Redemption stories create lasting legacies in sports, and for the 1991 Logan Wildcats, the pain of two previous state tournament trips coming up empty made the third time a charming memory, and one that hasn't faded from Logan's basketball memory.
The story of the team that brought home Logan's 5th state championship, and first without legend Willie Akers at the helm, started with heartbreaking setbacks in Charleston in 1989 and 1990, but more notably 1990 when Logan had posted an undefeated regular season, including two heart-stopping wins over rival Beckley in the regular season, only to see it all go up in smoke in the state semifinals, as the Flying Eagles dominated en route to a state championship.
With many key players coming back to Vic Herbert's club, a 1977 state champion player for Logan, the Wildcats anticipated getting one more crack at claiming the crown that had eluded them the past two seasons. Logan would falter only four times on their way to repeating as sectional and regional champions, including harboring an impressive senior starting line-up that included the state player of the year in point guard Jeff Miller, dominant big man Dan Rush, the human highlight reel DeAundre Murphy, the cerebral Darrell "Juicy" Banks, and the physical, athletic, defensive hungry Robert Minter. In their state quarterfinal against Martinsburg, it appeared that it would be a short stay in Charleston, as the Bulldogs held a four-point lead with under a minute to go before the Wildcats were able to fight their way back from the abyss to force overtime. In the extra period, Martinsburg had possession in the final seconds with the score tied, but after a Bulldog layup rolled off the rim, senior DeAundra Murphy was able to fire a perfect pass the length of the floor to the steady catalyst off the bench Sonny Green, who was able to lay the game-winning shot in amongst traffic as the horn sounded to keep Logan alive and move into the semifinals. With new life breathed into the Wildcats they hammered the Parkersburg Big Reds in the semifinals to set up a rematch with their old foes the Beckley Flying Eagles in the finals, who were looking to defend their crown from a year ago.
In a state championship game for the ages, the Wildcats were able to flex their muscle in the third quarter to take a 63-50 lead into the final eight minutes, but Glen Staples, Mike Wilson, and the Flying Eagles wouldn't bow out quietly, as Dave Barksdale's club battled back to close Logan's lead to 77-75 with two minutes to play. With the Wildcats lead and season hanging by a thread, Dan Rush hit the shot of his dreams as the big man was falling to the floor he threw in an incredible running jumper to stymie the Flying Eagles momentum, and in the final seconds, it was a quiet senior, Darrell Banks, who averaged 9 points on the season, that played the game of his life with 25 points who calmly sank free throws to extend Logan's lead, and concluded with a fitting ending as Robert Minter slammed home the final two points as the buzzer sounded to give the Wildcats the redemption they had so desperately sought, with an 86-78 takedown of their archrivals.
Redemption isn't always found, and it's never given, but for the group that never gave up in trying to find it they made history in the process, and as was seen on the 30th anniversary of their title at Willie Akers Arena on Tuesday night, it proves that some stories are too great to ever be forgotten.