1947-48: McColl’s Haul

Bill McColl was working on the second leg of a football-basketball-baseball “triple crown.”

The 6-foot, 3-inch, 200-pounder was bound for  an all-America career at Stanford University and an eight-season stint as an end with the Chicago Bears of the NFL, followed by a post-athletic career as an orthopedic surgeon that included three years as a missionary doctor in Korea.

But first things first.

McColl, a strapping 200-pounder, moved easily with or without ball.

McColl made three all-Southern California teams, in football, basketball, and baseball, and he managed to help coach Raleigh Holt’s track team as a high  hurdler and low hurdler when not crushing high school fastballs offered by Coast League pitchers in the spring.

McColl is remembered most for his football achievements but he was the most important figure in the Cardinals’ postwar, 57-23 run and one of the leading scorers in Southern California this season as the Cardinals posted a 20-8 record.

McColl scored 398 points for a 14.2 average, outstanding for the era, and he held the school record until 1957-58, when Norris Greenwood scored 446 points as field goal percentage was improving everywhere and the game was evolving.

KIWANIANS HOOP

The first annual Southern California Invitational Basketball Tournament, better known as the Kiwanis Tournament, sponsored by local clubs of that name, became part of the area basketball scene.

Sixteen teams, including Northern visitors Compton, Long Beach Wilson Redondo Beach Redondo, Inglewood, and Santa Monica, participated.

McColl set the tone for Hoover with 24 points in a 45-25, opening-round victory over La Jolla and the Cardinals went on to the championship, defeating St. Augustine, 41-33, Wilson, 46-42, and San Diego, 36-26.

Danny Newport’s 17 points helped San Diego defeat Compton, 39-37, in overtime and force the all-local finals.

Santa Monica routed Kearny, 75-16, for the most team points, and Sweetwater’s Fred Stafford went McColl one better with 25 points in a 54-21 rout of Kearny.

The victories were the high point of the season for the Cardinals and San Diego.

Hoover was runner-up to Compton in Coast League play with a 6-2 record.  San Diego, 16-9 overall, fell to 3-5 in the league.

San Diego defeated Hoover, 39-34, for third place in the Western States tournament at Compton College.  Compton was a 40-37 winner over Whittier for the championship.

The Tarbabes were eliminated in the semifinal round of the Southern Section playoffs by Ventura, 45-38.  Whittier edged Ventura, 45-36, for the title.

Hoover’s season ended when it was upset by Ontario Chaffey, 29-19, in the first round of the Beverly Hills Tournament.

All-Western States Tournament included San Diego’s Ernie Smith (left) and Danny Newport (fifth from left) and Hoover’s Bill McColl (third from left). Courtesy, John Dahlem.

MIDTERM LOSSES

It happened often in basketball around the middle of January when midterm graduation took place.

Sweetwater, consolation bracket champion by virtue of a 51-42 win over La Jolla in the Kiwanis, jumped to a 4-0 start in the Metropolitan League.

But standouts Fred Stafford and Wylie Huffman were lost to graduation and the Red Devils, under first-year coach Bill (Red) Burrows, flattened out to 5-3 as Coronado raced to the title with a 7-1 record.

Burrows, who had coached football and track at Mountain Empire in 1946, quickly learned the vicissitudes of basketball.  The Red Devils dropped their next game after Stafford’s and Huffman’s departures, 36-32 in overtime to Point Loma.

Coronado slipped into first place on the same day with a 31-27, overtime win against La Jolla.

SINGLE BRACKET

There were no small schools playoffs, so Coronado and San Dieguito, the Southern Prep League champion, were slotted into a 16-team major division tournament.

The Islanders (13-7) bowed to El Centro Central, 30-26, in the second round. San Dieguito (12-11) fell to Whittier, the eventual champion, 53-26.

HOT BIRDS

Hoover converted 16 of 32 shots from the field to Compton’s 11 of 32 and, led by McColl’s 18 points, earned a Coast League split with the champion Tarbabes, 38-31. 

OFF THE TOP

Basketball had evolved into a dynamic, modern game since Dr. John Naismith found use for a spheroid and a couple peach baskets in 1891.

Catholic Tournament found more roomy environs at Olympic Auditorium.

But tiny gyms continued to be a part of the fabric and romance of the sport.  None apparently more tiny than Los Angeles’ Mt. Carmel High.

That’s where St. Augustine’s traveling Saints were participants in an almost comic situation in the Southland Catholic postseason tournament.

The Saints were members of the league in football but independents in basketball, although they played many of their games against league entries.

St. Augustine trailed Los Angeles Cathedral, 35-34, as the clock wound down in a first-round game.

The Saints’ Julie Zolezzi launched an arching, half-court set shot over a Phantoms defender in the final second of play.

Zolezzi’s shot struck an overhead rafter, recharted its trajectory, and found the basket, swishing through.

Saints win, 37-36?

The game referee disallowed the basket in what The San Diego Union described as a “touchy” decision.

St. Augustine recovered to defeat Santa Monica St. Monica’s, 44-21, to reach the consolation bracket finals, and then lost to Long Beach St. Anthony, 60-45.

