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Bishop Donahue’s Magical Season Recalled 35 Years Later

McMECHEN — The year was 1985.

Ronald Reagan was sworn in as president. Villanova shocked Georgetown in the NCAA basketball championship game and the Kansas City Royals defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.

It was also the year Bishop Donahue captured the West Virginia Class A boys’ state basketball championship. While the 35th anniversary of that tremendous achievement may only be a flickering memory in the minds of many, it remains vividly engrained in those who helped make it happen.

Fiery Tom Tribett was Donahue’s head coach. He was peerless when it came to exuding competitive passion.

Tribett was ably assisted by a pair of top-shelf assistants in Mike Granato and Tom Wise, both of whom went on to script successful head coaching tenures of their own. Granato is still turning out winners at Weir while Wise enjoyed a long and successful run as Bishop Donahue’s head man, still holding that post when the school was stunningly closed by Bishop Bransfield.

Tribett, now age 68, is retired and has been living in Florida for the past five years.

Donahue, in its magical season, featured two stars in point guard Dave Foose and athletic center Shawn Straughn. The pair went on to tremendous careers at Wheeling University, leading the Cardinals to the national NAIA tournament.

Don Krupica and Mike Hart were the starting forwards while Steve Musilli was the shooting guard. The balance of the Bishops’ roster in 1985 featured Mike Horan, Scott Roxby, Jim Gilligan, Rik Canestra, Tim Brown, Bruce Harris, Joe McMullen, Sean Sweeney and Terry McConkey. Joe Murphy and Tommy “Dino” Smith were the managers.

The Bishops rolled to a 23-3 mark, losing to only to Madonna, Linsly and St. John Central. The Bishops averaged 84 points a game that season, pre-3-point line days. Four players averaged in double figures: Foose (20.8), Straughn (20.7), Krupica (10.7) and Hart (10.2).

“We had a good season the previous year and we felt real good about the 1985 season. We had our top seven players returning,” Tribett said. “We had a problem-free year which is unusual. Winning cures a lot of problems.

“I remember the state tournament quite well. We beat Mullens in our first game (75-60). It was close until we pulled away in the mid-fourth quarter. They had a great player in Bo Justice. Both he and Shawn picked up two fouls in the second quarter.”

The key in that game was Horan. Tribett was able to sit his star center as Horan took his spot and, according to many Bishop partisans, played the game of his life. Foose netted 34 points, including an 18-21 effort at the free throw line.

“We drove down to Mullins to scout them towards the end of the season. Unlike today there was no seeding. Each region knew who they were scheduled to play and when. At the time, Mullins was ranked No. 1 in the state,” Granato said. “When we left there we were confident that we could beat them provided that we played like we could.”

Bishop Donahue then rolled to an 88-71 triumph over Morgantown St. Francis in the semifinals, despite trailing by one at halftime. Foose delivered 31 points and nine assists while Straughn netted 26 points while grabbing 18 boards. Krupica produced 14 tallies while Roxby had six key points off the bench while also applying stifling defensive pressure on the St. Francis guards.

“We had to face Harts for the state title. They were big and built like football players,” Tribett said. “They had a guard (Andy Paul Williamson) who went onto play at Marshall. We won 80-67 but the score was a little deceiving as we pulled away in the fourth quarter.

“Looking back 35 years later there is a real sense of pride. It reinforces that fact that hard work really pays off and that you had done your job. What is really nice is when your former players come back to visit with you and bring their kids around. I think more about my former players than I do about the 6 a.m. practices and all the time we spent in the gym.”

Foose, Straughn and Krupica were named to the all-tournament team. Foose was considered the best player in the tournament, all classes, by many media members who covered the event. Straughn scripted remarkable prep and college careers. He still cherishes the basketball memories that took root an early age.

“Looking back, there are a lot of great memories. Foosie, Hart and Krupica, we all went to grade school together. Winning the state title together was special because we were all taught the game of basketball by Norm Smith Sr. He was a Benwood legend,” Straughn said. “We knew we had a special bunch that season (1985.) We won the Wheeling Summer Rec League going into that year. We had a lot of good competition. Wheeling Park and Wheeling Central had real good teams. But we held our own and won the league.”

That summer league success was a harbinger of bigger things to come.

