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Heater heats up with 135-point game

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One of the most amazing ‑ and most enduring ‑ high school records took place January 26, 1960 in Burnsville, West Virginia.

On that fateful night, Danny Heater, a 5-foot-11, 153-pound senior center for the Burnsville High School boys basketball team, poured in a national-record 135 points in Burnsville’s game with Widen (West Virginia) High School.

Incredibly, 52 years later that record still stands. With roughly 500,000 boys annually lacing up their shoes to represent their high school basketball teams, that means that 26 million boys have tried ‑ but could not achieve ‑ what Heater did that cold wintry night.

“After the game, I didn’t think anything about it,” Heater said. “It took a few days for it to sink in. It seemed like a dream. I had scored 40 points in an earlier game, but nothing like that.

“Then, someone published in a newspaper that it was a national record. My name was later in the Guinness Book of World Records, but I’m not sure if it’s in there anymore.”

Coached by Jack Stalnaker, Burnsville enjoyed great success during Danny’s sophomore, junior and senior seasons, when it compiled a 56-8 win-loss record. Not a big team with two players standing 6-2 and Heater playing the post at just 5-11, the squad had a unique chemistry.

“This team was a bunch of kids who just liked each other and liked to play basketball,” Stalnaker said. “They were wonderful boys who worked hard and did well later in life. It was a coach’s dream to get a group of kids like that.”

“We started playing together in the fourth grade and would play year-round, including during the summer,” Heater stated. “Because of that, every player always knew what the other person was thinking. We had some good athletes on the team.”

Located in a very isolated spot near the geographical center of West Virginia, and being a small school, Burnsville High School flew under the radar as far as attracting the attention of the media and college scouts. Knowing that Heater likely would not otherwise be able to afford to go to college, Stalnaker decided to try to spotlight his senior center in an effort to earn him a scholarship.

“I thought Danny was an outstanding athlete and should go to college,” Stalnaker explained. “So, I came up with the idea of letting him have a shot at the state scoring record of 74 points. The other players on the team thought it was a great idea, but Danny didn’t like it.”

Despite his initial reluctance, Heater took good advantage of his coach’s game plan. In the 32-minute game, Heater made 53 of 70 field-goal attempts and 29 of 41 free throws. In a well-rounded effort, he also had 32 rebounds and seven assists.

By halftime, Heater had scored 50 points and capped off his 85-point second half by scoring 55 points in the final 10 minutes. It is the highest total ever scored at the high school, college or professional levels in the United States.

There must have been something in the water in the early 1960s, as five of the top nine single-game scoring efforts occurred in 1960 and 1961. Interestingly, just four days before Heater’s outburst, Pete Cimino of Bristol (Pennsylvania) High School scored 114 points in a game, which at the time was the all-time second-best performance in the nation. However, the fact that no one has eclipsed his mark amazes even Heater.

“I think it’s unbelievable that no one’s broken the record by now,” Heater said. “I’ve been saying that for 52 years.”

A versatile athlete, Heater also played both ways in football, where he was a cornerback on defense, and a running back and quarterback on offense. A four-year basketball starter who averaged 32 points a game as a senior, Heater possessed some great athletic tools and skills.

“Danny had very quick hands and could jump quick,” Stalnaker recalled. “In fact, he could jump three or four inches above the basket. He also had a terrific jump shot.”

After graduation, Heater earned an academic scholarship to the University of Richmond (Virginia), but was never a starting basketball player there. He worked for 39 years in the airline industry and retired in 2005. Heater now lives in Martinsburg, West Virginia, and enjoys traveling.

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