basketball is a team game

          "...good,   better,   best!"      
          Which was the "Best High School Basketball Team" in the history of the state of Pennsylvania?


Kutztown H. S
.-In December 1999, the Reading Eagle picked the 1958-59 Kutztown team that went 29-0 and became the only team to finish unbeaten as the best in Berks County basketball history.  "In one of the marquee games in Berks history, that year  Kutztown defeated then unbeaten West Reading and their 6'8 star Ron Krick 48-34 for the county title."  Both teams would go on to win  district and state titles.

Vote for the recent nominations!  We will soon be posting a poll inviting people to vote to decide which new teams will be added to this list based upon the recent nominations.  Tto those who have nominated teams and we welcome more input by fans and coaches.  And then cast your votes when we post the poll!!     Bill Gaffey, editor  

When trying to weight which team might have been the best in the history of basketball in the Pennsylvania or any other state, you must take a number of things into consideration.  What type of star power did they have? 
When things needed changed, or adjustments were necessary, did they have a coach who had both the ability and the courage to make them? 
Did they have a solid bench? 
What was the team chemistry? 
Was the community a factor? 
"The two finest teams I ever saw in Pennsylvania regardless of class were the 1963 Darby-Colwyn Rams and the 1965 Midland Leopards. This would have been a great matchup if the two teams could have played each other. Charlie Coleman and Harold Booker of Darby-Colwyn vs Simmy Hill and Norman Vanlier of Midland. Both schools had outstanding coaches in Hal Blitman of Darby-Colwyn and Hank Kuzma of Midland. I saw Darby-Colwyn play at the Johnstown Christmas Tournament and Midland at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena and on TV during the PIAA State Playoffs. The 1960's was a great era for basketball in the state."
                                                                      James Weaver
1955,  Overbrook Hilltoppers.  Led by Wilt Chamberlain was considered by many to be the best team ever to come from Philadelphia. Overbrook won the City title in 1954 (Wilt had 32 in the 74-50  win over South Catholic), and 1955 (Wilt had 35 in the 83-42 win over West Catholic) at the Penn Palestra.  6'5 Vince Miller had 31, the other starters were Marty Hughes, Howard Johnson, and Dave Shapiro.  Wilt averaged 47 points per game in league play. Cecil Mosenson was the coach.  Incidentally, Overbrook lost the 1953 title in Wilt's sophomore year 54-42 when the winners unveiled a defense that surrounded Wilt with four defenders.  He still had 29 including 11 for 19 from the foul line.

"Carlisle’s 1985 team may have been better than the ’88 team as 4 players from that team were professionally drafted, Michael Owens by the Kansas City Chiefs, Lee Woodall eventual All Pro Linebacker with the San Francisco 49’ers, Jeff Lebo, 4 year starter for UNC drafted by and played for briefly the San Antonio Spurs and Billy Owens. Woodall was not on the official roster as he was brought up at the end of the year from the 9th grade team.  Although record not as good as undefeated ’88 team, competition played  was unmatched.  Two losses were to a Danny Ferry led DeMatha HS and Roman Catholic.  Wins included Socastee, SC, a Bill Hurley Coached St. Anthony’s NJ, Brian D’Amico led Reading HS, 2 wins vs. Rod Brookin led Steel High, Chester and Brashear who had eventual starting quarterback for West Virginia,  “Major” Harris playing guard for them."
                                                                                           David Coffey

1958, Overbrook Hilltoppers. They won three consecutive Philadelphia City Championships from 1957 through 1959.   The 1958 team went 22-0, won the Johnstown Tournament, and beat Jack Kraft's Bishop Neumann squad 71-54 in the city title game.  Starters at the beginning of the season were 6'8 Sr. Wayne Hightower (Kansas), 6'3 Jr. Ralph Heyward (Kansas, Seattle), 6'1 So. Walt Hazzard (UCLA), 5'11 Sr. Richie Richman (Villanova) and 5'8 Sr. Howie Horenstein (Temple).  Horenstein graduated at mid-term and was replaced by 5'11 So. Wally Jones (Villanova). "Williamsport of 1999.  They dominated Chester in the play-offs and totally ran through the state  finals with one of the most dominant victories in 4a finals history.  Finished ranked #20 in the nation.   They finished 29-2.  Did not lose a game with the entire roster in tact.  Chevon Troutman and Taurance Johnson were both attendees of Nike All American Camp.   Lost the first game of the year to Bishop Hannan with Gerry McNamara and then lost the 4th game of the year at the Latrobe Rotary Classic to Arch Bishop Spalding of Maryland. Taurance and Muhammud both missed the Hannan game and Taurance did not play against Spalding."
                                                                                        Matthew L. Johnson

