Legendary Union Academy Basketball Team gathers for reunion

Published: Jul. 30, 2022 at 11:09 PM EDT
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BELLEVILLE, New York (WWNY) - 55 years ago, one of the greatest streaks in high school basketball history began at Union Academy of Belleville.

From 1967-1971, the teams at Union Academy won 104 straight games, the longest winning streak in boys’ high school basketball history which stands to this day.

On Saturday, some of the former players and coaches gathered in Belleville to relive the glory days with a special guest in attendance: legendary coach Tom Murphy, who led the teams to the first 83 wins from 1967-1970 before leaving to become head coach at Hamilton College.

”It feels great to see everybody, how well they’re all doing, the success that they’ve had after. You know, it’s just a great time. Everybody here has done really well. Just great to get everybody back together and see everybody have such a good time,” said Murphy.

Murphy says there were many memorable games during the streak, and adds that the one things he remembers about his team’s historic run is the dedication his players had to achieving excellence each and every day they showed up.

”You remember certain games, I guess, but basically the things you remember most are the practice sessions, going in the gym every day, and how hard they worked every day. They deserved the winning streak because they worked harder than everybody else really,” said Murphy.

Murphy was honored by the players in attendance with a plaque and basketball commemorating his achievements not only at Union Academy, but throughout his his illustrious career which has spanned 7 decades.

Getting a chance to reconnect with Murphy, who was not only a coach but a mentor who shaped their lives, is something his former players say is special.

”You know, he was like a father to me. If I didn’t show up at school, he’d call me and want to know why I wasn’t there. If I sprained my ankle, he’d take me to the doctor and get it looked at. He’s been a great, great man and we love him to death. We’re glad he could make it,” said Jim Stockwell.

”Just wonderful to see him. Didn’t get to see him the last time they had their reunion, but he’s got all the stories from way back. He remembers everybody and he’s just a wonderful man,” said Greg Golding.

Peter Radley, who was an assistant coach under Murphy from 1967-1970, says he learned a lot about basketball serving under Murphy, things that went beyond the x’s and o’s of the game.

”Sometimes it wasn’t the direct things but the indirect things. Making kids realize your attitude, how you prepare and stuff like that is just as important if not more important than the other things,” said Radley.

The unbeaten streak is a record that has stood the test of time, and Murphy says it’s one he’s not sure will stand for eternity.

”Records are made to be broken. Hopefully somebody will come along and do it and have a group just like this, and 50 years later be talking about it like we’re talking now,” said Murphy.

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