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Raiders basketball championship connects generations in Barker

By Mike Wertman, Sports Writer Posted 18 February 2014 at 12:00 am

Photo by Mike Wertman – Three generations of league champion Barker cagers got together this morning before the Raiders headed for a scrimmage. In front are Duane Russell and Herb Loesch who were on the 1945 Barker JV team the year the Raiders last captured the Niagara-Orleans League championship. In the second row are Jeff Annable from the Raiders 1978 Genesee Region League division co-champion team, Thomas Callaghan, Tristan Payne and Christopher Sweeney. In the third row are Mitch Luckman, Tyler Dent, Tanner Gregorio and Josh Mead. In the fourth row are Hayden Gooding, Bryce Moeller and Jared Worthington. In the back row are Jacob Haight, John Sweeney from the Raiders 1978 team and Barker Coach Dave Carson.

In Barker the Raiders recent capturing of the school’s first boys basketball league championship in 36 years has been more than just a community celebration. It has been a connection of generations.

Led by the veteran quartet of senior forward Jacob Haight, senior center Bryce Moeller, senior guard Mitch Luckman and junior guard Christopher Sweeney, the Raiders compiled a perfect 14-0 record to claim the Niagara-Orleans League championship and will take an 18-0 record into the upcoming sectional playoffs.

The title is the first for the Barker cagers since 1978 when the Raiders shared the Genesee Region League Division II title with Pavilion at 11-3.

Interestingly, John Sweeney, who is Christopher Sweeney’s father and Jacob Haight’s uncle, was a starting guard on the ’78 team which went on to reach the Section V Class C semifinals before dropping a narrow one point 36-35 decision to Mt. Morris, which ironically is current Barker Coach Dave Carson’s alma mater.

“It’s awesome,” said John Sweeney of having his son play his same position of starting guard on this year’s team. “This team is very similar our ’78 team. They really mirror us. “The key on our team was we all played together and this group is very unselfish, the same as we were. And they want to win.”

Photo by Mike Wertman – John Sweeney, a starting guard on Barker’s 1978 Genesee Region League title team meets here with his son, Christopher, left, and his nephew, Jacob Haight who are both starters on this year’s N-O champion Raiders team.

The roster of the ’78 squad also included Tim Callaghan whose nephew, Thomas Callaghan is a member of the current Raiders squad.

“We had plays designed for everybody so who ever had the hot hand is who we got the ball to. It was a very unselfish team,” added Jeff Annable who was also a starter on the ’78 team and a G-R League Division 2 All-Star.

Annable, Sweeney and Callaghan were also members of the 1977 Raiders squad which also earned a share of the G-R Division 2 title with Kendall at 12-2.

Other mainstays of the ’78 team, which went 15-6 overall, included Jim Dewart, Jay Dewart and Frank Gambel.

“It’s very interesting to see so many connections between the 1978 and the 2014 teams,” said Carson. “This is a special group we have this year and the 1977-78 was a special group as was the 1945 group.”

Photo by Mike Wertman – Duane Russell, who was on the JV team in 1945 the last year that Barker captured an N-O title talks a little basketball with Jacob Haight who this season became the Raiders all-time career scoring leader.

And the title connection for Barker certainly goes a third generation back as two players, Herb Loesch and Duane Russell, who were JV team members in 1945 when Barker won its last N-O championship also stopped by to meet with and congratulate this year’s squad.

That Raiders squad won the N-O championship in exciting fashion defeating Wilson 33-16 in a playoff after the two teams had finished the regular season with identical 13-1 records.

Interestlingly, the ’45 squad likewise advanced to the Section VI Class semifinals where the Raiders likewise dropped a narrow one point, 20-19 decision to Gardenville.

“They were all seniors that year,” said Loesch who was a junior during the 1945 season. “They were just good players.”

The Raiders ’45 squad was led by scoring leaders Beryl Coleman, Roy Cole and Roland Harding.

Photo by Mike Wertman – Herb Loesch, a junior JV player during Barker’s 1945 N-O title season, goes a little one-on-one with Christopher Sweeney.

“It’s great to have these gentlemen come over. The ’78 and ’45 teams were special groups as is this group we have this year,” said Carson. “It’s really all about the Barker community. They’ve really ralliy behind their teams.”

This year’s Barker squad, which is seeded No. 1, begins Section VI Class C1 playoff competition at home at 7 p.m. Friday against the winner of Wednesday’s pre-quarterfinal round contest between No. 8 Maritime Charter and No. 9 Portville.

Photo by Mike Wertman – Barker Coach Dave Carson gets congratulations on the Raiders N-O championship here from Russell, Loesch, John Sweeney and Jeff Annable of the ’78 squad.