1959, Kutztown Cougars. They finished 29-0 winning the Class B State Championship by defeating West Middlesex 51-34.  Their coach was the legendary John Silan.  The starters were Stanley Saul, Philip Scheidt, Dennis DeTurk, Lee DeTurk, and Dick Hauck.  The sixth man was Gene Stump.  "In one of the marquee games in Berks history, Kutztown defeated then unbeaten West Reading and their 6'8 star Ron Krick 48-34 for the county title."  Both teams would go on to win  district and state titles. They were chosen as the best team in the history of Berks County basketball. (Reading Eagle, 12/26/1999)

1960, Farrell High School. They won back to back state titles in 1959 and 1960. They were led by Brian Generalovich (Pitt) and Willie Somerset (Duquesne), both drafted by the NBA.  But along with Generalovich and Somerset, Farrell had the state's top basketball  strategist in Coach Eddie McCluskey!  Following Farrell's 60-41 win over Radnor for the 1960 title, the Sharon Herald said, "their dramatic victory established them as one of the greatest teams to perform for McCluskey.  Box score of the state championship game found  HERE

 "Pittsburgh's West End St. James Teams (Class B - Catholic League) should be noted.  They ran a state record of 66 consecutive wins from 1950 - 52.   Also, as a small school, they often played up in class a lot.   For their 40th win they beat Class A  Johnstown Catholic who previously had a 31 game winning streak."
                                                                  Stephen Wayhart, BrandMill

 "Don Rose coached Irwin High School to back to back titles in 1947 and 1948.  He also coached Irwin to the 1950 state title game where they lost to Kutztown 48-47.  Irwin won the 1953 state championship with coach Joe McMunn and repeated as state champion in 1954 under coach Lyman Stough.
  Irwin High School was in existence for only twelve years:1946-1958. Can the win-loss record of Irwin be matched or come close by another school? In twelve years, Irwin won 286 games and lost 52! The Black Knights won 10 section titles, 5 WPIAL titles, 5PIAA Western Regional titles,and 4 PIAA State Class B State Titles!
    I was born in Irwin and attended Irwin High School before the Norwin School District was formed in 1958" 

                                                                                   James Weaver

1962-63, Darby-Colwyn  Undefeated class B state champions two years in a row. Had 54 game winning streak. Many thought that they were the best team in the state in 1963. Leading scorer was 6'0"  Parade All-American Charles Coleman (Villanova). Big man was 6'8 JR Hal Booker (Cheney State, ABA, Parade All-American in 1964.)  (

"Chester High played a national schedule, and was ranked by USA today and many other poles #3 in the Nation in 2008.  Their record was 33-1 their only loss came to the then #1 ranked team in the nation.
That team also produced 4 Division 1 Players - Rhalir Jeffererson(Temple) , Nasir Robinson(Pitt) Russell Johnsn(Robert Morris) and Karon Burton(signed letter of intent for Lasalle but was arrested on alleged drug allegations)"

                                                                   Charles Dixon
1964, Uniontown Red Raiders. They went undefeated (28-0) and are considered one of the top  teams in Pennsylvania High School basketball history.  They beat the vaunted Midland team with Norm Van Lier and Simmy Hill in 1964 to win the WPIAL Championship (46-43). It featured All-Stater Stu Lantz (Nebraska-LA Lakers, San Diego Clippers and Detroit Pistons), Ben Gregory (Nebraska football), Pat Yates, Ray Parson (Minnesota, football), and Jim Rae.  They defeated Plymouth-Whitemarsh at the Pennsylvania State Farm Show Arena (62-51). 
"I seem to remember a team from Middletown that won the state class b championship in 1968.
I looked up their record.....28-1...They lost the 2nd game of the year to Steelton then won 27 in a row. Their margin for victory during the year was well over 10 pts/game and they dominated in the tournaments. A few articles even said they may be the best team in the state regardless of what class they played.  Thought I'd pass this along for you to consider them as one of the best teams."

