Neil Corbet - Citizens Voice
row, from left, B. Grabinski, J. Grzymski, R. Kiewak, G. Yanchik, J. Shepela,
K. Legins, B. James, J. Dudrick, L. Selecky, G. Ryback, J. Sunder and D Ford.
Second row, N. Groblewski, E. Guffrovich, D. Dudrick, A. Cihocki, D. Galanos,
R. Backstein, F. Machowski, D. Baron, H. Morgan. R. Pretulak. D. Maga and coach
Syl Bozinski. Third row, B. Bartles, G. Pegerella, J. Smith, D. Sherrick, E. Gryzmski,
J. Windt, A. Sands, T. Oshinski, H. Sinco and T. Williams.
winds of change already were in the air.
handsome and athletic young man from Massachusetts - John Fitzgerald Kennedy -
was just inaugurated as the 35th president of the United States. Kennedy's "ask
not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,"
signaled a change in direction for the USA. The dull 1950s were being swept away
and Camelot was taking its place.
That optimism in Washington
filtered to the Wyoming Valley which was moving ever so slowly out of its dependence
on the anthracite coal industry.
Now, a group of young
men were about to embark on a journey not seen in the area for more than 30 years
and would result in a state basketball championship that galvanized the area and
stamped Nanticoke as a city of champions.
High School captured state basketball championships in 1923 and 1926 and Newport
Township/Wanamie did the trick in 1936. But, those days may well have been in
a different century.
Radio and television sets were
no longer just for the wealthy. Most households in the area in the 1960s had a
least one of the appliances and, if not, a neighbor or relative did.
did not have to wait for the morning newspaper to find out the results of games
- key contests were broadcast over the radio and a select few were televised locally,
allowing fans to get caught up in the fun.
Rams took the ball and ran with it.
The Rams' championship
in 1961 was the culmination of a three-year run under the legendary Syl "Stretch"
Bill James, a senior on the team, recalls
how the team began to take shape when he, Ken Legins and Rick Kiewlak, were sophomores.
James, in an interview prior to the class' 50th reunion, called Legins the key
to it all. At 6-foot-4, he was tall for that era, had a soft shot and could still
run the break.
"Our freshman team was unbeaten
and I think we carried that through to our senior year. We knew we were good,"
The Rams won District 2 titles in 1959 and
1960 and both times the season ended with a loss in the PIAA playoffs, the last
to York in the Eastern final.
"Kenny was just a
terrific player," recalled James. "He started as a sophomore and I was
the sixth man. We lost our only game in the Wyoming Valley League to Kingston
that year and we had to play them again for the overall title and we beat 'em
James cites the 62-47 loss to York
in his junior year as the lightning rod to the run for the state title the following
year. "That was a tough loss," he said, "but it made us more determined
for next year."
In a way to challenge his team,
which already was playing "up" in the A classifications, Bozinski entered
the Rams in the tough Johnstown Holiday Tournament where they would face bigger
schools. The Rams lost to Sharon, 55-38, in the opener, but rebounded for a 69-57
win over a strong Chester squad, 69-57 to claim third place. In that game Legins
scored 25 points and hauled down 23 rebounds. James and Joe Shepela each added
"There was no stopping us then," James
aid. "We just knew we were not going to lose."
Rams proceeded to win 20-straight games, including a tough 51-47 win over Reading
in the Eastern final. It all culminated with a 56-46 victory over Hickory Township
in the Class A championship game at the Farm Show Arena in Harrisburg.
had us ready for anything," James said. "Every day we practiced 20 minutes
on pressing and against Reading we needed it. That's how prepared he had us."
than 8,000 fans from Nanticoke made the trip to Harrisburg for the final and it
was televised locally and fans took to the streets in Nanticoke, honking their
horns in celebration.
The following day, a crowd estimated
at 20,000 turned out for a rally at what is now Patriot Square in Nanticoke.
our way back to Nanticoke, our bus was greeted by fans in a lot of the smaller
towns," James said.
A big win for the Wyoming Valley
and a bigger win for Nanticoke.
