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Hornyak’s 86-point performance still definitely one for the ages

Photo/KRISTIN MAZGAJ PICTURED IS a photograph that is in the trophy case at St. John Central Academy in Bellaire, showing Allan Hornyak being carried off the court on Jan. 10, 1969 after he scored a career-high and Ohio Valley record 86 points in a win over Warren Consolidated.

Editor’s Note: Because of how well received the first 10 installments of the Ohio Valley’s Top 10 games of the last 50 years was received, we’ve decided to give you one more. Though it was played more than 50 years ago, Sunday is the 52nd anniversary of Allan Hornyak’s 86-point performance against Warren Consolidated.

Allan Hornyak is on the Ohio Valley Mount Rushmore of basketball players.

It’s tough to argue when you consider that during his career at St. John Central in Bellaire, he scored 2,385 points in an era when there was no 3-point shot and fewer games were played. He went on to an outstanding, All-Big 10 career at Ohio State University and was drafted by a team in both the NBA and ABA.

Those accolades and accomplishments are more than just noteworthy.

But, when you talk to most Ohio Valley basketball fans who are in at least their late 50s, they certainly acknowledge all of the above, but most will quickly point out that Hornyak put forth the greatest single-game, scoring performances ever recorded in Ohio Valley prep basketball on Jan. 10, 1969.

It was that night when Hornyak lit up Warren Consolidated, which is now part of the Buckeye Local School District, for an Ohio Valley record 86 points in the Irish’s 123-83 victory.

“I had a lot of wide open shots,” Hornyak recalled during a recent phone interview from his home in suburban Cincinnati. “My teammates did a great job of getting me the ball and really sacrificed some shots they could have taken just to keep feeding me.”

While Hornyak certainly had the ability and shooting stroke to go off like that on any given night, the motivation for Warren Consolidated was pretty high. The exact reason, however, depends with whom you speak.

Hornyak downplayed it, his point guard Joe Mihalik, who is a retired educator at Liberty Benton near Findlay, recalled that the motivation to play Warren Consolidated was higher than just a normal January game.

One of the key players for Warren was Steve Vitchner. He actually attended and played for St. John early in his prep career before he transferred to Warren Consolidated.

“He jumped ship on us,” Mihalik laughed.

According to Mihalik, the Irish players encouraged their administration to get Warren on the schedule and it finally happened for the 1968-69 season.

“We had two games circled that season,” Mihalik recalled. “Because we knew how good they were, Bridgeport was one and Warren Consolidated was the other.”

The Bridgeport game was actually the Irish’s opener and the Bulldogs, who went on to play for the Class A state championship in March, defeated the Irish. St. John wasn’t about to let the same outcome occur again.

“Warren had only lost one game themselves and that, too, had come to Bridgeport,” Hornyak recalled. “We figured it would be a tough game because they only lost to Bridgeport by a point.”

It didn’t take long for the Irish to set the tone. Actually, more specifically, it didn’t take Hornyak long to set the tone. He scored immediately off the opening tip, stole the inbound and scored again and repeated that once more before Warren Consolidated actually had the ball in bounds.

“I think I had six points in the first eight seconds,” Hornyak said.

Mihalik, who scored just four points in the game, summarized it simply with “Allan was on fire.”

At halftime, the Irish were fully in command of the game. The outcome was basically decided, but the jam-packed Irish gymnasium was more concerned with how many points Hornyak would finish with.

“I didn’t know how many I was scoring,” Hornyak said. “I just kept firing (up shots).”

It wasn’t until the scorekeeper came to the locker room at halftime that Hornyak found out he had already scored 46 points.

There was no letup after halftime. Hornyak and his teammates continued to follow the game plan. Keep feeding the ball to Hornyak.

The game was winding down and the Irish coach at the time — Sy Kolesza — took his star out of the game. However, Kolesza was told that Hornyak was just a few points shy of the all-time Ohio Valley record of 80 points, which had been set in 1956 by Mel Frye of Clarington.

“Alan didn’t know anything about (the record),” Mihalik said. “Coach just told me and Alan to go back in the game just to see what happens.”

What happened was more of the same. Hornyak kept drilling shots. Some in the gymnasium knew what was going on, but most, including Hornyak, had no idea.

“Coach Kolesza put me back in and said, ‘let’s see where it goes from here,'” Hornyak said. “I got a lot of open shots that night because Warren played mostly zone and we’d set screens and they didn’t switch.”

After the game, Hornyak was hoisted onto the shoulders of his teammates and friends and carried off the court.

“We were more excited than Alan,” Mihalik said. “We knew he had a lot of points, but it wasn’t until after the game when we found he had definitely scored 86 points. We went bananas in the locker room.”

When he took a minute to think about the game in the immediate moments afterward, Hornyak focused on the boxscore, but it wasn’t his total points or number of field goals. He was disappointed that he was just 6-of-11 from the foul line and missed the front end of four one-and-one situations.

“I was a pretty good foul shooter, too,” Hornyak said. “I was making shots from 30 feet that night, but missed five free throws. That is the only negative thought I had about that game.”

Similar to the Irish not having a lot of time to celebrate the accomplishment, Hornyak didn’t have a lot of time to work on his foul shooting.

They had to play the very next night at Bellaire.

Hornyak, who had scored 70 points in a game as a junior against Moundsville, doesn’t recall any huge celebrations with his teammates or even his family. Immediately after the game, he remembers picking up his girlfriend, Diane Lipperman, and going to Elby’s for dinner.

It was the next morning, however, where Hornyak fully realized what he had accomplished. And that had nothing to do with the final number of 86 or his 55% foul shooting.

“I had to go to the school the next morning and get in the whirlpool because I had never had my legs feel like that,” Hornyak said.

Hornyak guessed that the 65 field goal tries he took during the course of the game led to soreness, but he admitted there was some concern because it was nothing he’d ever felt before.

“You think you’re in shape and when something like (taking 65 shots) happens and I could hardly get out of bed,” Hornyak said. “I never felt that way physically before or ever again. There were other games when I took quite a few shots, but it wasn’t anything like I felt that day.”

During the course of the game, Hornyak admitted he felt great.

“I just kept playing,” Hornyak said.

The Irish ended up defeating the Big Reds the next night and Hornyak was up to his same old tricks. He broke Mike Sherwood’s BHS gym record by scoring 61 points despite a 19-of-29 effort from the line. That point total still currently the 11th most in a single game in OVAC history.

“We just went out and played a regular game against Bellaire,” Hornyak said. “Bellaire had beaten us 125-75 my sophomore year and Mike Sherwood scored 59 against us. We remembered that and just wanted to crush Bellaire.”

Though Hornyak has his name in the record book, he pointed out that he wouldn’t have accomplished what he did during that January weekend without his teammates.

He recognized fellow starters Martin Lucki, Jay Blatnik, George Modreck and Mihalik.

“All of those guys were very smart ballplayers,” Hornyak said. “They knew what their job was and they did everything well. Most of them could have been a star on any other team in the valley.”

Just to point out some of the others’ athletic prowess, Lucki ended up accepting a football scholarship to Ohio State and Mihalik played baseball at the University of Findlay.

The Irish finished the 68-69 season with an impressive 20-2 record. While Bridgeport played in Class A in the two-class OHSAA system and went on to play for the state title, the Irish were in the big-school division. Their season ended at St. John Arena in Steubenville when they lost to Zanesville High School.

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