Nathan Blessing inteviewed Richard Lawson on March 14th 1993 .
Nathan: What did it mean to you to be on the 1965 team?
Richard: It meant a great deal because it was the first, only, and possibly the last team to win the State Championship at Rocky Gap. Fortunately enough I was on it.
Nathan: What position did you play?
Richard: Guard, with my height you had to. Being on that team is something in my life that I will always look back on. That was an honor to be on a State Championship team back then. Not only that, but I get to see two or three of the people that I was on the team with every week.
Nathan: How did the season start out?
Richard: It wasn't very good was it Henry? Really and truly when you start looking at records I don't think Rocky Gap should have been there. What was our record 12 and 6? We were the only team, when you start looking at it, we played George Washington and they had a 22 and 1 record, or something like that.
Henry: I know we played two undefeated teams.
Richard: When you start looking at it, more than just winning the State Championship, but getting there was an accomplishment. I guess Auburn was our most memorable team. Auburn High School had beaten us three previous times, but when we went down there this time they had the gym decorated for a victory dance with their little band ready for the parade, and we beat them. that is the only time I can honestly say I saw a whole school cry. They didn't know what had happened. Then after that we went to Roanoke to play the Regional, that's were we beat Blue Ridge. After that we went to the big game at Castle Coliseum. Compared to Rocky Gap High School it looked so big, but after you got down there you saw that it wasn't the gym you had to worry about it, was the people. Then when we got down and found that victory was ours, that was something else I'll never forget it.
Nathan: Dad has always told me a story that in the final game Harold took a shot form near half court. Is he exaggerating?
Richard: No, when Harold was on, he would make it.
Henry: The problem was that every time he shot he thought he was on.
Richard: I tell you for a little school up here, you can look back on a lot of things that had happened since the time I was up there. The last I heard we had the state scoring record for a single game. Whitewood scored 175 and we scored 150. That was when Rick Lane and I played. They had the tallest man that I remember playing against, the tallest man on our team was Benny DeAtley was about 6 foot 2. They had the Cole Cousins out of Whitewood one was 6 foot 3 the other was about 6 foot 5, and they never shot anything inside thirty feet. Getting back there is nothing that can compare to the State Championship. I still have my coat when I take that thing out I'm talking about pride. Another thing is that Bland had held the title for three straight years before we took it away from them. That was dignified to us but it wasn't dignified to them.
Henry: Because we whipped the shit out of them.
Richard: That's exactly right.
Henry: The only reason we didn't win by forty points was because Kegley told us to ease up on them.
Richard: That's right we would have probably beat them by hundred points if Kegley had not of told us to ease up on them. We really didn't want to, but you know how that is.
Nathan: What do you think turned the season around before the tournaments?
Richard: Determination. I guess really and truly it seemed to me like when we beat Bland that propelled us. Because before that we would win one game and lose one game, then we would win two games and lose maybe three. It seemed to me after that game we had momentum going into the tournaments. When we got into the tournaments everyone was worried about Auburn. I tell you what when you get a team like Auburn, and beat a team like Auburn, with the talent that they had, it would propel you into the region. It seemed to me like when we beat them, we didn't think we were going to get beat. When we played against that big boy, I don't know what his record was, but he was supposed to be one of the best in the state. Henry and the rest corralled him in there and he couldn't do anything.
Nathan: You all beat on him didn't you?
Richard: Henry slapped him several times.
Henry: It was Vincent and Joe that did it.
Richard: It was Vincent's elbows that killed him.
Henry: You have watched ball here for thirty years at the Gap.
Nathan: Have you ever seen anybody that could smack anyone any harder than what Vincent could?
Richard: I saw him hit one guy at Matoaka and I thought it had killed him. When he came down with a rebound he would come down with his elbows straight out. He got warned for it, but I don't think he ever got kicked out of a game for it.
Henry: But he put several other people out.
Richard: I tell you that year the way everybody was playing it just helped it really and truly did. Right down to the point that it was meant for Rocky Gap to win the championship. What amazed me more than anything else was when you looked at our record and those of the teams we beat. If you were to look at one of their records and then ours, you might as well say we had a losing record. They said that one boy we played against from Blue Ridge was one of the best in the state. For a little school the Gap has set some records in the 86, 87 regionals against Holston. We set a record for most technicals in a game, we were on NBC News the next morning.
Nathan: What made you better than the other teams you played, other than determination?
Richard: That was about it, determination.