Neil Corbett - Citizens' Voice
AREA First row, from left, Melissa Bentkowski, Kim Nork, Casey Comoroski, Samantha
Winckoski, Holly Kozlowski, Dawn Zidek and Kristin Surdowski. Second row, Lori
Scally, Michelle Stashik, Ellen Bartuska, Joelle Glushefski and Holly Ryncavage.
Third row, Nicole Getts, Tia Hornlein, Teri Galazin and Renee Piontkowski. Fourth
row, Tanya Sauers, Joanne Opachinski and Jennifer Szot.
passage of time can't take away the almost giddy feeling Lori Scally Zaleski gets
when she remembers the year the Nanticoke Area girls practically danced to a PIAA
"We just had so much fun," the mother of
twin boys who resides in Mountain Top said in a recent interview. "So many
people got caught up in what we were doing and not just fans from Nanticoke, but
from all over the Valley."
What the Trojanettes accomplished is unprecedented
in the annals of girls' sports in the Wyoming Valley.
Led by five seniors:
Scally, Casey Comoroski, Holly Kozlowski, Holly Ryncavage and Ellen Bartuska,
the team put up incredible numbers in going 30-0 and capping things with the PIAA
Class AAA championship.
"We had been playing together since junior high,"
said Scally, who also was senior class president. "We were really close and
not just as teammates. We had great camaraderie."
The team also was extremely
Four of the five seniors eclipsed the 1,000-point milestone: Scally,
Kozlowski, Comoroski and Bartuska. Only an injury during her sophomore year, which
limited her playing time, kept Ryncavage from joining the select group. Still,
she did score more than 900 in her career.
During the exhibition and WVC's
regular season, the Trojanettes averaged an eye-popping 96.9 ppg., and five times
they went over the century mark, including 117 points in their final WVC game
against Bishop Hoban.
With those huge scoring totals came the usual cries of
running up the score against inferior competition, but coach Rose Volpicelli held
fast to her rule of taking out a player once that player hit 18 points.
Trojanettes had to get ready for the playoffs. The previous two years the team
had advanced to the Eastern final only to be turned away by Lancaster Catholic.
think we always were thinking that we wanted to play them (Lancaster), said Scally.
the Trojanettes had to grab another District 2 championship, which they did, easily
beating three Lackawanna League teams: Abington Heights, 89-35, Scranton Prep,
83-31 and finally Honesdale, 95-48 for the gold medal.
were tough," said Scally. "Coach Volpicelli and (assistant) coach (Elaine)
Deluca were getting us ready. We did a lot of scrimmaging, we practiced situational
stuff like being down 10 with two minutes to go. It's hard to explain how wonderful
she (Volpicelli) was."
Wins over Pottsville and Strath Haven gave the
Trojanettes what they wished for - a rematch with Lancaster Catholic. This time,
it wasn't even close with the Trojanettes romping, 98-53.
An 80-68 win over
North Schuylkill sent Nanticoke Area to the championship game on a Saturday night
in Hershey and a showdown with Beaver Falls.
Befitting a championship game,
Beaver Falls gave the Trojanettes all they could handle and trailed by just four
heading in the fourth quarter, a time when Nanticoke Area usually enjoyed double-digit
"It was the toughest game we played (41 total fouls were called),"
said Scally. "They played a physical game, trying to intimidate us and then
there was the fight, but Casey had such a great game and led us to the win."
had a game for the ages, scoring 36 points, including 22 of 25 from the foul line
as the Trojanettes brought home the first PIAA girls basketball title to the Wyoming
The "fight" eluded to by Scally was more a skirmish and was
ignited when, with just seconds left in the game, a Beaver Falls player grabbed
Ryncavage by the hair from behind and pulled her to the floor. Ryncavage suffered
a scratched face, bruised ribs and chipped teeth.
When she was able to get
to her feet, she was afforded a long standing ovation by the thousands of Nanticoke
fans at the game.
"It was just an incredible time," said Scally.
"Winning the championship and then the parade at home with so many people
clapping for us."
