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Meyers Has A Championship Tradition

February 7, 2019
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Meyers Has A Championship Tradition

WILKES-BARRE — Meyers has won three district championships with Pat Toole as head coach.

“Without a doubt,” he said, “every district title win was special.”

The 2012 triumph was notable for its star power — Ryan Krawczeniuk, Rasheed Moore and Eugene Lewis each averaged at least 13 points per game — and that it was the team’s first title since 2000.

Four years later, in 2016, the Mohawks christened a new championship venue with a blowout win at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Sandwiched between them, though, was a truly unforgettable run for Toole, his staff, and his players.

“In 2014, after Ryan and Rasheed had graduated, I think a lot of people thought we’d be down,” Toole recalled. “That team not only won the district title, but they went to the Eastern final and lost to Constitution. That probably was the most memorable season. We won several games in overtime, a couple at the buzzer. That was a group of kids that really came together at the end of the season and just played incredible team basketball led by Tyriek Steward, who, that year, was first-team all-state.”

The thing about Meyers’ boys basketball program is that, even when expectations are lowered, the expectations are still high. The potential is still great. The roster is still talented.

That’s something to remember when Meyers is an underdog Friday night at GAR.

“No matter what the records are, it’s always a huge, huge game,” Toole said. “We always look forward to seeing ex-players from both teams who come back to still root for their alma maters. I think that’s really special.”

Friday’s rivalry game will take on special meaning, given Wilkes-Barre Area will combine Meyers, GAR and Coughlin into one program beginning next season.

The Meyers-GAR rivalry is not a big deal merely because of the schools’ proximity to each other, but also because they are two of the most successful boys basketball programs in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

“It’s 2019 and the condition of some of the Wilkes-Barre schools are such that they had to do this. They absolutely had to do this,” said former Meyers coach Jim Williams. “It’s too bad that Meyers, GAR and Coughlin didn’t combine a number of years ago. I think we would’ve won some state championships.”

Williams won 235 games as the Mohawks’ head coach from 1972 to 1990. Some of Williams’ best teams were right at the start of his tenure.

In 1973-74, Williams had a great roster — featuring center Al Walker, forwards Duane Walker and Norm Magyar, and guards Mike Judge and Mickey Dudish — that he led to a 23-3 record.

The season ended with a loss to eventual state champion Abington in the first round of the PIAA Class A playoffs at the historic Palestra arena in Philadelphia.

The years that followed were a mixed bag.

“Being a public school, sometimes you gotta play with what you’re dealt,” Williams said. “We had a couple off years, and then all of a sudden, we’d get a couple really good players.”

Another one of Williams’ great teams was the 1982-83 Mohawks, who, led by senior 1,000-point scorer Mike Zurawski, won 24 games and played for the District 2 Class 2A championship.

However, that’s when rival GAR won in overtime, 62-59. That game was played at the Scranton CYC in front of a reported 1,000 fans.

“I just remember the crowds,” Williams said of the rivalry games. “We’d play at Meyers, they’d have to shut the doors. We’d play at GAR, they’d have to shut the doors. ... The gym was absolutely packed. It was like playing Notre Dame.”

One constant in Williams’ career, he said, was that he always had talented assistants like Sam Mantione, Tony Modrovsky, Ray Martin and Joe Caffrey.

Caffrey was groomed as Williams’ successor and he eventually replaced Williams in 1990.

Caffrey’s highlights included the career of Dave Jannuzzi, who graduated in 1996 after helping Meyers win three straight WVC Division 2 championships.

The following season, Meyers built on Jannuzzi’s success and went further in the state tournament than Jannuzzi had ever gone.

Seniors Josh Mericle, Damon Moore and Julius Perry led Meyers to a silver-medal finish in the PIAA Class 2A tournament.

“There are so many of them,” Caffrey said when asked of his favorite memories coaching Meyers. “But I think it has to start with the 1997 state runner-up. That was really, really a remarkable run by that team. It turned out that those seniors, that was our fourth consecutive WVC championship and it was the school’s first-ever District 2 championship in basketball. That was extremely special. Then, of course, the run we had to Hershey. That’s the first memory. That will always be the top memory.”

Caffrey led Meyers until 2004, when Toole was appointed head coach.

Toole recalls taking his lumps — at first — against GAR.

“I started out my coaching career 1-9 in varsity against GAR,” Toole said. “I’m 11-2 in the last 13, so 12-11 overall as a head coach of Meyers varsity.”

Make no mistake, Toole wants to win that final game to avoid being .500 against his arch rival.

But, he hopes, the lessons his players learned at Meyers go well beyond the realm of athletics.

“No. 1, be the best person you can be,” Toole said. “It goes far beyond basketball. And No. 2, enjoy every moment of your life. Play with passion. Go at your life with passion, whether it’s going to school, going to a job, just do it with passion. Joe Caffrey used to have a line, he’d tell the kids, ‘Be a good citizen.’”

Barring an unlikely rematch in the playoffs, Friday’s 7:30 p.m. tipoff will be the final Meyers-GAR boys basketball game.

MEMORY LANE

March 13, 1974

Meyers’ Mickey Dudish led all scorers with 18 points, helping the Mohawks establish a 43-42 lead through three quarters of a PIAA Class A first-round playoff game against Abington.

However, Abington came back to win that game — and four more — en route to being state champions.

March 12, 1994

Meyers won its first state playoff game in program history, defeating Delaware Valley, 65-50, in the first round of the PIAA Class 3A playoffs.

Steve Brominski scored 13 points and Gary Nealon added 12, helping the Mohawks win their school-record 26th game.

March 8, 1996

Senior Dave Jannuzzi played one of his all-time best games, scoring 27 points — including 14 in the first quarter — in the final win of his Meyers career, a 72-49 victory against Milton in the PIAA Class 3A first round.

March 19, 1997

Meyers was showered with Hershey’s Kisses at Pottsville’s Martz Hall, where the Mohawks won in double overtime against Trinity, 58-56, in the PIAA Class 2A semifinals.

Josh Mericle, who scored a game-high 20 points, sealed the win with three free throws in the final minutes. Meyers lost in Hershey in the state final against Aliquippa.

March 3, 2000

Senior guard Jim McGavin hit a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer, giving Meyers a 57-54 win in the District 2 Class 2A championship against Riverside.

Feb. 17, 2017

Meyers’ improbable three-wins-in-four-days stretch ended with a 56-55 win at Hazleton Area, where Matt Dessoye, Jawane Buckner and Ryan Gilgallon combined to make eight 3-pointers that clinched the Mohawks a WVC Division 2 championship.

Contact the writer: mbufano@citizensvoice.com; 570-821-2060; @CVBufano on Twitter

 

 

 

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