Brooke Captures Title For The Ages
Bruins forced Charleston guards to shoot from outside
Brooke High School was a part of Ohio Valley sports history in 1987 when the Bruins, along with Wheeling Central and Paden City completed the “Northern Panhandle Sweep” in boys basketball action inside the Charleston Civic Center.
Coached by Dave Reitter, Brooke defeated Charleston High, 58-48, for the Class AAA title, while the Maroon Knights topped Huntington Vinson for the Class AA championship and the Wildcats finished off a perfect 27-0 season by beating Bramwell for the Class A crown.
However, according to Reitter, it was a pair of games at the tail end of the 1985-86 campaign that set the tone for the championship run.
“There was a game against Wheeling Park when we were down by 5 points late in the game and the fans were starting to leave the gym because that was before the three-point shot was around,” he recalled from his Marland Heights home. “We went into a fullcourt press just trying to get the ball back and a Park player panicked. He couldn’t find anyone open and tried to throw the ball off of Bobby Hoenig, but Bobby stole the ball and went in for a layup.
“There were fans trying to get back in the gym when they realized what was happening, but we couldn’t pull that one out,” Reitter noted. “Then we beat Weir High for the sectional title when they had the (Mark) Linkesh kid.
“Those two games set the tone for the 1986-87 season. The kids had a dream of being state champions, not only for themselves but, like Bobby, he wanted to win it for his brother who played at Brooke and never had a chance to go (to the state tournament),” he continued.
Brooke started off strong but dropped a one-point decision at home to Fairmont Senior in the mid-point of the season. It would be the only blemish.
“We played pretty well, but they just played better,” Reitter recalled. “The kids re-grouped. They were a resilient bunch.”
The squad included seniors John Gallagher, Kevin Kurey, Tom Lupinetti, Aaron McAllister, J.J. Pavlic and the aforementioned Hoenig; juniors Lance Chambers, Kevin Morris, Kent Orban and Tony Perito; and sophomores Charlie Basil and Kris Guio. The coaching staff was comprised of Bud Scroggins (varsity assistant), Kevin McCormick (JV head coach) and freshmen coaches Bill Ewusiak and Angelo Ciccolella.
“To be successful like that, you had to have a group of kids that bought into what we were doing and wanted to be that good,” he said. “Another thing is you had to have a good coaching staff, and I thought I was blessed with a great staff.
“There wasn’t a night during the season when we didn’t go scout somewhere,” Reitter continued.
The Bruins defeated rival Weir High three times in 1986-87 to get out of the sectional, and then topped Wheeling Park in the regional title tilt. Then came a matchup with Parkersburg in the quarterfinals and a bout with top-ranked Morgantown in the semifinals, which the Green-and-Gold prevailed in both.
“I always told people the hardest game to win in the state tournament is the first one,” Reitter said. “Our draw wasn’t the best. We beat Parkersburg for the third time that season and then I remember J.J. just dominating Morgantown on the inside. Also, our 1-3-1 trap really bothered them. Teams weren’t used to seeing that and it really messed them up.”
Then came Charleston with future Ohio State nose guard Mark Mason and East Tennessee State University standout Greg Dennis. However, the Bruins failed to fold as one Charleston sports writer had written about their football team a few years prior.
“The kids believed in each other and they trusted each other,” Reitter stressed. “That was the key.”
Reitter said he recalled the Bruins leading in the title game all the way through, but it was close until the end.
“They had those two big guys inside so we played a 2-3 zone that we packed in to the foul line,” Reitter added. “We dared their guards to shoot from the outside because we knew they couldn’t shoot.”
When the clock finally went to 0:00?
“We won! People in Brooke County didn’t know what to do. Brooke basketball had only been to the state tournament once before in school history, and that was the girls program,” he revealed. Brooke had always been known for football.”
After that day in 1987, Brooke basketball had established its place in state history.