PUTTING IN THE EXTRA EFFORT
Jill Snowdon - Citizens Voice
Published: December 19, 2012
Area Members of the Nanticoke Area softball team were, first row, from left, Amanda
Sisk and Melissa Makos. Second row, Diane James, Nancy Fine, Steph Lokuta and
Amanda Mieczkowski. Third row, head coach Gary Williams, manager Sara Shales,
Kristen Castano, Michelle Hazleton, Holly Walters, Kaylee Ziolkowski, Lindsey
Ludorf, Jess Brenner, assistant coach Bernie Dalmes and assistant coach Dave Warren.
Fourth row, Leah Lavelle, Leanne Harvey and Danielle Warren.
not often that a win comes easy in a state championship game. For Nanticoke Area's
2003 softball team, however, any victory that didn't require extra innings was
considered a breeze.
After five straight extra-inning games in the postseason,
Nanticoke Area's 4-0 seven-inning win in the Class AA state title contest was
an otherwise easy day at the office.
"It was brutal," Nanticoke
Area coach Gary Williams said of his team's streak of extra-inning games. "We
even had T-shirts made up that read, 'Extra Innings Rule.'"
To add to
the fun, a pair of the marathon games (Bishop Hoban in the District 2 tournament
and Mifflinburg in the state quarterfinals) were played over two days, testing
the Trojanettes' mental and physical strength.
"The game against Mifflinburg
is definitely one of those games I will always remember," said Williams,
who retired last month after 22 seasons with the Trojanettes. "We were playing
down in Bloomsburg and after 18 innings the game got called because of darkness.
We had to come back the next day and play two more innings. We ended up winning
A few days later, Nanticoke Area held off Danville for a 2-0 win
in 14 innings. The win over Danville sent the Trojanettes to the Class AA state
title game against Center High School, marking the first time a Wyoming Valley
Conference softball team played for state gold.
Despite not having a senior
in its starting line-up, Nanticoke Area was a well-deserving contender with all
of its starters returning from the previous season. And sophomore pitcher Jess
Brenner was the Trojanettes' anchor.
One of three starting sophomores, Brenner
established herself as the best pitcher in the conference that season and she
carried the Trojanettes through the playoffs with 80 innings pitched, 24 hits
allowed, a 0.35 ERA, 79 strikeouts and 15 walks in seven postseason games.
"Her mental approach was remarkable," Williams said. "You would
actually see her best pitching in tighter games."
The Trojanettes set
Brenner up to shine as they weren't an overpowering team on offense and many of
their wins came by just one or two runs. They did enough to keep ahead on the
scoreboard and turned things over to their defense to handle the rest.
had an exceptional defense," Williams said. "They were a tough-minded
group that demonstrated confidence. Everyone knew we had a great pitcher, but
we were really good defensively. In the playoffs we didn't have an errors."
Brenner, who allowed just two earned runs during the regular season, dazzled in
the state final. The righty threw a two-hit shutout with seven strikeouts. Nanticoke
Area's bats got going early against Center but the runs didn't come in until the
Holly Walters, a junior catcher, sparked the offense with three
hits and two RBIs and she also helped turn a pair of double plays.
ended the 2003 season with a 22-4 record, a league title, a District 2 championship
and a state title, making them the most successful squad to ever come out of the
"The closeness of that team was really something special,"
said Williams, who finished his career with a 330-162 record and another state
title in 2010. "They really had a family kind of attitude toward each other.
And still to this day, they will give me a call or send a text to see how things
are. I'm proud to say that we were the first team from the Wyoming Valley to win
a state softball championship."
- 2010 CLASS AA STATE SOFTBALLCHAMPIONS !
can still read all State Champion articles here.
Nanticoke Rams captivated community
Neil Corbett - Citizens' Voice
When basketball fans in the Wyoming Valley discuss
the greatest teams in the past century, the talks generally rests on the 1961
PIAA champion Nanticoke Rams - but more commonly referred to in print and on radio
and TV as the Nans.
Perhaps no other team captured the imagination of a community
like those Nans did over a three-year period, 1959-61.
straight Wyoming Valley League championships.
Two straight District 2 Class
A (Class A at the time represented schools with the largest student populations).
