Former Basketball Conference Champs Honored
MUNCY The roll-out of a special banner celebrating senior team members, who’d won the boys basketball championship in the West Branch Conference during 1961, was witnessed during half time at Muncy High School on Saturday Feb. 12, Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday.
Curt Chilson, the school’s athletic director, welcomed five heroes from those bygone days. They include Steve Opp, Montoursville; Gordon Washburn, Downers Grove, IL; Dennis Warg, Churchville, PA; Marty Houseknecht, Muncy and Ron Houseknecht of Picture Rocks.
In a joint interview, the men spoke of the winning game which brought honor to them and their school. Montoursville had been the opposing team, who lost to the Indians 54-47. The game took place at Roosevelt High School in Williamsport and was reportedly attended by a large crowd of hometown supporters.
According to pennants currently on the gymnasium walls, it had been a lengthy dry spell dating back to 1940 since Muncy had won the coveted position.
In 1961 and over the ensuing years, additional pennants for excellence in basketball were garnered including 1980, 1982, 1988, 1991, 2003 and 2004. The men recalled gymnasium walls being nearly bare after they were rebuilt on the same site during their junior year.
Much of the credit given the now 50-year-old victory team went to coach George Houseknecht who’d expanded practices to include prospects from seventh and eight grades. These players from the winning year of 1961, showed that positive results and success could come from a six-year basketball program.
Ron and Marty Houseknecht are sons of the former coach. Ron said being siblings had not given the twosome any distinct advantage on the court, “The entire team played well together,” he said.
The sports experience had launched Dennis Warg’s 30-year career as an athletic director at a Bucks County High School. “I credit Muncy schools and its sports program for that,” he said. After graduating from Lycoming College, Warg had returned to Muncy teaching math for one year before relocating to the southern part of the state.
Gordon Washburn traveled the greatest distance to attend the celebratory event, making the trip from Illinois that Saturday. He recalled a memorable challenge during their days at Muncy. Near the end of one game, the team was down 10 points when the coach benched the starting players. Returning to the court after a short time, they pulled the game out with a score of 52-51 at the sound of the buzzer.
During the half time ceremony, the group received many congratulatory hand shakes from spectators who reminisced about the glory days. They also viewed items in the school’s trophy cases before the night ended.