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Hampton-Knoch 4OT classic turns 25

| Friday, Feb. 8, 2013, 1:01 a.m.
Knoch's Rob Dancu gets past Hampton's Matt Thomas on Feb 9, 1988. Knoch defeated Hampton, 69-68, in four overtimes in what at the time was the longest game in A-K Valley history.

Of the thousands of high school basketball games in local history, relatively few can be considered true classics.

One of those was played 25 years ago Saturday.

On Feb. 9, 1988, Knoch defeated Hampton, 69-68, in a game that lasted four — count 'em — four overtimes.

At the time, it was the longest game in Alle-Kiski Valley history and the third longest ever in the WPIAL.

Two years later, Valley and Highlands engaged in a four-overtime contest to equal the Knoch-Hampton marathon.

Coming into the game, Knoch coach Les Shoop was celebrating the birth of a son, Jordan, earlier that day and had been awake for at least 48 hours.

“Two different things that were important to me happened,” Shoop said. “We won the game and had a boy.”

Knoch came in with a 9-1 section mark, with the only loss coming earlier to Hampton (10-0).

The basketball rivalry between the schools at the time was intense.

A year earlier at Knoch, a fight broke out, and the rematch was played at Hampton on a weekday afternoon, closed to spectators.

“Hampton was always the big game for us; it was the one we had circled,” said Rob Dancu, a senior guard in '88.

The old gym at Knoch was packed, with fans standing in the corners and four young boys watching from beneath the scorer's table.

In the first quarter, it looked like Hampton was headed for another victory, pulling out to an eight-point lead.

Knoch worked its way back, however, and took the lead, 46-45, with 4:59 left in the fourth quarter on a driving layup by Aaron Shoop, the coach's eldest son.

Shoop's hook shot from the foul line at the buzzer would have won the game in regulation, but he was called for traveling.

Hampton had a 61-58 lead late in the first overtime, but Knoch's Todd Young hit a 3-pointer to force a second OT.

Both teams had chances to win in the second and third overtimes, but no one could make a clutch shot.

Hampton again led by three in the fourth overtime, but the Talbots missed the front end of three straight one-and-ones and Knoch stayed close, though Dancu and Shoop had fouled out.

Finally, junior guard Matt Dunaway hit an 8-foot banker with 28 seconds left in the fourth overtime to decide the issue.

To this day, Dunaway refuses to take all the credit.

“I made that shot because a somebody else made a good pass to me,” he said. “We were very team-oriented and spread around the scoring, a tribute to Les' coaching.”

Indeed, Dancu and Young led the Knights in scoring with 16 points apiece and Dunaway added 15.

Hampton ended up winning the section outright in 1988, but Knoch's program got momentum from that game and made the WPIAL playoffs three times in four seasons.

Shoop retired in 2006 with more than 500 career victories — 299 at Knoch.

He is still an avid runner, ready to observe 12,000 consecutive days of running on Feb. 14.

Dunaway served nine years in the Navy and works for the Department of Defense in Pittsburgh.

Dancu works in investment trusts and estates for First Tennessee Bank in Knoxville, Tenn. He was named to the Westminster College Hall of Fame in 2011 for his football career.

Aaron Shoop is an IT recruiter based in Pottstown.

And, before we forget, happy 25th birthday to Jordan Shoop.

George Guido is a freelance writer.

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