Two straight trips to the PIAA Eastern finals.
One state Class A championship.
Senior members of the team along with their classmates got a chance to recall
those glory days over the weekend as the Class of 1961 from Nanticoke High School
celebrated its 50th reunion.
"Magical," is how one member of that
team - forward Bill James, described the Nans three-year run which culminated
in that state championship. "We were the toast of the town. Everybody loved
us. We played before packed houses. I think our gym held about 1,000. But every
game, they packed in about 1500."
Coached by the legendary Syl "Stretch"
Bozinski, the team that would win the title began to take shape in 1958-59 when
a group of sophomores led by 6-foot-4 center Ken Legins, who had gone unbeaten
as freshmen, joined an already talented team. By the time that sophomore class
graduated, history had been made.
"Kenny was just a terrific player,"
said classmate James. "He started as a sophomore and I was the sixth man.
We lost our only game in the Wyoming Valley League that year to Kingston and we
had to play them again for the overall league title and we got our revenge . .
. beat 'em pretty bad."
The following year, the Nans were the overwhelming
favorite to win the WV League and they didn't disappoint.
had us ready for anything," James said. "Every day we worked 20 minutes
on pressing defense. We never had to use it - until we played Reading and we needed
it to win. That's how prepared he had us.
James also praised Bozinski for
never wanting to embarrass his opponent. "Our senior year, he played everyone,
everybody on the team earned a letter," James said.
As word spread, WILK
radio jumped on the Nans' bandwagon and began broadcasting their games with the
late Johnny Sobal, letting the rest of the Wyoming Valley in on the excitement.
That team, with Legins and James joined by the likes of Rich Kiewlak, Jim Shepela
and George Dudrick, tore through the Wyoming Valley League and District 2 and
took a 26-0 record to the Eastern final where the Rams were stunned by York, 62-47
at the Farm Show Arena in Harrisburg.
"That was a tough loss," said
James, "but it made us more determined for next year."
that Bozinski wanted to have his team ready for the state playoffs the next year
by entering the Johnstown Tournament, going against bigger teams like Sharon and
"That was the thing many people forget," James said. "We
were really a "C" team by enrollment and Stretch elected to play us
in "A" against the bigger teams. We really were like the team in 'Hoosiers'
- small school taking on the bigger schools."
The strategy seemed to
backfire when the Rams lost the opener to Sharon, 55-38, but bounced back the
following night to stop Chester - then as now, a perennial state power, 69-57.
"There was no stopping us then," said James. "We just knew we were
not going to lose."
And they didn't, ripping off a 20-game win streak
which culminated in a 56-46 victory over Hickory Township in the championship
Over the course of the year, the Rams averaged nearly 73 points per
game while limiting their opponents to just 48 ppg., winning by an average of
25 ppg. Their toughest game again came in the Eastern final against Reading where
the Rams squeezed out a 51-47 victory,
More than 8,000 fans made the trek
from Nanticoke to Harrisburg as the basketball fever engulfed the town.
was a crazy time," recalled Les Williams, a 1961 grad who joined his classmates
over the weekend for the reunion. "Even in school, the teachers were caught
up. Our advanced algebra teacher even made up formulas on game days to show us
how we were going to win. It really was a lot of fun."
recalled how the caravan from Nanticoke to Harrisburg stretched along Route 11
for as far as the eye could see. "We had somewhere between 45 and 60 buses
James said when he looked at the crowd from the court floor,
he thought the whole town was there.
When the game was over - it was televised
locally - the town erupted with cars taking to the streets and blowing their horns.
The players did not return until Saturday and, as James recalled, the Nanticoke
bus was stopped in several of the smaller towns along the way, including Berwick,
where fans congratulated them.
When the bus reached West Nanticoke, the players
were taken off the bus and rode on the back of convertibles where fans lined the
At what is now Patriot Square, it was estimated 20,000 fans turned
out for a rally and the players each got to say a few words.
had captured previous state championships in 1923 and 1926 but nothing captured
the imagination of not just a town, but a whole valley, as the 1961 teams.
As James said, it was "magical."