A history of basketball at the Cambria County War Memorial
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. (WJAC) —
The Holiday High School Shootout is underway at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena, and basketball has a long, rich history there.
It was called Pennsylvania's first and the nation's finest, and that it was. Beginning in 1949, the Cambria County War Memorial Invitational Basketball Tournament attracted the nation's top players and teams.
That long list includes 1954 tournament most valuable player Wilt Chamberlain of Philadelphia Overbrook. “Wilt the Stilt,” who went on to a record-breaking NBA career, led his team to the championship.
Other stars from the '50s included Horace Walker, Wally Jones, Wayne Hightower and Portage's own Len Chappell.
The 1960s also had a strong showing of high school basketball talent that included the likes of Austin Carr and Tom McMillen of little Mansfield High School.
The 6 foot, 11 inches tall McMillen was here for both the 1969 and 1970 tournaments.
There was even a tournament queen and her court through the years. In 1969, that included 6 News Anchor Tim Rigby’s sister, Kathy.
The 1970 Mansfield team would fall to powerful Power Memorial Academy, led by the trio of Leonard Elmore, Jap Trimble and Ed Searcy.
A year later, John Thompson -- who later led the Georgetown Hoyas -- was the coach of champion St. Anthony's of Washington D.C.
That tourney also featured a guy named Anthony Dorsett, who became much better known as a hall of fame football player. He played for Hopewell.
The 1972 tournament was a highlight as Johnstown High, led by Don Maser and future NBA player Pat Cummings, knocked off a Chester squad led by Herman Harris before a packed house at the arena.
The 70s also produced what many believe to be the best final, as Gene Banks’ West Philly team bested Brashear, led by Sam Clancy and Warner Macklin.
The talent continued into the '80s. The 1982 Baltimore Dunbar championship team featured future NBA stars Reggie Lewis, Reggie Williams and Tyron "Mugsy" Bogues.
In '84, it was Dobbins Tech of Philly, led by future Loyola of Marymount stars Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble.
And the talent continued on into the '90s when future NBA star Rasheed Wallace led Philadelphia's Simon Gratz to the championship.
Those are just a few of the memories left behind by a tournament that earned being called Pennsylvania's first and the nation's finest.