mr d
 1965, Midland High School. The 1965 team led by Norm Van Lier and Simmie Hill won the state championship defeating Steelton 90-61. Hank Kuzma of Steelton was the Midland coach. They interviewed his mother who still lived in Steelton at the time of the game to find out who she would be rooting for.  She said she rooted for Steelton every game, except when her son was involved, then she rooted for Midland.  Midland finished 28-0. Midland High School no longer exists today as it vanished in the educational merger mania.
"You guys need to check out the 1996 Roman Catholic team. Not only did they win tournaments in Hawaii(Iolani Classic) and Deleware(Slam dunk to the beach), they also rolled over Kobe Bryants Lower Merion team. The team was ranked 2nd in the country to start the year, but lost 2 starters and D1 players to transfers due to not making the grades in summer school. And when are people going to realize how unstoppable Donnie Carr was his senior year??? Nobody came close to outplaying him that year, not even Kobe!"   (3/3/10)

1966, Schenley Spartans.  Led by juniors Ken Durrett and Pete Gibson, this was the middle of three Schenley teams to play in the PIAA final four (beating Chester for the title in the 1966 title game).  As sophomores, Durrett and Gibson lost to Midland and as seniors they lost to Ambridge.  An impressive three year run, that probably would have been matched by the 2007 state champs, except that DeJuan Blair was injured in a 3rd round PIAA game vs Erie Prep when Blair, Kennedy and Bryant were sophomores.  The 2008 Schenley squad is within one win of completing their fourth straight undefeated Pittsburgh City League season.   Remember, Schenley has defeated Chester the two time they've played for the state championship (1966 and 2007).   (Nominated by Ed DeMarco, Pittsburgh, PA.)
"After reading through the best high school basketball teams in Pennsylvania, I realized a team was no doubt missing from the list and I would like to nominate them. The 1979-1980 Erie Cathedral Prep boy's basketball team went 33-1 winning the AAA State Championship over Allentown William Allen High School 50-40. The Ramblers only loss of the season came when they were in two tournaments simultaneously (Meadville Elks Tournament and the Chartiers Valley Tournament) playing 6 games in 7 days. The Rambler's were led by three Division 1 basketball recruits: PG Andy Sisinni, PF Tim Gore (Michigan State), and Chuck Brower (Siena). If I haven't submitted this correctly, please email me back. Any other questions on the District 10 basketball as well, I am the person to ask."

Thanks for your time,
     Greg Mancini   Mar 4, 2011

 1967, Ambridge High School. The 1967 team of Dick DeVenzio, Dennis Wuycik, Frank Kauffman, Walt Ostrowski, and Phil DePasquale is considered one of the all-time best teams in Pennsylvania high school basketball in an 3/5/99 article by Ron Cook in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Chuck DeVenzio was the Ambridge coach. In the state championship game that year, Ambridge defeated the Chester Clippers 93-61. Both teams entered the game undefeated!

1971, Schenley High School.  Pittsburgh. Ron Cook writing for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette (3/5/99) rates the 1971 Schenley team with Maurice Lucas, Rickey Coleman, and Jeep Kelly as one of the best high school teams to play in Pennsylvania basketball history. That Schenley team, representing District 8 and the Pittsburgh City League, defeated Norristown for the AAA Championship 77-60.

1975, Schenley High School.    the team that took the state championship in 1975. That was indeed a great team. That team ranks just as high as the last team that took states at SCHENLEY. There was ROGER NELSON WAYNE WILLIAMS KELVIN SMITH SONNY LEWIS BILL HUTCHINSON .DON'T leave them out as they were one of the great teams at Schenley.  There were many all -americans on that team as all as all-state and  all- city. The great Spencer Watkins put together that team.  (Submitted by

1976, Fifth Avenue.  Who could forget the Fifth Ave. team of 1976 which ranked #2 in the nation. This team featured Sam Clancy, Bill Clarke, David “Puffy” Kennedy, and the best point guard I ever play with or against, Warner Macklin. This team had an outstanding combination of height, quickness, speed, and athletism. This team went undefeated in a strike shortened season but won both the city & state championship. (Submitted by James S. Smith, Indianapolis, IN)

1977, West Philadelphia.
Coach Joe Goldenberg's Speedboys strung together three incredible seasons: 25-0, 24-2, 30-0,(79-2 overall) capturing three consecutive Philly Public and City league titles. A Philly sportswriter labeled '77 squad (30-0) as "Gene Banks' Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings". The 6'6 Banks was named national Co-Player of the year. Other members of the starting five: 6'7 Clarence Tillman (2nd team All-State), 6'7 Vincent Ross, guards Mike Nichols and Daryl Warwick (All-State hon. mention).  This team was ranked the No. 1 prep team in the country.

