One of the biggest games in the WPIAL this year is Friday's Pine-Richland at North Hills game. It's making me go all history on you today.
The Pine-Richland-North Hills game is bringing back memories of a great game, and also memories of one of the greatest players in Western Pennsylvania history who was widely known by just two letters.
First, the Pine-Richland at North Hills game. Pine-Richland is 11-0 and North Hills 10-1. They met in the WPIAL 4A final last year and their starts to this year have been historical.
For Pine-Richland, you can't have a better start. It is believed that no Pine-Richland team has won its first 11 games, even when the school was Richland. Heck, before 2000, the team had been to the playoffs only five times. The 1982 team under Jack Wilson won a section and got to the WPIAL semifinals, but didn't have a perfect start. The 2000 team under Dave DeGregorio made it to the WPIAL 3A final, but lost 10 games that season.
As for North Hills, records show that this is the best start for the Indians since at least the early 1970s, and maybe ever. Last year's team won a section title for the first time since 1983, but was 6-5 after 11 games. The 1983 team didn't win 10 of its first 11 games. The 1978 team that won a section title started 9-2.
Considering the success of Pine-Richland and North Hills (Pine-Richland is ranked No. 1 in WPIAL 6A and North Hills No. 5), considering their records, considering first place in Section 1 is at stake, I'll make this statement: This is the biggest regular-season game AT North Hills since 1975. Sure, North Hills has been in some big regular-season games with playoff implications. There have been meaningful games against North Allegheny. But there hasn't been a regular-season game on North Hills' home court involving two teams so highly-rated, and with such good records since Valley at North Hills in 1975.
That brings me to the memories and a kid named B.B. On a Tuesday night in January of 1975, Valley came to North Hills with a 12-1 record. North Hills was 11-2. First place in the section was on the line. The game was played in North Hills' old gymnasium. It is used for only middle-school and elementary school games now and is affectionately known as "The Dungeon." The place was packed on that Jan. 21 night 41 years ago. I know. I was there.
I was in grade school at the time and lived in the North Hills district. I remember the enormity of the game. North Hills was excellent and many wanted to see this Valley phenom, a kid named B.B. Flenory.
His real name was Baron Flenory, but he was B.B. to everyone. The kid made Sports Illustrated's Faces in the Crowd two years earlier for scoring 81 points in a ninth-grade basketball game. Yes, I said 81 - IN A FRESHMAN GAME!!! Hence, the name B.B. I still remember in 1975 how word had spread around Western Pennsylvania about Flenory and his talent. I had heard about him, and my Dad took me to see him play North Hills. I still remember being awed by Flenory.
Flenory was a guard who was a dazzling ballhandler and loved to play to the crowd. Some called him a "hot dog." And, oh, how he could shoot. He scored 1,800 points at Valley in only three seasons (he didn't play varsity as a freshman). He would've certainly had 2,000 if there was a 3-point line back then. (The old school picture is of Flenory in a game against Fox Chapel when he was a junior).
At Valley, Flenory played for Mike Rice Sr., who would go on to coach at Duquesne University. You may have heard of his son, Mike Jr., the former Robert Morris and Rutgers coach.
But back to Flenory and that North Hills game. It went to overtime and North HIlls, coached by Tom Maloney, won, 73-70. Joe Galvin scored 21 points and Gary Evans 15 for North Hills. But Steve Fedell, who would go on to play linebacker at Pitt, also scored 15 and hit a game-tying shot with eight seconds left in regulation. Fedell was matched that night against Valley wide body Benjie Pryor, who also went on to play football at Pitt. Pryor fouled out and Fedell hit two big free throws late in overtime.
Flenory came into the game averaging 30 points and he didn't disappoint, pouring in 32 against North Hills. A few weeks later, Valley beat North Hills and the two tied for the section title. My, how things have changed since then. Back in the 1970s, only section champs went to the WPIAL playoffs and most of the tournament in the largest classification was played at the Civic Arena. In 1975, North Hills and Valley had a one-game playoff to decide the section championship. It was played at the Civic Arena and the crowd was more than 5,000.
Valley won the one-game playoff and went on to the WPIAL title game, only to lose to Uniontown. The next year, Valley again made it to the championship, only to lose to Farrell.
I say Flenory is one of the greatest players in WPIAL history. He went on to a very successful career at Duquesne. He left as the fifth-leading scorer in Duquesne history and was one of the final cuts of the Boston Celtics in 1980.
Flenory was inducted into the WPIAL Hall of Fame in 2010. He is in the Duquesne hall of fame, as well as a few others. You want evidence how good Flenory was at Valley? Well, consider this: The prestigious Parade All-American team has been around since 1957. Flenory is one of only 13 WPIAL and City League players selected to the team.
I will be at the Pine-Richland-North Hills game Friday night. That first sighting of B.B. and that game in 1975 will certainly pop into my head.
This Week In High School Sports
Who will win the Pine-Richland-North Hills game? Well, Brian Batko and yours truly pick the game and talk about many other big ones in the latest This Week In High School Sports show. Check it out: