Uniontown High School has a rich basketball history and tradition.
Red Raider pride started to crystallize 90 years ago, when the 1925 Red Raiders won WPIAL and PIAA championships. A year later, they became the first team in any sport to win consecutive WPIAL titles.
Charley Hyatt was the catalyst of Uniontown’s 1925 WPIAL and state championship team and led the Red Raiders to another WPIAL title in 1926.
The Raiders lost in the state tournament that season.
During the 1924-25 season the Red Raiders went into the national scholastic tournament in Chicago. The “Five Horseman” as the Raiders were known defeated Greeley, CO in the first round 26-11.
In the quarterfinals the Raiders downed Lake View, IL 29-11. In the semifinals against a much taller team from Wichita, KS the horsemen were defeated 42-21. In 33 games played that season the horsemen were 31-2.
In addition to the loss to Wichita they lost to the Pitt Freshman team earlier in the season.
A.J. Everhart Sr. was the coach of those great Red Raider teams. His son A.J. Everhart Jr. would follow in his father’s footsteps years later and continue the Raider tradition.
The 1924-25 Red Raiders were truly a juggernaut in that era. In a time of center jumps and possession basketball the Red Raiders tallied 1,429 points and allowed 615 by the opposition. During 13 of the 33 game slate Uniontown went over the 50 point mark.
Hyatt paced the Raiders in scoring with 429 points and garnered All State honors; other starters on the team were Cecil Connelly, who paired with Hyatt at forward, Les Cohen at center, and captain Joe Hackney and Markie Rankin at the guard spots. The sixth man was J.S. “Bus” Albright.
The famed team played its home games at Gallatin Gardens, which later became the site of the Laurel Lanes bowling alleys.
“We had great coaching by Abe Everhart Sr,” Hyatt would say years later in an interview. “The game has changed drastically; I could play in any era. Back in those days a man 6-1 was considered a giant, but now there are a lot of taller players.
Also the basketball is made better and is rounder and not lopsided and shoots truer. In my day it was a matter of a team scoring 30 points, but now an individual player scores 30 points and it is not uncommon.”
“He was always a guiding influence in the lives of all young men with whom he came in contact,” former Red Raider Les Cohen said when Everhart Sr. passed away in 1942.
“Men like Coach Everhart so greatly aided in the preparation of young men for this great emergency – the war for freedom.”
When the Red Raiders were beaten by Wichita, KS 42-21 in the national tournament,it marked only the second loss for Uniontown in the last 60 games, an unidentified member of the team said in the Maroon and White yearbook.
“We entered the game with a spirit unexcelled, ambition high, and physical condition below par,our desire to play the game the way we like it had almost left us; we were not playing for the love of the game, but putting forth our best effort for those at home; our best failed, and I must say the Jayhawkers were too strong for us on that particular day.
“Any person who has taken part in any athletic contest will know the fear of defeat that an athlete carries into every contest, and then if you are defeated, it’s a tough job to drive away that feeling of regret. But on this particular, occasion we have nothing to regret.”
Coach Everhart commented on his team’s showing at the national tournament.
“The tournament was well run and I believe the team that won should have won. In defeating us they did not beat an inferior team, but simply wore us out physically.
“They were not a better team but were physically better to handle the strain. They are bigger than we are and that is the only difference,
“Uniontown was rated as one of the four best teams in the tournament, which is something.
“Our boys went into the tournament tired. They had been forced to play too many elimination games before they got to Chicago. As a result of the strenuous campaign of the past several weeks, each member of the team is from five to twelve pounds underweight.
“They are slowly recovering this weight, but it will be some time before they have fully recovered from the effects of the games.
“When we arrived in Chicago we were assigned to a fraternity house. The conditions here were not ideal, but the fraternity boys did their best.”
Uniontown returned home to a hero’s welcome from area fans.
According to newspaper accounts 18,000 to 20,00 people greeted the basketball team when they arrived at the B&O railroad station in Connellsville and along a 13-mile route between Connellsville and Uniontown.
More than 150 to 200 automobiles were in the line of march from Connellsville to Uniontown.
At a banquet team members received beautiful white gold watches suitably inscribed as momentos of the WPIAL and state championship titles and orders for new suits which will come as most acceptable Easter gifts from Uniontown’s Thousand Dollar club.