Normantown High School Vikings, 1945
By MARK MARTIN (WCHS-TV/WVAH) One of the truly great underdog West Virginia sports stories down through the years as a boys basketball team out of tiny Normantown High School.
This past season marked the 75th anniversary when the Vikings took the state athletic scene by storm with their incredible accomplishment.
"A lot of people didn't know where Normantown was," said NHS graduate Dennis Bennett. "They thought it was Morgantown. You know, Morgantown-Normantown kind of sounded alike."
For the record, Normantown is located in Gilmer County. The school's basketball team of 1945 reigned supreme as West Virginia state basketball champions.
"Back then, there was no classification," Bennett said of the 1944-45 season. "You had a school of 1200 kids, Normantown had about 215."
"I had a brother that played on the state championship team in 1945," said Blair Wright of his older brother, Blaine. "He was a freshman. Got to see him play once and that was something for a guy that was five years old."
It wasn't easy for the fans to follow their beloved Vikings. In fact, travel was tough on the team itself.
"See at that time, those boys didn't have transportation," Wright said. "They just got there the best way they could. Open trucks and everything else. The group were all farm boys practically."
(Bennett added many from the area saved up gas ration tickets to help the team travel).
But nothing could stop this team of destiny against some of the giants of high school basketball.
"This was Hoosiers before Hoosiers," said Tim Moore, who grew up in the area and attended middle school in the building that once was Normantown High. "The teams they defeated, when you look at the grand scheme of things now of what 25, 26 kids in a graduating class, it's just phenomenal."
Togetherness was the key to success for the Vikings of head coach Eugene "Bootjack" Williams.
"They had a 6-5 guard that was unheard of - Glennard Vannoy. Tex Gainer was good-sized guy, probably 6-2, 6-3. The fact that they played hard and they worked hard. Just teamwork, that's the main cog I heard."
The Vikings entered State Tournament play at the old WVU Fieldhouse with a 22-1 record. The lone loss that season was by three points to Spencer, who they later defeated for the sectional crown.
After winning the regional over Clarksburg Washington Irving, the Vikings opened State Tournament play defeating Bluefield, which led to the day no on will ever forget - March 24, 1945.
Normantown knocked off Morgantown, 35-33, that morning and then edged Logan, 50-49, later that day for the state championship.
"You know the trophy was kind of like a God in the trophy case. It was in the main office, You had to walk by it to go to the gym," said Bennett.
"It's meant a lot to the community, the graduates and everything," said Wright. "It's something that 's tied it all together all these years.
But it was 75 years ago. Helping to make the 1945 Normantown Vikings an unforgettable championship team.
Normantown went together with four other schools in 1968 to form what is now Gilmer County High School.
Those schools were Glenville, Tanner, Troy and Sand Fork.