Forgotten Pirates: The 1967 Basketball Team
February 16, 2023
From 1955 through 1968, Williamsburg High School produced basketball teams that won numerous league and district titles, advanced to the state championship game six times, and twice won the Class C (now Class A) State Championship. Many of these teams are local legends.
However, one of the best teams of the era is sometimes forgotten. This is the 1967 team. Sandwiched between the 1966 State Championship team and the 1968 team that advanced to the state title game, losing by only one point, the 1967 team is sometimes slighted in what it accomplished.
The 1967 team, coached by Dick Buckley and assisted by Jerry Campbell, was an unusual team. The 25-0 1966 state champions were led by legendary scorer Bill Kagarise and boasted several other marvelous players. The 1967 team had five new starting players, and prior to the season some people believed this team might not be as competitive as previous teams had been. Not the coaches and players: They all had high expectations. These were the same competent coaches who had been producing talented squads that boasted fine records, and the players had practiced assiduously for their turns to compete as members of a WHS basketball team. That none of the starting players was over 6'1" tall was a challenge the team overcame.
The 1967 team won 25 consecutive games before losing in the Western Final. The team's loss in the Western Regional Final was unfortunate as all the players on the team had bad nights at the same time. The five starting players all averaged double figures in scoring; but during the loss, none of them scored more than nine points.
Buckley coached the Blue Pirates for 10 years, winning more than 200 games during that time. He led the team to three state finals, winning the 1966 game. Buckley was selected as a member of the Blair County Sports Hall of Fame for his achievements.
Coach Campbell should probably be a member of the hall of fame as well. Not only did he develop WHS basketball players as the team's assistant coach; he also coached football as both an assistant and as a head coach. In addition, he scouted statewide for many basketball teams, including the 1997 WHS girls' state champions. His contributions to WHS sports cannot be overstated.
Senior Bruce Houck was the team's captain. He had put in countless hours during many years to develop his skills. Though he was a solid scorer, he is best known for his defensive prowess and remains, in the opinion of long-time WHS basketball followers, the best defensive player to have worn a Blue Pirate uniform. He was a fierce competitor. He was named to the 1967 All-State team.
I was the other senior starter. Playing with Houck and three other excellent starting players, two more who were named to an All-State team, I led the 1967 team in scoring. Like Houck and the others, I spent many hours developing my skills. I worked particularly hard during the 1967 season to improve my defensive skills.
Jeff was one of three junior starters. Appleman, too was a fierce competitor. Today, he is best-known for his admirable coaching record, including winning the 1997 Girls' State Championship. As an athlete, he became an All-State basketball player on the 1968 team and led Blair County in scoring – in football!
Junior Terry Cooper was one of three left-handed starters on the team, along with Houck and Tom Frye. Cooper was a marvelous all-around athlete whose outside shooting caused serious problems for opposing defenses. He became a player at Penn State-Altoona after high school. WHS did not have a golf team, but on his own Cooper developed into a "scratch" golfer who still wins club championships in the State College area.
Also a junior, lefty Tom Frye remains the most graceful player to have competed during the WHS "Golden Age." At 6'1", he was the team's tallest starter and scored and rebounded amazingly. Perhaps his finest moment came during the 1966 season when he capped a nine-point comeback in the last 1:31 of the championship in the Phillipsburg Christmas Tournament against Bishop Guilfoyle with a twisting layup that sealed the victory. Frye was also named to the 1968 All-State team.
Ken Aurandt was the only senior reserve. He, too, had put in many hours of practice to develop his skills. Probably his best game as a senior was the final regular-season game against Bishop Carroll when he came into the game to neutralize a skillful BC post player.
A junior, Farringer developed into an aggressive low-post player. Sam was strong and tough and helped the 1967 starters prepare for many contests. He averaged double figures as a senior in 1968 and helped the team advance to the state championship.
Junior Terry Farringer had the "quickest" hands on the team. During practices he caused many problems for the starters as he became accustomed to their habits. Terry was also an excellent baseball player, especially as a pitcher. Sadly for him, WHS had to drop baseball during his senior year because of the lack of a field.
Junior Ed Gunnett became the starting point guard of the 1968 WHS state final squad. He was a fine passer and set up his teammates with his precision passes. Maybe he showed this best as a football player. As a senior, he became an All-State quarterback, passing for many touchdowns while playing on what was basically considered a running team.
A 6'5" sophomore, Hetrick worked hard to become a competitive low-post player. He possessed many fine skills. His entire career was plagued by injuries that limited his ability to demonstrate what he was capable of doing on the court.
The 1967 WHS basketball team was the next-to-last one of what many WHS followers consider the "Golden Age" of WHS boys' basketball. Sometimes forgotten among the other wonderful teams, the 1967 squad's 25 consecutive victories before suffering a crushing defeat in the Western Final, added to the 1966 team's 25 straight victories made a total of 50 consecutive wins, which remains a county record.