By Jim Raykie
This is the time of year that harkens memories of Coach Ed McCluskey and Farrell High School basketball playoffs, and of course, the former annual W.U. Hoyle Tournament of Champions.
It has been especially nostalgic this year because of the anticipated Farrell-Uniontown clash in the PIAA playoffs, and the rich basketball rivalry the two schools brought to the floor.
Farrell won the game at Penn Hills High School last Tuesday, 86-72, in the latest in a string of games that began 50 years ago.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published a column about the rivalry last Tuesday.
It singled out a 1988 game at the Pitt Field House, a controversial battle won by Farrell in overtime. Early in the game, Farrell was awarded a basket that was made by a Uniontown player because of an error by the official scorekeeper, Deuce Skurcenski of North Braddock, making the score 22-18 Farrell when it should have been 20-20. Through an oversight by all officials involved, the ones on the floor and others from the WPIAL, the mistake went uncorrected.
OK, strange enough. But Farrell and Uniontown have played at least two more meaningful and memorable games that deserve a mention.
The first was in March 1960. Uniontown was 25-0 and Farrell had lost only once to Springdale at home earlier that season. Farrell got its revenge on Springdale, winning by 20 in the WPIAL semifinals to set up the showdown with the Red Raiders.
Led by All-Staters Brian Generalovich and Willie Somerset, Farrell ended Uniontown’s season 59-54 and marched through the rest of the PIAA tournament to win the school’s fifth state championship.
The second was in March 1966 at the former Pittsburgh Civic Arena in the WPIAL semifinals, when the Steelers dropped a 68-66 heartbreaker to the highly touted Raiders.
The game will be long remembered as senior sharpshooter Sam Iacino’s final game in a Farrell uniform when he staged one of the greatest individual performances in high school playoff history at the arena.
Sam scorched the Raiders for 37 points. If the three-point shot had been in effect 48 years ago, Sam would have had 50. Gallo and Fair were the referees on the game, and Farrell fans were sure they knew highway robbery when they saw it. As a result for months afterward, as part of a quirky protest for how poorly they had called the game, Farrell clubs and taverns turned around jugs of Gallo wine on display behind the bar (thus hiding the labels) and refused to sell it.
The Farrell playoff trail, when it has a stop near Pittsburgh, provides an opportunity for a reunion of ardent alumni who turn out for the games.
It was great last Tuesday to be able to spend time with fellow 1970 FHS classmates Lou Piciacchio and Jerome Nixon, one of the stalwarts of the 1969 state championship team as a junior. Marc Knezevich, another 1970 grad and a member of the 1969 team as well, usually shows up with Lou, but he was in Florida watching the Pirates in spring training this time around.
Jim Raykie is the editor of The Herald and his column appears on Mondays. His email is email@example.com