Lou Kuslo led the Saints’ offense.

The last two games were conducted without incident at a more expansive venue, the 10,000-seat Olympic Auditorium wrestling-boxing emporium.

The Saints concluded a 10-11 season, with Lou Kuslo their leading scorer with 230 points in 20 games, 11.5 average.

LOYALTY

San Diego canceled a December game with San Bernardino because the team wanted to join other students in going to Los Angeles to watch the Hilltoppers’ CIF football championship contest with Santa Monica.

DREADED ADMINISTRATIVE GLITCH

Grossmont players voted to reverse their 41-39, three-overtime victory over Kearny and the Komets were declared 36-35 winners, as announced by Grossmont principal Lewis Smith.

Game officials Art Stone and Ed Ruffa did not know the rules of overtime.

Kearny scored a free throw near the end of the first extra session of three minutes and thought it was a 36-35 winner on its home court, the Linda Vista Community Center.

Ruffa and Stone, however, ruled that a game could not be won in overtime by one point.

Family relocation deprived Cannon of possible scoring title.

That was the officials’ first error and it was a whopper.

A second overtime was played, ending in a deadlock at 39.

Grossmont scored first in the third, “sudden death” extra session and went home with an apparent, 41-39 win.

Ruffa and Stone had goofed again when they allowed the third overtime.

Rules were that the second overtime should have been sudden death. Grossmont would have been a 38-36 “winner”.

Kudos to Grossmont.  Sportsmanship won out.

FOOTHILLERS MOVE UP

After much discussion, Grossmont was essentially ousted from the Metropolitan League, effective at the end of the school year, and would be joining Coast League in 1948-49.

Metro schools wanted no part of the Foothillers, with their huge enrollment (more than 2,000 to others’ about 500) advantage, their domination in the postwar era and the unwieldy, nine teams  of the existing league.

Several meetings and proposals took place from Jan. 14, 1948, until a decision was reached on Feb. 7:

–A Southern Section committee initially recommended that Grossmont leave the Metro after other league schools complained.

–Grossmont  reportedly rejected the CIF proposal and suggested a 10-team Metro of two divisions, divided by enrollment. Division winners would meet in a one-game playoff to determine a champion.

–Since there were nine teams, a 10th  “Team X”, would have to be selected at the league meeting in February.  A  subcommittee was formed to determine the feasibility of San Dieguito’s or St. Augustine’s becoming members.

–Grossmont honchos finally agreed to the Southern Section recommendation/demand and said bon voyage to the Metro and would join the Coast League.

The Foothillers would be part of the old, once-powerful Coast until San Diego schools formed the City Prep League in 1950.

–Grossmont was in the CPL until returning to the Metro in 1954 and finally became part of the new Grossmont circuit in 1961.

SIGNS OF THE TIME

The Midway Drive-In Theater on West Point Loma Boulevard celebrated its one-year anniversary on March 4, 1948.

The Midway, one of the earliest outdoor venues in the United States, drew more than 500,000 customers, according to manager Robert Shure.

Some pedestrian “customers” could watch from the fencing outside the theater, speakers provided by management.

HEIGHT NO PROBLEM

Wally Piekarski, all of 5 feet, 5 inches, scored 91 points in Chicago Tilden Technical’s 122-22 victory over Paul Dunbar High.

SET SHOTS

Hoover’s was 4-1 against San Diego…the teams played a nonleague game, a Kiwanis Tournament encounter, another in the Western States tournament, and two Coast League contests…Coronado did not enter the Kiwanis Tournament, instead scheduling a squad from the navy’s USS El Dorado which whipped the Islanders, 54-23… More than 1,400 persons were on hand as Grossmont defeated Point Loma, 35-32, in a Point Loma home game at San Diego High…the Pointers’ expansive, 1,800-seat venue, with a balcony, would not open until the 1949-50 season…more than 1,500 showed up at San Diego the following evening as Hoover, behind Bill McColl’s 19 points, defeated the Hilltoppers, 32-23…future San Diego coaching legends Les Cassie (Hoover) and Duane Maley (San Diego) matched wits in the B game, won by Hoover, 32-30…Charles Cannon of Grossmont led the Metropolitan League in  scoring through six games with a 13.1 average but was denied a chance to win the title when he moved back to Midwest with his family with two games remaining…Sweetwater’s Lester Stephens, one of four to pass Cannon, won the title with a 11.9 average, 95 points in 8 games…San Diego defeated Coronado, 17-16, to win Class C and Coronado topped Hoover, 11-10, in Class D in the fifth annual Coronado Lightweight tournament…football-track star Ernie Smith of San Diego also could hoop, moving into the Hillers’ starting lineup immediately after the football finals…Smith was the Cavers’ single-game high leader when he scored 23 points in a 40-34 win over Pasadena Muir…

San Diego’s Ernie Smith contests rebound by Hoover’s Don Metzler.

Hilbert Crosthwaite, with forward Neal Packer, posted 14-5 record in his first season as coach at Point Loma.

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