Celebrating the memory of a storybook season; 1966-67 team won the Jaycees Championship
We may still be sweltering through the “dog days” of summer, but on Wednesday evening a group of local folks gathered to remember a legendary event that took place more than 50 years ago on a cold, wintry night.
Players, coaches and cheerleaders from the 1966-67 Damascus boys varsity basketball team held a reunion in honor of what was arguably the greatest season in school history.
Under the direction of Hall of Fame Coach Carl Bell, Damascus notched a 17-4 overall record … including wins over local powerhouses like Honesdale and Wallenpaupack Area.
The highlight of the campaign, however, was an electrifying triumph at the 7th Annual Honesdale Area Jaycees Tournament.
Bob Spaulding, a key member of the squad, organized the event which was held in the Damascus gym and cafeteria.
He spent a great deal of time in the Wayne County Historical Society research room, documenting the 1966-67 season for posterity.
And, while Bob enjoyed reliving all the highs and lows of that campaign, he was reminded time and again of the lessons learned from Coach Bell.
“Mr. Bell was one of the most respected coaches in the whole area,” Bob said.
“He taught us to play the game right. We were gracious when we won and gracious when we lost. Sportsmanship was a very important to him.”
Coach Bell was on hand for the reunion, accompanied by his son, Dave.
“I remember reading that, at the time, Damascus was the fourth smallest public school in the state,” Dave said. “We were always 'the little school.' But, that's what made us special.
“We had a unique culture here and Dad was a big part of creating that. We were all very close as teammates. There was a lot of camaraderie on those teams.”
Damascus tipped off its title run on Thursday, Nov. 25 with a lopsided victory over Falls-Overfield.
The local lads raced out to a big early lead, then cruised to a 71-41 decision. Coach Bell's squad led 22-5 after one and increased its advantage to 31 points at intermission.
Dan Tegeler paced a balanced offensive attack with 12 points. Lance Thol also cracked double digits with 11.
Damascus was back on the hardwood less than 24 hours later for a semifinal battle with Waymart. The Warriors were one of the area's top programs all through the 1960s under the direction of legendary head coach Pat “Red” Walsh.
They were no match for Carl Bell's squad on this particular night, though.
Led by the potent 1-2 punch of Decker and Bell, Damascus powered its way to a 61-53 win. Guy rattled the rims for a game-high 25 points, while Dave tickled the twine for 20.
The game was tied heading into the fourth quarter, before Damascus pulled away. Waymart was led by Steve Salley's 21 points. Blum and Yatsonsky chipped in with 15 and 13 points, respectively.
The championship game of the 7th Annual Area Jaycees Tournament was held a week later at the Honesdale High School gym. A crowd of nearly 800 packed the stands to witness one of the most exciting games in tourney history.
Damascus and Lake Consolidated battled right down to the final buzzer before a victor emerged.
Sherwood played the hero's role in this one, hitting a bucket with one second left in regulation to seal the deal on a wild 54-53 victory.
According to Keith Sutton's account in The Wayne Independent, the largest margin at any point in the game was just six points. Damascus led 15-12 after one, but trailed 25-21 at halftime.
Roy Gibbs led the Lake Consolidated assault.
One of the top scorers in Wayne County League history, Gibbs erupted for a game-high 28. Roy notched a three-point play with a minute to go that made the score 50-50.
Sherwood put Damascus up 52-50 moments later, but Gibbs struck again, tying things at 52 with only 15 seconds left on the clock.
This set the stage for Sherwood's historic hoop, which came with less than a second remaining.
Bell finished up with a team-best 15 points, while Sherwood and Decker added 13 apiece.