Was it the greatest single-game performance in the history of D.C. area high school basketball?
It just might be.
Fifty years ago this week, Harold Fox, a 6-foot-1 guard at Northwestern High School, pumped in 64 points in a wild 103-87 victory over Oxon Hill. Fox, a senior, connected on 29 of 44 shots, pouring in 28 points in the final quarter – 41 in the second half.
At the time, only one local high school player had ever scored more in a game – Mount Vernon’s Marty Lentz, who erupted for 74 points against Stuart during the 1960-61 season.
In terms of points, Fox’s game would have to rank among the best. But he didn’t limit himself to just scoring that night. According to The Washington Post account of the game, Fox was credited with 15 rebounds and 13 assists as well.
Think about that for a moment: 64 points, 15 rebounds, 13 assists – in a 32-minute high-school game, with no shot clock and no three-point line.
“I didn’t realize I had that many (points),” Fox said afterward. “I was passing off a lot.”
Of course, Fox had been doing this sort of thing regularly by the time he lit up Oxon Hill. He’d been named first-team All-Met in the Post as a sophomore and a junior, having helped Northwestern to the Class AA state championship in 1967.
“He could handle it well, get to the rim and shoot,” recalled Billy Gordon, whose Richard Montgomery team lost to Fox and Northwestern in the ’67 state final. “If you tried to muscle him, he’d go around you. If you laid off him, he’d shoot the jumper.”
Sometimes, it seemed there was nothing Fox couldn’t do. He’d tried football for the first time the previous fall. In Northwestern’s season opener, Fox – playing quarterback, of course – ran for a touchdown, threw for another and intercepted a pass in a 14-13 victory, also over Oxon Hill.
But basketball was his specialty. Fox had already produced a couple of 44-point games in his career, which stood as the school record until he broke it that February night.
“He’s the best player in the area,” said Northwestern coach Bill Longsworth. “I believe in him. He’s an instinctive player. He knows what he has to do and he does it.”
Fox averaged 31 points per game as a senior and was named first-team All-Met a third time – something not even future Northwestern alum Len Bias managed to do. Only a handful of players (George Leftwich and Adrian Dantley are among them) have made first-team All-Met three times.
But it wasn’t big scoring numbers or individual accolades that drove Fox during his senior year. He wanted another championship.
His running mate the year before, 6-foot-4 Mark Christian, had graduated. Christian had been the MVP of the state tournament as Northwestern claimed the ’67 Class AA title. But Fox sought another, even though he was the Wildcats’ lone returning starter for the 1967-68 season.
“Pride is the biggest thing,” Fox said. “It means something to all of us to be state champions. We don’t want to give up the title.”
With Christian gone, Fox was driving to the basket more as a senior, putting himself in better position to rebound. He averaged 14 rebounds per game that season, carrying the load until his teammates adjusted to their new roles.
Northwestern made it back to the state final, thanks in part to Fox’s 41-point effort in a 74-63 semifinal victory over Dundalk. In that game, Fox shot 15-for-28 from the floor, grabbed nine rebounds and handed out six assists, including a couple on flashy behind-the-back passes.
That set up a marquee matchup in the final against Walt Whitman and its own prolific scorer, Gary Browne, who was averaging 32.6 points per game.
With a sellout crowd on hand at the University of Maryland’s Cole Field House, Fox once again demonstrated a flair for the dramatic. He took a nasty fall late in the first half and limped to the locker room while the game continued. He wasn’t with his teammates when they came out to warm up for the second half, but trotted onto the floor to wild cheers just before the second-half tip.
With Northwestern clinging to a 56-55 lead with about five minutes left, Fox scored eight points during the decisive 15-4 run, sewing up a 71-63 victory and a second straight title. Fox finished with 21 points, 21 rebounds and seven assists to cap his brilliant high school career.
“He was probably the best we ever went against,” Gwynn Park coach Larry Gandee said. “He just played with people. He could do anything he wanted to on the basketball court. He’s at the top of the list for me.”