1983, Washington High School boys basketball won 52 games in a row tying the WPIAL record with (Uniontown 1963-65) in 1983 to 1985. They won 52 games from December 16, 1983 to March 16, 1985 before getting upset in the PIAA Playoffs. The team wa coached by Ron Faust they won 2 PIAA titles in 3 years & 3 WPIAL Titles in 3 years.  Their records were: 1986 (29-1) lost to Wheeling Park, 1985 (25-1), 1984 (30-3).  They should be considered one of the all time great teams.  (Nominated by Fayette County Guru)

1983-84, Northwest Area Rangers The Northwest Area Ranger basketball teams of 1983-84.  Two-Time PIAA State Class A basketball champions. They went 65-1 in those two years, led by one of top coaches in Pennsylvania, the late Edward Gayeski. Players included Joe Stepanski, Steve Stepanski, Kevin Yustat, Dave Dennis and Jeff Steeber.  After some some tough losses to teams like Holy Ghost Prep and a Bob Stevens led Elk Lake teams in the 1970's, Coach Gayeski, finally got his teams over the hump.  Northwest defeated a talented Camp Hill team in The Eastern Finals in 1983, then  went on to knock of Karns City in the State Title Game. In 1984, Northwest came back from being 12 points down to Morrisville in the Eastern Finals at halftime to win in final seconds when former Temple standout Mike Vreesyk missed a jumper from the corner as time expired. The Rangers went on to defeat Cornell for their second title. Unfortunatly Coach Gayeski died in the summer of 1985.  (Nominated by Brian Ptashinski, Whitehall, PA) 

1985-86, Altoona High School girls.   Undefeated in 31 games! District 6 champions! PIAA basketball state champions! USA Today national champions! That's part of the resume the 1985-86 Altoona Area High School Lady Lions compiled.  (nominated by Tony Labriola)

1988, Carlisle High School.
Won four consecutive AAAA state championships-1985, 1986, 1987, and 1988. In their fourth in 1988, they defeated Pittsburgh Central Catholic 80-54.  Billy Owens was a starter on all four championship teams before going off to Syracuse. Dave Lebo was the coach. Four straight state titles is in itself unparalleled.

1991, Lourdes Regional Raiders from Coal Twp., they defeated Kennedy Christian in the state championship game and finished 32-1.  Their only loss came to Schuylkill Haven. (Nominated by Ed Bendas Jr).

1993, Simon Gratz High School, Philadelphia. The 1993 team led by Rasheed Wallace, 6 '11 and 223 pounds, compiled a 31-0 record and the earned the 1993 USA Today National Championship. Rasheed, who once blocked 27 shots in one summer camp game later went on to fame at North Carolina and the NBA.

2007, Pittsburgh Schenley.  D.J. Kennedy and DeJuan Blair propelled Schenley to the 2007 PIAA Class AAAA championship. The Spartans defeated Chester in the championship game, 78-71, and finished 29-3. Their only three loses were in a tournament in Fort Myers, Fla.  Hello Big East: Kennedy signed to play with St. John's and Blair signed to play for Pitt.
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Credits for this page: the Ted Silary (Philadelphia Daily News), Ron Cook (Pittsburgh Post Gazette), Jim Raykie (Sharon Herald), Edward A. Owens (Uniontown), Bud Tangert (Lititz), Gary Olinger (Hickory, NC), Reading Eagle.

The 1917-1918 NE Pennsylvania Champions
Hazelton to Illinois to California

We received an inquiry from Diana Vickery from Cicero Illinois who found this team picture an an antique store in Illinois.  The photo had the inscription "HHS NE Pennsylvania Champions, 1917-18."  The photo also had the names of the coach and players on the back.  We verified that it was Hazleton High School after examining copies of the Hazleton Plains Speaker  for November and December of 1917  that we found at the State Library in Harrisburg.  After we informed Diana, she found the coach's son living in California and is sending him the old photo which had lost its home.   More story and box scores posted HERE

Can you identify this team?
Left is an early 1900's postcard of the Hotel Power and Sanatorium in Conneautville, PA. And in the photo above, notice to the right of the team a sign pained on the window with a word ending in ...rium, suggesting that the team was posing here.  The team photo above had an inscription on the back "Conneautville, PA" and the photo was discovered by Diana Vickery from Cicero Illinois who last year found the photo of the 1917-18 Hazleton team.  Thanks to Diana for her contributions to Pennsylvania basketball history!!  But who were those guys above? What year?