It's an eight-hour drive from Kingsport, Tenn., to
Centralia, Ill., a nearly 500-mile trip separated by a time zone and
the state of Kentucky. But considering high school basketball
programs in each town are the winningest in the country split by a mere
14 victories over a combined 220 seasons, these communities are tightly connected.
At least by basketball historians. And two coaches.
"People in both regions definitely keep tabs," Centralia (Ill.)
coach Lee Bennett said.
We've also kept tab, identifying the top 10 winningest teams in the land (see entire list below). It should be noted these
are the "reported" totals based on submissions to the NFHS record book.
Centralia, nicknamed the Orphans,
were the first to get to the 2,000-win plateau in 2007-08, just edging
the Indians of Dobyns-Bennett. Since then, the two programs,
like thoroughbreds down the stretch, have been battling for the
With a recent surge under fifth-year
coach Poore, Dobyns-Bennett has the edge heading into this week,
2,336 to 2,322 for the Orphans, led by Bennett in his 15th
season. Both programs are finishing up strong seasons — Dobyns-Bennett
at 25-6 and Centralia, at 26-3 — in the middle of playoff runs.
are distinctly aware of the battle at the top, but not consumed. They've been trying to play each other and, in fact, were scheduled to square off in a
tournament in Illinois, featuring other top 10 historic programs from
the Prairie State — Collinsville
But COVID-19 postponed those plans.
to play or host them and coach Bennett and I will make it happen," Poore
said. "He's a great guy and I think we both agree to have No. 1 playing
No. 2 historically would be awfully special."
currently on top carries both pride and pressure, said Poore, who had a
lot of success at Jefferson County (Dandridge, Tenn.)
before coming over to
Dobyns-Bennett in 2017-18. He was well aware of the program's success,
with a 73 percent winning percentage since its inception in 1918-19.
"Locals told me as long as we win or tie in Kingsport they'll love me," he said with a laugh.
love him so far, with a sparkling record of 128-37 in those five
season. In the same time, the Orphans are 97-33, having played 25 less
games. Not that the two coaches are counting. But many are.
(wins lead) is big time for the older folks," Bennett said. "The tradition of basketball in Illinois is
fantastic. It is here at Centralia too. We have a counter just outside
the gym that keeps track of every win."
who has coached 29 seasons in the state, can recite most of the history
in the state.
His dad Dave was a coach and after short stints at five
different schools, Bennett took over the storied program once led by
legendary coach Arthur L. Trout, who not only won more than 800 games
over a 36-year career but also got the school to change its mascot from
Cardinals to Orphans.
Cardinals they also called them the Redbirds and even Troutmen," Bennett
said. "He didn't like that, so evidently he named them after his
favorite movie (the 1922 silent classic) 'Orphan of the Storm.' He also liked them being an underdog."
the nickname and all the winning, Centralia is well known throughout
the Midwest and beyond. Like many in the region, the school's new gym is
big, bold and beautiful. The school replaced the historic Trout Gym in
2006 with a state-of-the-art facility, along with a new campus.
Trout Gym, with stained-glass windows and all, remains up the road a few miles.
"People still come back to look at it," Bennett said. "It looks like an old church."
Centralia and Dobyns-Bennett aren't realistically competing for state
championships any more. Playing teams from the Chicago and Memphis areas are uphill battles, both coaches admit. Trout led Centralia to titles in 1918,
1922 and 1942. Dobyns-Bennett won its only crown in 1945.
But as long as there are conference, district and region titles to be had, there's always something to shoot for.
"Staying at the top of the national list is something fun too," Poore said.
should be noted that there are several states,
like Louisiana and Texas, where no reported all-time leader exists.
Those states include teams that won anywhere from 30 to 50 games in a
season on a regular basis.
, a small town in
northwest Louisiana, has won approximately 1,770 games since 1966,
winning 15 state championships in the process. That's an average of 32
wins a season, however its overall record dating back to the 1920s is
Likewise, small town teams like Pampa
have long winning legacies with no all-time total reported. Snook
averaged 36 wins between 1960 and 1986 (982 wins) while Pampa has won
1,376 games since 1954. Further information on their all-time totals is
Then there are schools like
, which was dominant during the segregation era and
continued to rack up wins after integration. However, the records prior
to integration are lost to time.Top 10 winningest programs
2,336 — Dobyns-Bennett (Kingsport, Tenn.)
2,336-8182,322 — Centralia (Ill.)
2,322-9822,211 — Reading (Pa.)
2,211-7852,176 — Collinsville (Ill.)
2,176-8932,108 — Long Beach Poly (Calif.)
2,108-7082,070 — Blazer (Ashland, Ky.)
2,070-917-12,056 — Quincy (Ill.)
2,056-7942,020 — Pinckneyville (Ill.)
2,020-8282,014 — Paducah Tilghman (Paducah, Ky.)
2,014-8411,985 — Mt. Vernon (Ill.)