“It was a pretty special regular season. We averaged about 90 points a game. We ran like crazy. We were like the Lakers,” the soft-spoken star said. “Coach Tribett had us in great shape. We would get a rebound and go.

“We entered the state tournament as somewhat of an underdog. Everybody was talking about Mullens. We played them the first game at 8 a.m.,” he offered. “Foosie tore them up and everybody took notice then. We won the next two games easily. Foosie put on a three-game show.”

Donahue launched its state tourney trek at the Moundsville Field House with a pair of sectional wins. The Bishops opened with a 72-64 win over Clay-Battelle, despite blowing a 15-point fourth-quarter lead. Tribett’s crew meshed 12 of 14 free throws down the stretch to escape. Straughn came up huge in the sectional title game, scoring 37 points and grabbing 21 boards in an 84-63 triumph over Hundred.

The Bishops punched their ticket to the state tourney with a 59-38 nod over Paden City in the regional championship tilt. Hart exploded for 23 points.

“It was fun to look back at the articles and watch the video of the ’85 team. It was a talented group that played not only for one another but for their school. We had great group chemistry between players and coaches alike. Tom’s daily emphasis on team play, both offensively and defensively, was a key to our success,” Granato said. “Our players were talented enough to compete at any level. No one was bigger than the group. Once we got into tournament play the buy-in was evident. Dave and Shawn were better than advertised but DK, Mike Horan, Mike Hart, Scott Roxby, Steve Musilli and Jim Gilligan all made major contributions to winning the championship. It was, and still is, an honor to be a part of it. ‘We Believe in Donahue.”

Granato pointed out that all three teams that the Bishops beat in the state tournament are no longer in existence. Unfortunately, Bishop Donahue also falls into that category.

“We were blessed with size, quickness, depth at every position, outstanding players who accepted their roles and the desire to improve daily as a team,” Wise added.

Also in 1985, Tribett guided the Donahue girls softball team to a repeat state championship. The WVSSAC only had one class for softball in 1985. Granato was also Tribett’s softball assistant.

BUBBA’S BITS

∫ The Rudy Mumley OVAC All-Star Football Game has become another victim of the coronavirus pandemic. The contest is always one of the highlights of the Ohio Valley summer social scene. It was a tough decision for OVAC officials to pull the plug on the gala-filled affair as the game also includes, not just players, but also Queen of Queens candidates and hundreds of talented McDonald’s All-Star Band members. While the cancellation yields disappointment, OVAC officials made the correct call: safety first.

∫ NFL Draft: This was the third straight year that a quarterback who has transferred schools has gone No. 1 in the draft. Joe Burrow from Ohio State to LSU; Kyler Murray from Texas A&M to Oklahoma and Baker Mayfield from Texas Tech to Oklahoma. The Browns and Steelers both helped themselves nicely in the draft, the former doing exceeding well. The Bengals couldn’t help but have a productive haul, selecting in the top spot. I thought the Vikings, Cowboys and Ravens drafted as well as anyone while the Packers really dropped the ball. I enjoyed the new virtual draft better. It was much more personal. The City of Cleveland will host the draft next year if the pandemic issue has been resolved.

∫ Speaking of the NFL Draft, the league’s Draft-a-Thon came up huge in assisting COVID-19 Relief, raising more than $100 million.

∫ The latest proposal by Major League Baseball officials is to start the season in late June, encompassing some 100 games. Teams would be divided in three 10-team divisions, playing only teams in their division. I have no problem with that. What doesn’t make sense is the Pittsburgh Pirates are slotted in the East while the Atlanta Braves are being placed in the Central. That makes no sense. The Buccos should be in the Central with the Indians, Reds, Cardinals, Cubs, White Sox, Tigers, Twins, Royals and Brewers.

∫ Linsly and Wheeling Central were scheduled to face off in the 2020 football season opener, pending the exodus of the pandemic crisis. Do not look for that game to take place now. Central will now debut against Ambridge (Pa.)

∫ We continue to receive solid feedback from our readers in compiling the list of the Ohio Valley’s all-time best prep baseball players and best teams. Please email your nominees with supporting information to me at BKOVAC21@aol.com. Deadline is May 8.

Bubba Kapral can be reached at bkapral@timesleaderonline.com

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