Jerry West

Charleston Gazette
March 26, 1956

East Bank Is Changed To 'West Bank' for Day As Pioneer Fans Cheer

By Bob Baker Sports Writer for the Gazette

If motorists approaching the city limits of East Bank yesterday weren't basketball fans, they might have been puzzled by a sign reading: "East Bank. Now West Bank."

No, the 1,068 citizens of East Bank haven't officially changed the name of their town. They were just showing their excitement about Jerry West leading East Bank High School to its first state Class A basketball championship at Morgantown Saturday.

Two rabid East Bank fans, Duke Shaver and Ellis McDaniels, got up at 7 a. m. Sunday morning to put up the sign honoring West, the high-scoring ace of the champion Pioneers. That set the pace for an exciting day for East Bank as the people gave their team a rousing welcome home.

While such signs as "Welcome Home Pioneers! State Champions!" waved in the March breeze, the entire population of East Bank and many people from surrounding Cabin Creek District gathered at the high school to await the arrival of Coach Roy Williams and the team from Morgantown.

Festivities were scheduled to start at 3 p. m. but it was 3:50 p. m. before the team arrived. The fans waited patiently as the East Bank band kept playing and the cheerleaders worked up enthusiasm. "The oil line in my car burst," Coach Williams reported upon arrival. "Had to stop and get it fixed."

Coach Williams shouldn't have such trouble in the future.

Two East Bank basketball fans, Rex Hill of Chesapeake and Sherman (Huck) Ulbrich of East Bank, are leading a fund drive to buy Coach Williams a new station wagon.

The fund was started last Sunday after East Bank won the area tournament from Huntington East. And it gained momentum this past weekend as the Pioneers downed Mullens, 77-73, and Morgantown, 71-56, to win the Class A cage title. To date $900 has been raised.

West, the team captain, happily hugged the big, gleaming state championship trophy as the players filed out of the cars. It was West who scored 43 and 39 points at Morgantown to win plaudits as one of the best players ever to appear in a state tournament.

West is the all-time West Virginia high school scoring ace. He scored 926 points in 27 games this season for a 34.3 average.

Coach Williams, hoarse from all the excitement, told the fans, "It was cold in Morgantown, but this team was hot.

"This reception overwhelms me. The team and I surely do appreciate it. We are tickled to death. These boys are tops; there is no greater bunch of guys anywhere. They are always well-behaved - except when they get on a basketball court."

Among the speakers paying tribute to the East Bank cagers were East Bank Mayor O. A. Trimbles, Principal Dana R. Irvin, Kanawha County Superintendent Virgil L. Flinn Board of Education President Herbert Beddow; Meredith Parry, county school personnel head; and Leo Kopelman, a merchant who arranged for the celebration.

Superintendent Flinn got a rise out of the crowd with: "Kanawha County has the track champion (Stonewall), the football champion (St. Albans) and the basketball champion (East Bank). Just name another championship and we'll take it in Kanawha County."

Students in the crowd wouldn't let the proceedings break up without hearing from all 12 of the players and assistant coaches Joe Butta and Chester Spelock. "I think our team deserved to win. We are glad to win this for you," said Team Captain West, pointing to the trophy.

Other members of the team who spoke briefly were Bob Buckley, Bob Green, Jack Landers, Gary Stover, Bob Greer, Roy Akers, Ronald Fisher, Mike Dotson, Jack Pauley, Freddie Hudnall and Gifford Basham.

Since the Cabin Creek District High School was started at East Bank in 1912, this is the first state championship for the Pioneers in either of the major high school sports - football and basketball. East Bank has won several titles in baseball, however.

Three of the happiest people at the pep-rally were Mr. and Mrs. Howard West of Chelyan, parents of Jerry, and Mrs. Roy Williams, wife of the coach.

"To me he's still the same old Jerry," Mrs. West said of her son, the team's big star. "Praise doesn't bother him at all. He's been playing basketball since he was six years old."

Mrs. Williams, who teaches the third grade at East Bank Grade School, said each of the students in her class wrote a letter to Coach Williams wishing him luck. "Such spelling you never saw," she said, "but Roy got a big bang out of the letters."

After 30 minutes of speeches, cheers and band music, the rally broke up. But there's no school for East Bank High School students today and it'll be some time before the cheering dies down about East Bank winning its first state basketball championship.