Chula Vista’s basketball history was brief and uninspiring. Two seasons, 12 wins, 18 losses, seventh and fourth-place-tie finishes in the Metropolitan League.
No problem. The Spartans emerged from the pack to win a Southern California championship this season.
It was a nice accomplishment for the fledgling South Bay power, but not without a few assists, beginning a year before.
- CIF Commissioner Seth Van Patten asked for some membership feedback when Van Patten posted his CIF newsletter in March, 1949.
Van Patten wanted to add a playoff bracket for small schools.
Big schools had dominated the postseason. A team generated from a student body of 2,000 often was matched against another with an enrollment of several hundred less.
- Van Patten must have liked the responses, because a new bracket for the little guys was implemented this year.
- Point Loma opened a beautiful, 1,800-seat gymnasium on campus. The facility included a balcony on one side, similar to the 1938 vintage layout at Hoover.
The Point Loma gym for years would serve as the site for Harlem Globetrotters games, NBA preseason games, home games for the Pointers…and for the Chula Vista Spartans.
Chula Vista, like most of the area’s teams, did not have its own court. The Spartans would not move into the Chula Vista Recreation Center until the mid-1950s and into their campus gym until a few years after that.
Major playoffs had been held at one site after the first round of games, lately at Redondo Beach Redondo.
- With a new division, Van Patten looked for a suitable site for games beyond the opening round. Aware of the facility in San Diego, Van Patten contacted Darrell Smith, San Diego City Schools’ athletics coordinator.
An agreement was reached between the City Schools and CIF that put in place a bracket of six squads competing over two days at Point Loma.
The teams were Chula Vista, Claremont, Brawley, Beaumont, San Dieguito, and Garden Grove.
- What was fourth-place Chula Vista doing in the playoffs?
The Spartans, 9-9 overall, posted a 4-3 league record and tied with Kearny in the Metro, behind triple co-champions La Jolla, Point Loma, and Sweetwater.
Given the Metropolitan circuit’s playoff history, it was not surprising that the three each declined an invitation to participate.
Metro football winners, dating to the league’s beginning in 1933, generally bypassed the postseason. The latest example was the first-place, 7-1 La Jolla football team in 1948.
Metro basketball champs recently had been more agreeable to participating, so there were some raised eyebrows when the co-champions bailed, leaving the door open for Chula Vista, which was selected over Kearny.
The Spartans caught one more break. They were seeded into the semifinals, meaning they did not have play twice on Friday, as did Claremont and Garden Grove.
Claremont defeated Beaumont, 47-37, and Garden Grove eliminated San Dieguito, 45-39, in the first round.
Chula Vista, defeated Brawley, 46-27, and Claremont knocked off Garden Grove, 38-33, in the last of four Friday games.
The Spartans, beginning a decade in which they were a class power in football, basketball, and baseball, winning or competing for several championships, topped Claremont, 39-26 in the finals.
San Dieguito, a member of the Southern Prep League since the school opened in 1936, rolled with a 14-0 league record and was 24-4 overall but must have felt as if salt was being rubbed into a wound.
The wound was a 45-39 loss to Garden Grove in the playoff opener. The salt was the league realignment in San Diego that left the Mustangs in the Southern Prep, which the Encinitans felt they were outgrowing.
Mustangs bosses and fans were upset they were not invited to the Metro, which was reconstructed after Kearny and La Jolla left to join the new City Prep League.
Led by 6-foot, 4-inch Graham Grande, the County’s probable leading scorer with 423 points and 15.1 average, coach Jack Davidson’s club won league games by scores such as 83-22 (Mountain Empire) and 72-15 (Brown Military).
San Dieguito eventually would get its wish, joining the Metro in 1951 and then becoming part of the new Avocado League in 1954.
A record 24 teams, including 16 in the large, Unlimited Division and with St. Augustine an invitee for the first time, the third annual Kiwanis Tournament had a repeat winner as El Monte defeated Pasadena Muir, 44-29, in the finals.
