the course of the season, Mullens had eclipsed the 100-point mark.
Led by a talented sophomore and future WVU Mountaineer, Herbie Brooks, the Rebels were a solid favorite to being home the Class A title.
Brooks entered the state tournament averaging 27 points per game, but he also had plenty of talent around him.
Carl Patterson and Roger Stewart averaged double figures and David Saunders had averaged over 15 points per game in the three postseason wins.
After beating Glen Rogers in the opening round of sectional play, the Rebels needed overtime in the sectional clash against rival Pineville.
While the eventual championship game would be an easy 81-60 win for the Rebels over Paden City, the semifinal was anything but a cake walk.
The Franklin Falcons (21-5) trailed Mullens by just two points heading to the final quarter before the Rebels finally pulled away.
A jumper by Saunders and two free throws from David Clay gave Mullens some breathing room. The Rebels moved out to a 10-point lead midway through the quarter, but the Falcons would not go away quietly.
Miscues by Mullens gave Franklin life and Falcons cut the lead to just a basket with two minutes to play. Solid free-throw shooting down the stretch preserved a 62-52 win.
Stellar defense in the championship game brought Paden City’s Cinderella run to a halt. The Wildcats (11-15) had made a dramatic postseason run up to that point.
Mullens led by 17 points at the break and was never challenged.
By securing the 1982 Class A title, Mullens became the first school to win a state title in all three classes. The Rebels won AAA in 1955 and Class AA in both 1970 and 1972.
1992 – Woodrow Wilson, Greenbrier West
The Flying Eagles and the Cavaliers were by no means the favorite to win the championship title in their respective class, but they were definitely full of motivation.
Beckley was back in the championship game after winning the Class AAA title in 1990 for the first time in 23 seasons and finishing runner-up in 1991 to Logan.
Just as it was 40 years earlier, standing in the way of the Flying Eagles was a team that many thought was the best in the state, Fairmont Senior.
The Polar Bears came in undefeated and for the most part, untested, led by future Kentucky Wildcat Jared Prickett. Fairmont was also ranked 25th nationally in the USA Today prep poll.
Just as many thought, the game ended in a 20-point blowout. What the majority in attendance didn’t see coming was Beckley being on the winning end of a 79-59 thrashing.
Fairmont led by four after one quarter, but a 16-4 run in the second quarter gave Beckley an 11-point lead with just under two minutes until the break. It was the first time all season that the Polar Bears had trailed by double digits.
The Beckley lead at halftime was cut to six points, but when the horn sounded to end the third quarter, the Flying Eagles led by 11 points.
Junior Shea Fleenor led Beckley on the night with 23 points including an emphatic break-away slam over Prickett in the fourth quarter that sent the Flying Eagles cheering section into a frenzy.
Fleenor was flawless in the final quarter making all six of his field goal attempts.
Senior Brian Nabors capped a stellar state tournament with 18 points on 6-for-9 shooting. Ryan Culicerto and Anthony Scruggs each added 15 points and seven rebounds.
The win earlier in the day Saturday by Greenbrier West was even more improbable than Beckley’s stunner later that night.
Prior to 1992 head coach John Estep had never had a team win a state tournament game in six tries, but the veteran coach knew this bunch of Cavaliers had something special.
However, standing between the Cavaliers and the first-ever basketball state title was perennial Class AA power Williamson.
As talented as the Wolfpack were, they did not have the drive that guided the Cavaliers that day.
Coming off a disappointing runner-up finish in the state football championship three months earlier, Greenbrier West wasn’t going to denied for a second time.
After beating Williamstown and Pineville to reach the championship game, Greenbrier West knew it had to play well against Williamson.
Saturday afternoon, the Cavaliers were better both mentally and physically than the Wolfpack.
The defensive key was stopping Wolfpack center Mike Hagy and sharp-shooter Joe Stafford.
Hagy had a 44-point game to his credit in the quarterfinals against Bridgeport, while Stafford poured in 31 in the semifinal win.
The dynamic duo was held to 16-of-46 shooting and West whipped the Wolfpack on the glass by 50-37 margin.
In a see-saw affair in the second half, a big 3-pointer from Chris Vaughan tied the game with just over two minutes to play before Williamson elected to hold the ball for the final shot.
Hagy was stripped on a drive with five seconds to play and West breathed a sigh of relief when the Stafford missed an open 3-pointer off the loose ball.
In the first overtime, Stafford tied the game late with a scoring drive and then dodged its own bullet when West could not convert looks down the stretch.
Clyde Blevins seized the moment in the second overtime period scoring seven of the 11 points for West leading to a 74-70 win for the boys from Charmco.
Chris Vaughan led the Cavs with 20 points, while Blevins finished with 17 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.
Jason Gwinn had 13 points and nine rebounds along with Steve Vaughan who scored 10 points and also grabbed nine boards, while Mike Gabbert added 10 points.
2002 – Wyoming East
The range of emotions were off the chart for Wyoming East going into the 2002 championship game.
Head coach “Gentleman” Gene Reid was stepping down after the game. Before the game started, players were crying in the locker room and Reid himself was having trouble talking through the emotions.
Toss in the fact that several players had battled the emotions of flooding issues back home the previous summer and the loss of loved ones, the storybook ending was set.
Now all the battle-hardened Warriors had to do was win the game. That too didn’t come easy.
Needing two overtimes to decide the contest, Wyoming East won its first-ever boys basketball title with a 72-62 decision over Poca.
After a first-round exit the previous year, East knocked off highly-touted Tyler Consolidated, 68-54 behind 16 points and 10 rebounds by Tank Tunstalle.
The Warriors earned their spot on the championship game with a 75-65 win over Bluefield in the semis. Justin Smith led the way with 19 points and 10 boards in the triumph over the Beavers.
In the championship game, it was the feisty guard, Kent McBride that did in the Dots.
McBride first hit a pair of free-throws late in regulation to send the game to the first overtime.
With just over two minutes to play in the initial overtime, East trailed 54-51 before Jason Spears tied the game with a big 3-point bomb.
The Warriors then built a 57-54 lead late, but a clutch 3-ball by Poca sent the game to a second overtime.
McBride broke a 59-all tie when he scored inside before Smith pushed the lead to three points with a free-throw.
Meanwhile the Dots were struggling from the line in the waning minutes of the game missing the front end of a one-and-one and a two more attempts with 1:52 to play.
Four straight from McBride at the charity stripe gave East a seven point lead and the Warriors were never challenged afterwards.
Wyoming East (24-3) hit 11 of 16 free throws in the final 2:25 of the second overtime period. McBride scored 24 points, grabbed seven rebounds and made 10-11 free tosses. He was also 9-for-9 at the stripe in the 2nd half and the overtime periods.
Smith had 16 points and six rebounds, while Tunstalle scored 12 and grabbed nine rebounds. Spears added 11 points, including two key long balls and Michael Monroe scored six points and pulled down 10 rebounds.