Philadelphia High School Basketball
Glory Era of the Overbrook-West Philadelphia Rivalry, 1947-94
This page includes stories, special lists,
recaps of playoffs and boxscores for all games involving these teams
over the 48-year period. Within that time frame, only once did both teams fail to finish first or second (or both)
in overall/division standings for two consecutive years. The teams met 64 times. Overbrook prevailed, 37-27,
and the teams' average scores were 59.8 for 'Brook and 57.2 for West. 'Brook won by 10 points or fewer 21
times. West did so 19 times. Five points or fewer? 'Brook 12, West 10 . . . The teams met in playoffs 10 times
and two regular season games were played from 1952 through '58 (14 total). Due to a lengthy strike by
teachers, there was no regular season game in 1973. The regular season game in 1983 was a non-league affair.
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Rivalry . . . Glory Era
Leaper-supreme guard Laurence "L" Pembrook played for two years apiece at each school and racked up a 4-0 record. Right below is the story from 1992, followed by a shorter story from 1993 . . .
By Ted Silary
artist/TV star Will Smith could switch allegiances without being scorned,
why not Laurence "L" Pembrook?
"L" Pembrook has escaped unscathed from the not-so-holy, Overbrook-West
Philadelphia basketball wars.
time, he talked trash to West's players and pointed excitedly to his buddies
in the stands after unfurling
his trademark, head-almost-hit-the- rim dunks.
Pembrook played for West as a freshman and sophomore. He remained with the Speedboys through six games
last season, then transferred to 'Brook.
In his second game as a Panther, Pembrook scored 18 points in a 65-52 win at West.
"I'm still close with some of those guys," said Pembrook, who likely has surpassed 1,000 career points. An exact
total is not yet available. ''Especially Devin (Baker, a 6-7 center). We talk a lot. And he was over my house to hang
out on Tuesday night. We watched college games on ESPN."
Pembrook played like a man possessed during a 15-0 run spanning halftime. It came immediately after West seized
a 31-30 lead. Like always, much of his help was provided by smooth 6-4 senior forward Ronald Kenan (33 points,
"When we had that little burst right before the half, we wanted to build on it," Pembrook said. "When we did, our
confidence was rollin'.
"I love playing with Ron. I never have to say, 'C'mon, Ron.' We have the same intensity. His game goes together
Pembrook, who has made vast improvement academically, is awaiting the results of his latest attempt at the
Scholastic Aptitude Test.
"Colleges are waiting on me. They want to see how I come along," Pembrook said. "My dream is to play Division I
ball. At that level, I know there aren't too many 6-1 wing guards."
Said coach Rick Beckett: "I have to hand it to 'L.' He's doing and saying all the right things. He's got a goal and he's
going after it."
This story was written in February 1979 after West dealt Overbrook what
out to be its only loss over the '79 and '80 seasons (68-1 total) . . .
By Ted Silary
time luster but also the top spot in its unique part of the city, that should tell you enough.
YESTERDAY'S LATEST renewal in this magical series, won, 58-55, by a West squad that is still a lot mightier
than many people thought (or cared to admit), again provided at least a mild shock.
Almost a year ago (Feb. 21 instead of 22), the Speedboys' state record 68- game winning streak came tumbling
down up on the hill as Overbrook used a 25- point, 11-rebound showing by Carlton Willis and two clinching free
throws by Ricky Tucker with 0:11 to go as a gigantic springboard to its win-of-a- lifetime, 62-61.
And though, this time around, the snapped victory streak was not as long (27), the excitement was maybe not as
constant and the coaches - West's Joe Goldenberg and Overbrook's Mark (Max) Levin - didn't strut out for dinner,
we hasten to add that THE Game paled in comparison with its predecessors not in the least.
ESPECIALLY NOT FOR Goldenberg, who searched deep into the rear of a brain that is chock full of memories,
most of them good ones, to find the words that would do this one justice.
"I think back," said Goldenberg, "and three games - no, make that four - stand out above the rest over the past
"The first was Gene Banks' sophomore season when we beat Eastern (D.C.) in the Seagull Tourney, something
which, looking back, probably signaled the start of everything that West Philly basketball has become. The second
was Gene's senior year when we beat Brashear in the Johnstown Tourney. And the third was also his senior year,
when he was suspended and we beat Overbrook without him.
"Now we come to today, No. 4. In my mind, this has to surpass all of our previous top accomplishments. When
I realize that my team went in as a definite underdog and beat a team with all that potential and stature - the best
team in the country - well, I have to feel very, very, very proud.
