Friends, family, and fans who remember the 1967 Ambridge Area High School (AAHS) state basketball championship are invited to take a trip down memory lane at Laughlin Memorial Library on April 22, 2017 at 6 PM to celebrate the Bridgers’ outstanding victory over the Chester Clippers 93-61 in Harrisburg a half century ago. Team members will be in attendance, including All-State and All-American player, Dennis Wuycik, Frank Kaufman, Paul Kamzelski, and Gary Robinson, as well as numerous other AAHS players and coaches that experienced the legacy of this team.
The National Prep poll named the Ambridge team the No. 1 team in the country after the close of the 1967 season. The team went 27-0 and was led by standout players who went on to play at various colleges after their stint in Beaver County. Wuycik, junior forward, later played at North Carolina and led the Tar Heels to an NIT championship and to an NCAA Final Four appearance. The late Dick DeVenzio, a senior who was Coach Chuck DeVenzio’s son and point guard, led a successful team at Duke and later played internationally. Kaufman, who will be delivering the keynote address, played center for Purdue.
The late Coach DeVenzio when interviewed by the Beaver County Times in 2000 said the season was “the greatest time in my life…it almost compared to marrying my wife.” Chuck was named 1967 “Coach of the Year” by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He was known to have said to his players, according to Kamzelski, “If I have to teach you how to put the ball through the hoop by the time you get to high school, it is too late.” Through his strong leadership, DeVenzio brought the school’s twelve-year losing streak to an end. Robinson (Class of ’68) said “it was an honor and a privilege to be part of a group of talented players and coaches who worked very hard to achieve a common goal.”
Current AAHS basketball coach, Mark Jula (Class of ’71) recently stated, “I’ve been a head coach for 36 years and have coached all over the country from San Diego to Philadelphia. The 1967 Ambridge Bridgers team is the best I’ve ever seen.”
The impact this team had on future players cannot be overstated. Doug Saylor (Class of ’74), who will also be presenting, reminisces,
The 1967 Bridger basketball team set the standard for basketball excellence for Ambridge, the region, the state and actually for the nation. It was incredibly exciting and inspirational to watch that team perform, and as a young basketball player with aspirations to play for Ambridge that team was simply magical. Every game provided a PhD level of play at every position, and we basketball enthusiasts soaked it up, learned, were motivated, and wanted to emulate them. Every time that I laced up my sneakers (yeah, we called them sneakers) and walked onto that hardwood court at AHS I could feel that magic, and that history, and I tried to honor their legacy to the best of my ability. I fell short, but, it was always worth the effort, and I always felt that their example lifted me to higher levels of performance. The fact that we are still talking about that team, remembering that team, honoring that team, and feeling that magic, fifty years later, is proof of the power of a great team.
Tickets to the event are $67.00 and must be purchased in advance at the library or https://67statechamps.eventbrite.com. Dinner, soft drinks, and program provided. You may bring additional beverages. DVDs of the championship game will be available for purchase, as will commemorative shirts. Various memorabilia will be on display and for auction.
According to event coordinator, Don Frynkewicz (Class of ’75), "I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to be involved with this event. Fifty years later and the community is buzzing with excitement to celebrate one of the greatest high school basketball teams in Pennsylvania's history.”
All proceeds of the event will benefit the library. Kaufman stated, “It is indeed an honor to represent the 1967 Ambridge Basketball Team while helping to raise funds for the beautiful Laughlin Memorial Library of Ambridge which has served the community for the past 88 years.”
Wuycik, who is making the trip from North Carolina specifically for this event, said he looks forward to returning home to “support an important worthy cause and to share throwback memories of a very special time in Ambridge sports history with the loyal area fan base.”
Library Director, Julie Mulcahy, along with her board and staff, is looking forward to welcoming all for this joyful occasion and is humbled and grateful for the overwhelming support that the library has received from the returning players and the community. “It shows they value the education of future generations and wish us continued success in our endeavors. We are proud to host this reunion for the team and fans.”
Experience it all over again…
Submitted by Laughlin Memorial Library Directors