Decade’s best No. 7: Allen Taylor coached Williamsport to three district titles and 135 wins last decade in boys basketball
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the latest in a series looking back at the top 10 boys basketball teams, coaches, games and players from last decade
Top 10 Boys Basketball Coaches
No. 7 Allen Taylor, Williamsport
Go to just about any sporting event and one will hear the coach questioned. It really does not matter how impressive that coach’s resume because someone always believes he or she knows better.
But it always feels like the critics rise exponentially at Williamsport boys basketball games. I never have really understood why either. Coach Allen Taylor has helped Williamsport win four district championships in his 17 seasons, three coming last decade. His teams consistently make strong strides throughout the season and he is both a good disciplinarian and mentor. Well, let the critics be as vociferous as they want, but Taylor certainly belongs on this list.
Taylor’s teams won 135 games last decade, captured three district championships and won state tournament games following each title. They also reached five district finals and were literally seconds away from playing in two more. Taylor also helped Jahad Thomas, Isaiah Washington, Chris Kinley and Stanley Scott earn Division I scholarships with Thomas, Washington and Scott combining to earn all-state honors five times.
Williamsport closed the 2000s with an excellent district championship season. The Millionaires reached the state quarterfinals and were a basket from advancing to the Final Four. That team, however, was senior-loaded and Williamsport experienced growing pains the next two years, winning just two games. Some might have missed it during that time, but the seeds were being planted for a big-time resurgence to soon start blooming.
Thomas and Washington were young, but were showing signs of becoming two of the decade’s top players. Depth was being built and players were starting to understand their roles. Following a 5-6 start in 2012, everything came together. The Millionaires dominated down the stretch and won 14 of their next 15 games. Williamsport downed top-seeded and two-time defending District 2-4 Class AAAA champion Scranton in the district semifinals before destroying Delaware Valley to capture the championship.
It was not like Williamsport was beating lightweights either. The Millionaires face a daunting schedule every year and this team learned from its early-season defeats, grew better and closer and peaked at the right time. Thomas earned all-state and Sun-Gazette Player of the Year honors while Washington burst onto the state scene and unheralded players like Deandre Kaough anchored a hard-nosed defense.
Williamsport thumped Souderton in the opening round of states and was a split second from beating Harrisburg in the second round. The Cougars had beaten Williamsport by 14 the previous month, but this was a different team. The Millionaires took Harrisburg to overtime before losing a heartbreaker on Stanley Lumpkin’s buzzer-beating basket.
“These guys leaned a whole lot about team work and working together, about family and bringing their talents to the table and finding ways to make each other better,” Taylor said afterward. “This team has come a long way. They gave the community something to get excited about and definitely something to look forward to.”
Fans eagerly awaited what a more experienced Williamsport team could do in 2013 and the Millionaires did not disappoint. The 2013 team was one of the area’s best and, possibly, the most entertaining last decade. Williamsport went 23-3, captured another district championship and highlighted its season with an eye-opening 73-59 win against national power Princeton Day Academy. Thomas and Washington both earned all-state honors and this team proved both outstanding and resilient. Taylor long has been adept at motivating his players and creating a team full of fighters. This team epitomized that tenacity and repeatedly dug deep to win tough games, including in the opening round of states against Bethlehem Liberty.
“That is what I love about my team. If one player falls of we still have other players that contribute to the team,” Thomas said in the middle of his tremendous season. “We all have each other’s backs. We’re a family.”
The family produced a season full of highlights before running into two-time defending state champion Chester in the second round of states. The Millionaires gave Chester its toughest postseason game to that point but lost a hard-fought contest.
Williamsport played in two of the next three district finals, but many thought it would take a step back in 2017. The Millionaires had lost some excellent players from its 2016 district finalist but this team reloaded, proved the doubters wrong and went 21-5. Following a 7-4 start, Williamsport won 14 straight games. Scott earned all-state honors and was a matchup nightmare while repeatedly delivering in the most pressure-packed moments. Qayyim Ali and Rondell Carson were consistent double-double producers and also fueled a scrappy defense.
All the pieces fit and Williamsport defeated Hazleton for its third district championship in six years before beating Penn Wood, 59-41 in states. The Millionaires might have advanced deeper but were whistled for 27 fouls and Hempfield just nine in a 49-45 second-round loss. Williamsport allowed just nine field goals but a great season ended in frustrating fashion. Still, it did not remove the glow from this outstanding campaign.
“People didn’t think we were going to do as well as we did and I’m proud of what we did and how far we came as a team,” Carson said. “We really lifted Williamsport back up and we never let down at any point.”
“A lot of people didn’t give this team a chance to even be .500 and they won 21 games and a district championship so I’m proud of every single guy on the team because everyone made a contribution to the game and the season,” Taylor said. “I’ll definitely remember this team because this was one of the more under appreciated teams that I’ve coached. These guys gave the whole Williamsport community something to cheer about.”
Williamsport lost in the district semifinals the next two seasons, losing to Scranton on last-second shots each time.
Understand this, though. Taylor is a Williamsport graduate and he bleeds Cherry and White. There is no doubt this relentless worker will be doing all he can to give the community something to cheer about in the years ahead.