Hanover ended Chambersburg's dynasty in 1952
In the winter of 1952, Hanover dethroned Chambersburg as South Penn Conference boys' basketball champion in a sequence of events that could never happen today.
The Nighthawks, with a starting lineup full of seniors, beat the eight-time defending champion Trojans three times in 15 days, thanks to unique scheduling format used by the conference.
Chambersburg was the class of the conference in the '40s and '50s, winning eight straight conference titles from 1944-51, as well as two more from 1953-54. The Trojans made trips to the District 3 championship game in all of those seasons, winning it five times.
"They won everything," said Jack LeFevre, a senior manager for the 1952 Hanover team and a former Evening Sun sports editor. "And they usually beat us pretty bad."
Back then, the eight-team South Penn Conference crowned its basketball champions using a format no longer used by the YAIAA or any other southcentral Pennsylvania league. With a round-robin schedule in which every team played each other twice, the conference crowned first- and second-half champions. If different teams won those championships, they met for the league crown.
In 1952, Chambersburg won the first-half championship with a 60-50 title-clinching victory against the Nighthawks in Hanover.
"We knew pretty much going into the season that Hanover and Hershey, those two, were gonna be our stiffest competition," said Bob Thomas, a junior on that Chambersburg team who is now the Trojans' baseball coach. "Basically, that year, we were in what you would call at least a semi-rebuilding year. Our '51 team won the district championship, and all five of the starters were seniors. We didn't have a whole lot of returning personnel back, but we still felt that we would be competitive and we were."
When the Trojans and Nighthawks met again during the second half of the season in Chambersburg, the Trojans held an undefeated second-half record. The Nighthawks entered with one second-half loss.
This time around, Hanover, led by guard George "Soappy" Hart and center Bob Reese, won 61-59 to force a tie between the two teams for the second-half championship.
"They had a dynasty going out there, it was unusual that anybody knocked them off, especially at home. They never got beat out there," Hanover's Laverne "Webb" Weaver said of winning at Chambersburg. "I think our team just jelled (in the second half). It just came together. It all seemed like it happened one game at a time."
Ten days after that final regular-season meeting, Hanover and Chambersburg met at Gettysburg College to decide the second-half championship. The Nighthawks won, 62-61, setting up one more meeting with Chambersburg for the overall conference title.
In that game, played four days later at Gettysburg College, Hanover won 55-47.
"Nobody expected to win three," said Weaver, one of the team's seniors. "That's definitely my best memory. Nothing else even comes close.
"It was very unusual. I don't think that ever happened before."