Jerry West

Charleston Gazette
March 25, 1956

Jerry West Leads East Bank To Cage Title

By Skip Johnson
Sports Writer for The Gazette

MORGANTOWN, March 24 - Jerry West, who plays basketball as though he invented the game, scored 39 points here today in Mountaineer Field House to lead East Bank to a 71-56 win over Morgantown in the finals of the Class A state high school tournament.

The great Pioneer star, who received a long ovation from the capacity crowd of 6,500 when he fouled out of the game with 5:27 left to play, was acclaimed along press row as one of the outstanding players ever to appear in the tourney.

East Bank, co-champion of the Kanawha Valley Conference during regular season play, thus won its first state basketball championship. The Pioneers were making their fourth tourney appearance, and today's game marked their first time in the Class A finals. Back in 1924 East Bank lost to Burnsville, 20-16, in the Class B finals.

West's 39-points gave him a total of 114 for the tourney, including the points he scored against Huntington East in Area play.

When the game ended, East Bank fans flowed down onto the sidelines and virtually swallowed up Coach Roy Williams, West and the other tired but happy Pioneers. Williams was carried to the center of the field house floor by two excited fans.

East Bank gained the finals with a 77-73 upset win over defending Class A champion Mullens. Morgantown, backed by a partisan crowd which found little to cheer about today, went into the championship game following its 70-68 victory over Parkersburg Friday in the semi-finals.

The Pioneers simply outplayed Morgantown all the way, outscoring the Red and Blue in every quarter but the second when the two teams matched points with 16 each, East Bank held a 31-29 halftime lead and broke the game open by scoring 25 points in the third period to Morgantown's 13.

West's greatest moments came in the second quarter when he scored 14 of East Bank's 16 points to keep the Pioneers in the thick of the fight while Morgantown was still threatening.

Then, when West fouled out of the game with more than half of the fourth quarter left to play, his teammates - Robert Buckley, Robert Green, Jack Landers, Gary Stover and substitute Ronald Fisher - kept the wolf away from the door.

Landers, the last-second hero of the area win over Huntington East and the smallest player on the floor today at 5-7, played an outstanding floor game and was named to the All-Tournament team with West.

West was the only East Bank player in double scoring figures, but Landers contributed eight points and Buckley seven. Buckley was tough under the baskets again, pulling down 12 rebounds.

The East Bank star's 39 points gave him a total of 926 for the season, adding to a new state single-season scoring record he set last night against Mullens. His season average was 34.3.

Morgantown, which had no answer to West's wizardry, was led by Jay Jacobs with 19 points and Bob Davis with 17. The latter got 23 rebounds, tying a tourney single-game record.

Morgantown, attempting to win its first cage title, led for the last time at 28-26 with less than a minute to play in the first half. Then West tied the score with a goal, and added a foul to put the Pioneers ahead. Jacobs tied the score briefly at 29-29, but Buckley came back with two free throws to give East Bank 31-29 halftime lead and the Pioneers were on their way.

Buckley and Landers started hitting in the third quarter, and combined with West to pull the Pioneers into a 14-point lead at the end of that period.

West committed his fourth personal early in the fourth quarter, and when he fouled out with 5:27 left to play, the fans wondered if the rest of the Pioneers could hold the fort. They did it easily, completing East Bank's 22nd win of the season - one that Pioneer fans will talk about for a long time.

In winning the state championship, East Bank gave Coach Williams a "great moment, in my life - one I'll never forget."

East Bank became one of the few teams to win the state title after virtually ignored in the pre-tourney polls.

East Bank is the first Kanawha County team to win the state basketball championship since 1924 when Charleston High defeated Grafton, 22-13, in the finals.