Three generations of Carbondale Area Chargers Basketball

The Wally Durkin family has been a part of Carbondale Area Charger basketball since the first season of the jointure in 1969-70.

Considering Wally’s two first seasons at Carbondale BFHS before the jointure, it’s been 50 years connected to Carbondale hoops.

The latest player in the Chargers’ first three-generational hoop family is junior guard, Pat Durkin.

Forty-eight years since his Pop was motoring up and down the hardwoods as a starter and twenty seven seasons since his Dad, Pat was creating offense as a playmaker, the youngest Durkin has been making his share of big plays for CA.

Three games ago, Durkin stepped to the free throw line four times in the last :30 with the game on the line vs. Dunmore With the Chargers clinging to a one point lead, Durkin buried both ends of a one-and-one situation.

Seconds later, he grabbed a defensive rebound, was fouled, then walked the length of the floor and nailed both ends of another bonus situation. The free throws put the Chargers ahead by five with :12 left to clinch the eventual 57-54 win.

Before his 6-6 foul shooting effort vs. Dunmore, Durkin had been struggling at the charity stripe. Few teammates knew and perhaps none of the CA fans who follow the Chargers knew, but Durkin has been focused on improving his game with 6 a.m. shooting sessions at the Carbondale YMCA.

“I do some early 6 a.m. workouts at the YMCA and there is Pat shooting foul shots and getting in some shooting sessions,” said head coach, Landon Gabriel.

“He gets the most out of his ability and his work ethic speaks volumes about him as a player and person. When you are putting in the extra time at 6 a.m. like Pat does, it fuels you to never give less than 100 per cent on every possession and he gives us that effort.”

In Your Blood

Wally started his career at Carbondale Benjamin Franklin High School. Two years later (1969-70), he was a 5-9 junior starting guard for the new jointure, Carbondale Area (Carbondale-Fell Twp.).

That season, Wally buried 367 points and converted 86-121 free throws as the Chargers went 9-12 in the regular season but won two special playoff games (vs. Forest City and Valley View) to win the first half then defeated Forest City in an all-season title game, 72-68. That 12-13 title season ended in a 70-69 district loss to Dunmore.

In 1970-71, Wally was part of a starting quintet that produced as quick and deadly a fast break as ever seen in school history.

Durkin and 5-10, Bob Kitchen formed a lightning-quick guard duo and joined 6-0 Dave Tomaine, 6-1 Don McDonough and 6-5 Jim Kopa to produce a 109 point game (vs. St. Rose), 102 (vs. Mid Valley), seven other games over 60, five games over 70, one game over 80 and a 90 point game.

And that is without the three-point line!

During a 21-1 season, the Chargers averaged a 20.4 points differential in their wins which included 10 wins by 10 points or less.

“My strongest asset was my speed,” offered Wally. It was the speed of those guards that piled up points in pinball rat-a-tat-tat fashion.

Wally netted 320 points and went 70-102 from the free throw line eventually finishing his career at 1,015 points (including two years at BFHS).

That season ended in a 58-56 loss to Riverside and the Vikes’ twin towers 6-6 Pospieski and 6-8 Brady.

The Chargers had beaten the Vikings by 14 earlier that season.

In that earlier regular season game vs. Riverside, the Carbondale CYC was filled to capacity for the Jayvee game as fans wanted to make sure they were not shut out for the battle of unbeatens.

CA prevailed but dropped the playoff rematch. In 1971, one playoff loss meant elimination.

Next Generation

Twenty years later, 5-9 guard Pat Durkin put on the Chargers’ uniform with the same number as his dad.

Pat played a contributing role as a sophomore and junior scoring 97 total points and hitting 34-54 free throws.

Twenty years after his dad, Wally, saw his own season and career end suddenly, Pat was a starter on a Charger squad (1990-91) that advanced to the PIAA Class AA Final Four.

On opening night in 1990-91, senior center, Andy Seigle (6-9) torched the nets for 41 points. The mode of attack was set.

Durkin, 5–9 JJ Perri, 5-10 Jerry Gravine, 6-3 Chris Wagner and 5-9 Brian Daley provided a combined 25 double digit efforts during that season in supporting roles while Seigle went on to score double digits in every game.

