Calling it the luck of the Irish is tempting. But talent and sheer desire had a lot more to do with it.
On St. Patrick’s Day in 1973, the Scranton Prep basketball team, filled with names like McCarthy, McMahon, Timlin, Lenahan and Clark, beat North Catholic 48-46 at the University of Pittsburgh Field House to win the Pennsylvania PCIAA (Pennsylvania Catholic Interscholastic Athletic Association) Class A Championship.
It is the only state championship in Scranton Prep’s illustrious basketball history.
Five Greater Pittston residents played key roles on that team, including Brian Clark, the team’s 6’1 center, who scored a game-high 18 points in the final and was named the games’s MVP. Clark hailed from the Junction section of Pittston.
Bill Timlin, of Avoca, who tallied 8 points in the final, was named the VFW Lackawanna County Team Player of the Year that season. The only other player in Scranton Prep basketball history to earn that honor was the great Steve Vacendak, who went on to become an All American at Duke.
Jack McCarthy, also of Avoca, played point guard on the team. He tallied six points in the final but set the tone of the game when he blocked a layup attempt by North’s 6’6 center John Carroll. McCarthy stood 5’11.
Rounding out the Greater Pittston contingent on the team were Avocans Mike McMahon, who played a major role in Prep’s Eastern championship victory with his outstanding defensive play, and Stan Waleski, the sixth man on the team who became the first three-letter athlete in Prep history, lettering in football and baseball as well as basketball. Waleski later coached at Pittston Area.
Team starters in addition to Clark, Timlin and McCarthy were Chris Fedele, the team’s MVP for the season, and Pat Grady. Fedele scored 16 points in the state final. Grady scored 18 in the Eastern final, a game in which Clark tallied 19.
The Prep team posted a 20-2 record in its final season and boasted a 38-5 record over two seasons. It also won the 1972 Lynett Holiday Tournament.
Members of the 1973 team were honored during the 40th anniversary year of the State Championship prior to the Scranton Prep-Montrose basketball game on Saturday afternoon, Dec. 22. Members of the ‘73 team shared brunch with current Prep players prior to the jayvee game and a ceremony honoring the ‘73 team was conducted between the jayvee and varsity games.
Players from 1973 in atendance were Chris Fedele, Bill Timlin, Brian Clark, Pat Grady, Jack McCarthy, Stan Waleski, Mike McMahon, Frank Grayeski, Joe Janinek, and Tim Lenahan. Unable to attend were Albert Hazzouri, Mike Gleason and Bill Mussari. Team member Mike Coleman has passed away.
Tribute was paid to the late Coach Jack Farrell, coach of the 1973 team who died in October. A presentation was made to his widow, Alice Farrell.
Also honored was special guest Dr. Terry McMahon, 90, who was instrumental in the development of Greater Pittston basketball players, particularly those from Avoca, through the Jolly Boys youth basketball program at the American Legion on Main Street, Avoca.
State proclamations were presented to mark the occasion from Rep. Marty Flynn. Remarks were offered by Father Herbert Keller, president of Scranton Prep, and Andrew Kettle, Prep coach. The event was organized by Scott Gower, athletic director.
Stan Waleski served as master or ceremonies.
On that same day in 1973 at the Pitt Field House, Bishop Hannan of Scranton won the PCIAA Class B championship and St. John’s, of Pittston, lost the PCIAA Class C title in a hard-fought 64-60 game against Bradford Central Christian.
The St. John’s starting team consisted of Tom Tracy and John Hannon, only a sophomore, at guard; Pat Salmon and Mike Higgins at forward; and Jim Gilhooley, a junior, at center. Hannon paced the team with 18 points in the final while Gilhooley tallied 17 and Salmon 16. St. John’s, coached by Jim Kolmansberger, had held a one-point lead at halftime.