Grossmont’s Phil Embleton tied Bill McColl’s record of 69 points in 4 games, a 17.3 average, but San Dieguito’s Graham Grande had 54 in 3 for 18.0.
San Diego defeated Hoover, 28-18, for fifth place in a disappointing performance by local teams and then surprised by winning the prestigious Western States Tournament at Compton.
The Cavers defeated Los Angeles Cathedral, 44-26, and Santa Monica St. Monica, 42-37, and reached the finals by dealing Ventura its second loss in 21 games, 45-38, as Dean Davis scored 18 points and Roy Fields 17.
San Diego won the championship, 36-35, over L.A. Mt. Carmel and Davis was the tournament’s most-valuable player, joined by Fields on the all-tournament team. Hoover bowed in the consolation semifinals, 36-35, to Santa Barbara.
Chula Vista reached the consolation semifinals of the Chino Tournament before losing to Chino, 40-39. The Spartans fell to San Bernardino, 37-23, in the opening game and beat Azusa Citrus, 38-29.
San Diego’s season ended with a 43-34 victory in the morning over Long Beach Jordan and an afternoon, 43-39 loss to Ventura in the Beverly Hills tournament.
IN AND OUTDOORS CAVERS?
Host Pasadena Muir defeated San Diego, 42-26, in an opening weekend game. Not a shocking event, but the result as published had more questions than answers.
The San Diego Union account, probably telephoned in by San Diego coach Merrill Douglas or a student manager, described a game that was played in an “open-sided gymnasium and it was rainy and frigid.”
A partially enclosed playing area, or was the game outdoors in inclement weather? There was no follow story in local newspapers.
San Diego completed a 20-8 season with a 6-4 Coast League record and second place finish to Compton. One of the victories was 32-31 at home against Muir in which the Cavers used a “wheel passing offense” while stalling the last three minutes.
Charlie Powell did not accompany the Cavers to the Western States event after missing practice during the Christmas Holidays and not part of the San Diego contingent that split a pair of weekend games in the Imperial Valley, beating Brawley, 39-30, and losing to Calexico, 32-26.
“Escondido pulled off one of the most surprising upsets in the history of local prep basketball,” wrote Gardner Morse in The San Diego Union after the Cougars defeated La Jolla, 32-30. Hardly. The Cougars were 3-4 in league play and La Jolla was 5-2, same as Coronado and Point Loma.
Sweetwater’s Pat Tomlinson survived an embarrassing moment against Vista in the Kiwanis Tournament. Tomlinson scored a wrong-way basket for Vista, but the Red Devils won, 29-27, in overtime.
ARRIVEDERCI, COAST LEAGUE
San Diego, Hoover, and Grossmont were saying good bye to the historically most prominent circuit in Southern California, joining the new City Prep League after an announcement in early February.
The Cavers had been members since 1923, except for the 1942-45 period of World War II. Hoover joined in 1937 and Grossmont in 1948.
Hoover defeated San Diego, 62-38, in a game between alumni of the schools, proceeds going to financial aid at San Diego State for Cardinals and Cavers varsity players…San Dieguito won by an average score of 61-29 in running the table against Southern Prep League competition…Bill Foy of Army-Navy set a SPL individual record with 28 points in the Warriors 58-40 win over Fallbrook…Jack Goddard had 27 in Vista’s 67-22 triumph over Mountain Empire…three-year veteran Bob (Bama) Shell of St. Augustine had the highest single game scoring total of the season with 31 in a 58-36 victory over Sweetwater at Municipal Gym…season totals weren’t available but Grossmont’s Phil Embleton led Coast League scorers with 150 points in 9 games for a 16.7 average…Coronado passed on the Kiwanis Tournament but was all over the map, schedule-wise, losing to the “taller and older” U.S.S. Badoeng Strait, 50-36, defeating Naval Air, 53-50, and losing to a Tijuana high school on a court in the Baja California community…Bill Reaves, who would coach La Jolla to a 29-1 record in the 1963-64 season, was a starting guard for the Vikings…future international badminton star and NFL game official Jim Poole was a Point Loma standout….