Seigle netted less than 20 points in just three games and finished his career with more than 1,900 career points.

Pat netted 158 points and nailed 39-53 free throws that 26-2 season.

“My role was being a playmaker,” said Pat. “We were guard heavy and then Andy, so that role was shared. Chris (Wagner) was a nice compliment to Andy inside.”

Nearly identical to his dad’s senior year, the Chargers were unbeaten heading into districts (22-0). CA defeated Dunmore (48-38) in the district opener, a team that ended his dad’s junior season.

In the district final vs. GAR, Durkin scored five of the Chargers’ 12 fourth period points but, in a game that came down to the closing seconds, CA dropped a 48-47 battle.

CA faced District 12 champion, Montrose in the opening round of state action and were taken to the buzzer before surviving a 37-35 cliffhanger. Pat was one of three CA players to score in the fourth period and totaled five points.

Despite a snowstorm, CA traveled to Weatherly and defeated Trinity 48-43 as Durkin and teammates combined for 24 points while Seigle netted the other 24.

At Pottsville Martz Hall vs. Archbishop Kennedy, Durkin nailed 6-7 free throws in leading the Chargers to a 10-15 fourth period effort from the free throw line in a 63-50 win.

In a March 30 Eastern Final in front of a standing-room only Scranton CYC crowd, CA met GAR just 13 days after their district cardiac contest. The Chargers dropped a rock-em, sock-em 51-48 affair. One game shy of a state final appearance, Pat’s career ended.

While that season was the most successful in school history to that point, Durkin noted a win over Valley View 52-47 for the league title in a special playoff the previous year was a most memorable win.

“We finished that game with four juniors on the floor, so, it was a preview of the future,” noted Pat.

Third Generation

Twenty-seven years after Durkin was among a handful of guards getting the ball into CA’s 6-9 center in the post, Pat’s son, Pat, who stands at 5-9 is posting inside and is roaming the lanes as one of five Chargers’ banging the boards at 5-9 through 5-11.

“I think rebounding has been a strength in my game recently,” offered Pat.

“My role has been to help the team in different ways whether it’s inside or outside.” Heading into tonight (Friday), Pat, a junior, leads the team in defensive rebounds (70).

“Against Dunmore, Durkin cleared 10 rebounds in addition to his late free throw heroics.

“That’s been my most memorable game to date,” said Pat.

Since that win, CA (10-9) has reeled off three straight wins to climb to No. 5 in the district playoff seeding race and are 3-1 in the D-III second half title chase with two divisional games left next week.

Durkin has accumulated 250 points, 38 threes and a 50-78 free throw mark in his career.

Half Century

While Pat is the latest Durkin family member to join his pop, dad and great uncle (Carl) to continue the 50 year span of CA hoops (great uncle Steve played at St. Rose), his Pop and Dad are now spectators, certainly a more difficult role than being a player.

“It’s brutal because you have a birdseye view from high in the bleachers and see open guys on the floor so easily, certainly much easier than when you played,” chuckled the elder Pat.

Being a spectator and former player, you also offer advice. “Pat would probably prefer I not offer as much advice or I would be a little less observant,” laughed his dad, Pat. “My dad (Wally) and I rehashed games too.”

“I enjoy watching Pat,” Wally said proudly. “ I offer the usual words of advice.”

So, has the game changed in six decades?

“The three point line was just a few years old when I played, so it was an accent to the game and not a key part of scoring like today. We also had a 6-9 post player,” smiled Pat.

“With the three-point line it seems players get caught watching the ball rather than getting into box-out position,” noted Pop.

While Pat, the present day Charger, can only relate to today’s game, he has enjoyed seeing old videos of his dad’s playing days. “That’s been a cool thing to see videos of my dad’s playing days,” offered Pat.

So, three generations of the Wally Durkin family have played Charger basketball and all had different roles: Pop, a scorer and quick-guard; Dad, a playmaker and foul shooter and Pat, a blue-collar player taking on different roles each game.

50 years! That’s a lot of basketball, memories and a lot of family holiday conversations.