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Centennial hoops celebration

Chip Ellis
George Washington High School cheerleaders and basketball players were among those on hand at the Civic Center Thursday as broadcaster Fred Persinger told of the SSAC's plans to celebrate the 100th boys high school basketball state tournament.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Starting March 13, the boys state high school basketball tournament will take place for the 100th time.With that in mind, the Secondary School Activities Commission has been busy in recent months.Among the SSAC's plans to mark the occasion are a banquet on March 12, the publication of a pictorial history to include photos of all 229 state championship teams, the showing of news footage of 45 tournaments, the unveiling of a commemorative logo, the display of photos and memorabilia and the recognition of former players, coaches, officials and cheerleaders. The tournament is scheduled for March 13-16 at the Charleston Civic Center.Amid all the festivities, however, the playing of the 100th tournament itself will not be overlooked."For those 24 boys basketball teams that will show up for this year's event, they're really not going to be caring too much about the previous 99 years because this is their event,'' said Butch Powell, assistant executive director of the SSAC, at a Thursday morning press conference at the Civic Center. "So we didn't want to do anything to disrupt the state tournament for those young men.''The most challenging project was finding team photos for 99 years of champions, a list that includes such long-forgotten schools such as Burnsville, Wallace, Parsons, Pax and others.As of Thursday morning, 228 of the 229 had been uncovered, leaving only the 1917 Parkersburg champs, but Powell said he fully expects to find the Big Reds photo when he visits the Wood County Board of Education office today.The pictorial history, which also will include stories on such Cinderella teams as the 1930 Hundred Hornets and the 1945 Normantown Vikings, will be given to attendees of the March 12 banquet and will be sold at the Civic Center during the tournament.The banquet, scheduled for the Civic Center, is expected to draw 2,000 people, said Fred Persinger, a longtime sportscaster who worked with the SSAC in planning the event.
"It's very, very ambitious on our part,'' Persinger said Thursday, "but we think we can put 2,000 people in there. When you're celebrating an event such as the boys 100th high school basketball tournament, think about that for just a few minutes - all the years, all the teams, all the players. I think we will sell the thing out.''As keynote speaker, the SSAC invited East Bank native and former West Virginia University and NBA great Jerry West, but he declined, citing his duties as consultant with the Golden State Warriors. West, however, promised to prepare a video of his state tournament reminiscences to be shown at the banquet.The SSAC then invited Mullins native and former Marshall great Mike D'Antoni and, though he initially accepted, was forced to bow out in November when he took the Los Angeles Lakers coaching job. But like West, he promised to submit a video.The SSAC then rounded up six banquet speakers:
  • Willie Akers, who led Mullins to the 1955 state title and later played at WVU and coached Logan to state championships in 1964, ''77, '78 and '83;
  • Warren Baker, who led Greenbrier East to the 1972 championship and played four seasons at WVU;
  • Dave Barksdale, who played on the Woodrow Wilson championship team in 1962 and coached the Flying Eagles to titles in 1990, '92, '93, '97 and '98;
  • Bob Burton, who coached Paden City to championships in 1973 and '87 and to the title games in '72 and '82;
  • Jeff Schneider, a first-team all-state selection for four years at Washington Irving and the first two-time winner of the state player of the year award in 1977 and '78;
  • Ergie Smith, who coached Gary District to a title in 1965 and Gary High School to a title the following year.
  • The news videos, which include footage of the Lewis D'Antoni-coached 1955 Mullins championship team, will be shown on television monitors throughout the Civic Center during the tournament and will be shown as part of the banquet activities.
    The new logo depicts a basketball with the words "100 Years ... Celebrating Boys Basketball'' superimposed on a blue outline of the state. It will be used in the commemorative program and will be emblazoned on the Civic Center floor inside the foul lane during the tournament.  It also will appear on banners that will be mounted throughout the Civic Center.
  • BRIEFLY: Mayor Danny Jones attended the press conference and said the tournament annually brings 68,000 visitors to the city. ... The 1971 George Washington team, which won the Class AAA title, and Charles Elkins, who coached the Hamlin High team for 37 years, also attended. ... Assisting Powell in gathering the 228 team photos were Doug Huff, SSAC historian and former Wheeling Intelligencer sports editor, and Woody Higginbotham, a teacher at Tygarts Valley High School. ... Tickets for the banquet are $35 and are available at the Civic Center and at the SSAC website. ... Former players, coaches, officials and cheerleaders will be introduced at halftime throughout the tournament. ... Once the tournament begins, schools will be encouraged to display historical photos and memorabilia in the Civic Center lobby. ... The first state tournament was a two-team affair matching Elkins and Wheeling on the campus of West Virginia Wesleyan College on March 21, 1914. Elkins won 28-13.
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