Henry: I've told Nathan that the closest I ever came to being thrown of the ball team was when we were playing Auburn. Joe had sprained his ankle, Vincent had fouled out, and Harold had fouled out. It was you, Charlie, Rick Lane, Melvin Wolf, and me. They were ahead of us by nineteen points at the end of the third quarter, and we had started coming back and I had just hit three fifteen foot turnaround jump shots in a row. When I shot the fourth Joe Loveday and those two West Twins rode me clear to the floor, the ball went up, went in the goal and rolled back out.
Richard: I guess really and truly we only had one play.
Henry: I think we played a little more than just street ball. Because I've seen every team since 1958 and none of them could run a fast break as well as we could.
Nathan: What did you think about seeing Castle Coliseum?
Richard: Oh mercy. Well first of all in the top seat at the very top of the Coliseum you would look down and the people would look just about an inch tall. You would come in and look around and you would say, "Man this thing is amazing." The you would start to think, "Well I can't play in a place like this." I guess really and truly after you start playing all of it comes down to is ninety-four feet. But Castle Coliseum was something.
Henry: Especially for thirty years ago.
Richard: I compared it to walking from a match box into the ocean.
Nathan: Who were the strongest opponents?
Richard: Auburn with big Joe Loveday and Lowell Reed. Lowell Reed could score at any time.
Henry: He couldn't score the last time we played them.
Richard: We liked to kill him!
Henry: We did what they call now denying the lane. He always came up Vincent's side and they would pull his trunks or elbow, ram, or pinch his hind end.
Richard: That is the only time that I had ever seen that at the end of the third quarter ,Lowell Reed had not come back into the game. I tell you that Rick Lane, Woody Bradshaw and myself were told to hurt him. If he came by us we would just elbow him. And if Woody came by, and I don't know if you know Woody, but he could hurt some people.
Henry: And he did.
Richard: Really we shut Reed down because we intimidated him, and Henry got the big guy. So with those two shut down the other three just weren't any good. We took their fire power away so they didn't have anything to shoot with. All year long we had a good team but Auburn was top dog. For us the Auburn game was like the Bland Game now. They could be compared with the talent Floyd has today.
Nathan: In the tournament did you ever think you were going to lose?
Richard: No, Because in the third quarter the big guy had three fouls on him and if you shut him down you shut the team down. But really and truly it seemed like the first quarter in the state game it seemed like we couldn't do anything right, in the second quarter things picked up, in the third quarter it seemed to me like we just physically took over. We didn't beat that team by more than ten points did we?
Henry: I think it was seventy sixty-two. We out scored them twenty-eight to fourteen the fourth quarter.
Richard: We just over took them. It seemed that after a while they couldn't turn the momentum around.
Henry: I'll tell you what beat that team. It was the crowd. At the end of the third quarter Kegley was trying to tell us something and I didn't hear a word he said.
Richard: If a bomb had blown up at center court you would have never heard it. What does Castle Coliseum hold?
Nathan: About ten thousand.
Henry: I guess there was about six thousand there that night.
Richard: It seemed like wall to wall people to me. But for me just to walk in was amazing, just to walk in and when we out to practice there wasn't anybody there just the team, then all at once came the big game. Like I said, one whole side of the stands was filled with people from Rocky Gap, Bastian, and Bland. That is the first time I ever saw the whole county behind Rocky Gap. It made a difference, like Henry said, you couldn't hear anything. After a while if the ref blow the whistle you couldn't hear it. Especially in that run when the people were yelling the loudest it just rattled them and they couldn't handle the pressure. And I don't know if we were put in the same situation it we could have handled
it. I'll never forget the size of the Coliseum and the people. I would like to do it again.
Nathan: Would you have done anything different?
Henry: I wouldn't have smoked, I think I would have been a better player.
Richard: Oh God yes, all of us would have.
Nathan: Every one of you smoked, didn't you?
Richard: You would get out there, run three laps and start panting. The only thing that saved us was that the other team must have been smoking too. They didn't run any faster than we did. Did they Henry?
Nathan: What do you think your team did for the community?
Richard: Pride, I mean to tell you pride. It brought recognition to Rocky Gap. When people talk about Rocky Gap they can say we took the state banner, not many places can say that.
Henry: They can't say that in any school in Wythe County and that's a lot richer county than us. One thing that done me the most good was the night we graduated, at that time awards night was on the same night as graduation, and Blaine Worrell, the principal, said, "We have a State Championship ball team will the players please stand up." And the people in the gym at graduation went crazy they were yelling and screaming it was wild.
Nathan: I guess I'm out of questions. Do you have anything to ask?
Henry: Yes, why do you think we won and the other teams didn't?
Richard: It all goes back to us having more determination. Because really and truly if you look at it and compare team with team Rocky Gap probably had less talent. But the determination we had was lacking in the other teams we played. It got down to a point and we thought no one could beat us and they didn't.
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