Williamson High School served the city for a century before closing its doors, and for a number of years, its boys’ basketball team, the Williamson Wolfpack, was a force to be reckoned with. The team won a number of titles. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s it was considered one of the best teams in the region. The Williamson Field House, which was built as a recreation center for the city in 1951, was home court. Though years have passed since the team’s heyday, pride in the team and all it achieved lives on.
The Wolfpack Legacy
The boys’ basketball team won 6 state titles, and stories about top players and intense rivalries linger on. Many times, the 6,000 seat field house found itself full to capacity. Many players continued to show their passion for the sport long after they left high school. Mark Cline, who played for the team in the early 1980s, went on to work as an assistant coach for the Marshall University basketball team. Danny Moses, who played during the 1970s, played for Wake Forest University and Pikeville College (now known as the University of Pikeville). By far, the team’s greatest rivalry was with Logan High School. Later, they would also have a rivalry with Tug Valley.
Local Heroes for Local Kids
“Everybody knew everybody, and everybody supported everybody,” says Brandon Ball when asked what it was like to be a part of the team. Ball played on the basketball team for three years in the 1990s, and continues to coach local basketball teams. He describes basketball as something that brought everyone in the community together, and gave kids in the area local heroes to look up to. Every game was important to the community. In fact, local fans numbering in the thousands filled up the Field House, particularly when games were between rivals. Brian Haney, who played in 1983, describes games between Williamson and Logan as especially crowded. “When Williamson and Logan played, the fire marshal stopped (people) at the door. We were packed.”
The Tradition Lives On
In June 2011, Williamson High School permanently closed, but the tradition of basketball that it helped to create in the city lives on. The school was consolidated with Gilbert, Matewan, and Burch high schools to form Mingo Central High School. Mingo Central High School’s basketball team helps to continue the tradition, even continuing a rivalry with Tug Valley High School. The Field House is now mostly used for local Buddy League basketball teams, allowing local kids to participate in the tradition in a new way.
The Williamson Field House is still decorated with the school’s colors: maroon, silver, and white. Banners from past tournaments are still hung, and the southern hallway now houses the Athletic Hall of Fame. Even those who were never on the team feel a connection to stories of the team’s glory. When you talk to the folks who experienced the Williamson High School basketball team at its peak, it’s clear that, although time has passed, they continue to feel love and pride for “their team”.