"I've said it all season and now I'll say it again: the guys on this team have unbelievable guts and hearts just as big
as their whole bodies."
JUST AS HE'S been all season, the Speedboy with the littlest body, guard Kevin (Rock) McCray, was the man
who pumped life into his teammates.
From the start, McCray took command on offense. Not only did he pour 13 of his 24 points in the first period -
including a deep right-side jumper that brought on a stoppage in play so Kevin could receive a blue- and-orange ball
in honor of his 1,000th career point - but his ever- present imitation of a rodent helped to insure the fact that The
'Brook's offense would rarely get untracked.
As eyeballs popped out of sockets, the Speedboys steamed to a 17-6 bulge after one quarter and, with just 2:52
remaining until the half, McCray made the first of two free throws and the spread was 30-12 - big enough on the
scoreboard, let alone the intimidation factor it should have set into motion.
"I thought it was possible that they'd beat us," said Levin, "because what the hell, they're West. But I didn't think
we'd play as poorly as we did. They shot off to that big lead and they had us on the ropes right away. They were
able to control the tempo, something we'd hoped to do."
"I HAD NO IDEA we'd be able to score like that so early," Goldenberg said. "To tell the truth, before the game
I was toying with the idea of holding on to the ball if we had a one or two-point lead. I knew we couldn't hit 18
and 20-foot jumpers all day, but as long as we kept doing it, I felt I'd let the kids go on a little longer.
"Eventually, our idea was to spread things out and draw their 6-7 players away from the basket so they'd have to
play our 6-0 players. 'Brook came back really hard and we missed some key foul shots, but we also made some
key foul shots. "
A dunk by Joe Washington on a pass from Tony Costner moved the Panthers within 42-39 with 5:03 to go and
a thrilling stretch run seemed at hand. But 6-4 Greg Brandon, a junior who played JV for Overbrook last year and
attended Bartram in ninth grade, dropped two fouls, Jim Moore converted a pass from Jerry Moore and Brandon
rammed home a feed from Winston.
Thereafter, foul shots reigned supreme at West's end and force- feedings to big men Costner, Richard Congo
nd Jeffrey Tucker featured Overbrook's tactics. The Hilltoppers thrice sliced the margin to three points in the last
minute, though they were unable to fully get over the hump.
After Norman Winston flubbed a foul at 0:09, The 'Brook had a last chance. But R. Tucker's shot from the right
went long, Washington could not sink a follow - curving his body in hopes of drawing a personal - then McCray
cradled the final rebound.
"IN A WAY, I DO feel for Overbrook," said Goldenberg, whose squad (18-2, 13-0) will likely host either Olney
or Southern in the first round of the playoffs on March 6 while Overbrook (27-1, 12-1) visits Frankford. " It's
always nice to see the No. 1 team in the country in your own city and when they lose, no one likes to see it happen.
"But we've been in that situation before, when everybody wants a piece of you. Now everybody wants a piece of
The 'Brook. But, you know, if I had my druthers, I'd much prefer to be in this situation every single year."
"This," said McCray, " is better than winning last year's City Championship. It was kind of expected. This wasn't.
That makes this sweeter."
"After the game," said Levin, " I told the kids to keep their heads up, that it wasn't the end of the world. We can
handle this the same way West did last year - learn from it and become stronger. At the moment, though, I hate it,
I detest it and I can't stand it. I wish we could play a game tomorrow, to get ourselves back on the track."
This story was written in 1955 after
Wilt Chamberlain completed an 8-0 career
against West . . .
The First Game . . .
Overbrook opened on Sept. 20, 1926, but did not have seniors. The school
started its athletic program in the
1927-28 school year and was immediately part of the Public League for basketball. On Feb. 21, 1948, 'Brook
played West at the Philadelphia Arena, a multi-sport venue at 46th and Market. The Hilltoppers won, 29-20,
as Joe Minsky hit five field goals and eight free throws for 18 points. According to a story, he'd recently been
promoted from the junior varsity. Oddly, West (5-1) won the league that season and 'Brook provided the only
loss while finishing 3-3 in league play. The story contended 'Brook won because of its passing skills. It "zipped
the sphere around in splendid fashion."
Public League playoffs involving both teams .
At Temple’s McGonigle Hall
Boxscores for all Overbrook-West Philadelphia games, 1947-94
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