Boone Trail's 13-OT win remains the record 50 years later
Fifty years after the game which still stands as the record for the longest basketball game played, the Boone Trail Pioneers celebrated their victory, the record they share with Angier High School and more than fifty years of friendship at a team reunion at Boone Trail Elementary School on March 6.
The Pioneers defeated the Bulldogs 56-54 in 13 overtimes for the Harnett County 1A Conference Tournament championship on Feb. 29, 1964. The leap day date led some to recognize the game's "12th anniversary" in 2012.
The game started on a Saturday night in an over-packed Carter Gymnasium at Campbell College and, after permission over the phone from NCHSAA officials to continue into Sunday morning, ended 71 minutes of basketball later.
Neither squad used any substitutes in the game, which meant, among many remarkable aspects of the night, no Pioneer or Bulldog fouled out in what was more than two full high school games.
Gene Wright, one of the five Pioneer players who went the distance who now lives in Broadway - and still loves playing senior league basketball in Sanford, said Boone Trail, led by head coach Al Black, 43 years before Black became a North Carolina High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame inductee, regularly used subs off the bench in their games.
Neither side scored in nine of the 13 overtimes. In a tactic not so odd then as it sounds now to present-day basketball fans, Boone Trail held the ball and stalled for one shot each chance it could through the overtimes - often winning the jump ball and having possession throughout a three-minute period.
In the second, fifth and eighth overtimes, the Pioneers had to "rally" with a basket to tie an Angier basket.
"We were young, so we had good stamina," Wright said. "We were in good shape. I think the fans and the players on the bench, I remember them saying how nervous they were, I think they fared worse than we (the players on the court) did."
Frank Stewart led the Pioneers with 29 points. His lay-up, followed by two free throws after an Angier turnover, gave Boone Trail a 56-52 lead in the 13th overtime.
The Bulldogs got a basket, and got possession again with 0:09 remaining. Ralph Hester stole the inbounds pass to hold on to the two-point win.
Wright remembers a couple of other plays throughout the overtime periods which didn't directly win the game for Boone Trail, but he credits them for saving the Pioneers' chances.
Wright took one potential game-winning shot, but it was off the mark and teammate William Brown got the rebound, keeping Angier from getting a shot to win.
"I remember that was the highest I'd ever seen him jump. He seemed to jump over the backboard," Wright said.
Another saving play was a blocked shot by Stewart, who was about 5-foot-9, on an Angier big man who was about 6-foot-4.
"(Stewart) got his whole hand up on the ball and it was called a jump ball," Wright said.
Coach Black, a graduate of Lillington High School and Wake Forest University, is a memorable and beloved coach even aside from the historic night in Buies Creek.
Through five decades, Black coached at Anderson Creek High School, for 16 years at Boone Trail, then at Coats High, Topsail High and Western Harnett High. As a head coach in football, his career record was 84-50. His teams were 264-77 in basketball and 263-90 in baseball.
"He was real influential to all of us," Wright said. "He had a high influence on a lot of kids because he is a good Christian man and he showed it every day with his teaching.
"A lot of kids respected him and have said he's like a second father to them."
Boone Trail and Angier met for reunions and basketball games at the 10- and 20-year anniversaries, with Angier winning both games.
The Angier Bulldogs were coached by Rudy Brown. Johnny Gardner scored a team-high 27 points in the 13-overtime game. The other Bulldogs were Ronnie Ashley, Wyatt Lee Currin, Phil Ferrell, Phil Fox, Wayne Gregory, Robert Hall, Ronald Hawley, Jerry Page, Mike Stanley, Larry Talton, Caulton Tudor and Woody Williams.
The five Pioneer starters were Wright, Stewart, Brown, Hester and Dennis Walls. The rest of the Pioneers were Cameron Adcock, Jimmy Byrd, Tommy Collins, Phil Cummings, Stuary Kelly, Lee Patterson, Mike Patterson and Fred Sykes.