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March 24, 2013

A city hoop marathon which never ended

40 years ago, a group of Haverhill teenagers played for 206 straight hours

In 1973, a small group of Haverhill teenagers got together for a novel mission.

They spent their February vacation entering the Guinness Book of World Records and being enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield.

Twenty-five boys set out to meet a rather unusual goal and didn’t rest until 206 hours had passed. For nine straight days, these players dribbled up and down the Haverhill YWCA gym non-stop. They played in shifts, going home for sleep and a meal when it was their time off the court.

The irony of it all was that none of them played high school or college ball at the time, yet they made a collective shot that was heard around the world.

Among them was Vinny Ouellette, who today directs the Council on Aging, Recreation Department and Human Services.

There was another reason for the marathon game. The boys also set out to raise a few bucks for the Neighborhood Youth Corps.

It’s a story that has survived 40 years. For whenever any two of those players meet in the street, they say, “Remember when?” And the flame of passion continues to burn as bright as ever.

Many of them hailed from St. George’s and St. James churches. They were people like Larry Coombs, the Sylvios (John and Marco), Joe Muldowney, Jeff Smith, Steve Lucier, Rich Brooks, Razmig Babolian and Chris Hayes.

Joe St. Jean and Rich Bilodeau coached the lot and a guy named Dufresne kept score. Ten guys were on the court at all times. I should know the final score because I was covering the story for the Haverhill Gazette at the time, but somehow misplaced my file when I changed houses. Pity! Suffice it to say it was well into the thousands, since most of the shots were layups.

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