The 1967-68 Boone Trail boys basketball team made the state 1-A championship game, the only Harnett County team to play for an NCHSAA boys basketball championship. The team was recognized Thursday night on its 50th anniversary at a supper meeting of the Boone Trail Ruritan Club.
Harnett Central’s girls made it to the 3-A final in 1991.
Leading scorers for the team, according to research by Western Harnett coach Randy McNeill, were Billy Harrington, who averaged 17 points per game, Lewis Cummings (13 ppg), Reggie Kelly (12) and Russell Taylor (10).
Taylor currently serves as athletic director at Western Harnett, which consolidated Anderson Creek, Benhaven, Boone Trail and Benhaven in the mid-1970s.
The 1967 Boone Trail team featured juniors Billy Harrington and Lewis Cummings who were the co-MVPs of Harnett County.
The 1967 team lost in the district finals to Pinehurst. NCHSAA Hall of fame coach Al Black of Boone Trail had high hopes for the 1968 team.
Boone Trail had produced previous winners. The 1957 team made the state tournament and lost in the semifinals.
In the 1968 regular season, Boone Trail lost to Benhaven twice and Buies Creek once to finish 15-3, earning the No. 2 seed in the county tournament. In the county event, the Pioneers beat Anderson Creek, 82-51, and Buies Creek, 55-47, before losing to Benhaven in the finals, 58-49.
Boone Trail was slotted into the play-in game in the district tournament and beat Fairgrove, 99-59. In the first round, the Pioneers beat Tar Heel, 78-50. In the district semifinal, the Pioneers got past St. Pauls, 77-61, as Taylor scored 20 points. Pinehurst beat Benhaven in the other semifinal. Pinehurst was 30-0 and Boone Trail came in at 20-4. Boone Trail beat Pinehurst 62-61 in double overtime to advance to the state tournament.
The state tournament was held in Durham and the team stayed in motel. Some of the Pioneer players had never stayed in a motel.
Boone Trail beat Rock Ridge, 64-51, led by Harrington with 19, Cummings with 12, Phil Roy Patterson with 13, Taylor with 10 and Kelly with 10. The Pioneers trailed by four points with 3:50 left but went on an 11-0 run to take the lead.
In the state semifinals, the Pioneers were matched up against Newland, which had 7-feet, 1-inch Tommy Burleson, who later helped N.C. State win the NCAA Tournament in 1974. Burleson had grown to 7-4 by then. The Pioneers won 85-67, with Harrington scoring 31 points and Taylor adding 20.
In the state final, Youngsville (30-1) beat the Pioneers, 88-49.
Boone Trail fans packed every gym they went to, including Carter Gym at Campbell for county and district tournaments. If fans did not arrive early, they did not get in. The community was very supportive of the team.
Some of the Boone Trail supporters passed around a hat at the semifinals in order to get the necessary funds to stay overnight at the state tournament.
(Special thanks to Randy McNeill for putting this report together)