Football, basketball, baseball, and track and field, the majors, remained seasonal sports for the best athletes, who usually participated in at least three.
Single-sport concentration and club teams were a half-century away, but a change was taking place in high school hoops this season.
There were many more games in which the competing teams scored at least 100 points. Winning totals in the fifties and sixties were becoming common.
Sixty or more points were scored by the winning team in 19 games, compared to 4 in 1951-52.
Those 60-plus outbursts the season before had involved losing teams from tiny or barren programs: Brown Military (2), San Diego Vocational, and Julian.
City Prep League and Metropolitan League squads showed the way and Rich Gehring and the Escondido Cougars were in the vanguard.
The Cougars mounted a late-season run to tie Chula Vista and then defeated the Spartans, 53-51, in a Metro title-deciding playoff for their first league crown since 1938-39.
Coached by Jim Ahler, who had success at Hoover after World War II, Escondido started slowly, 2-5 in mid-December, but warmed following the Kiwanis Tournament and Christmas Holidays.
Chula Vista, the usual Metro League boss and annual Southern California small schools contender, was 6-0 until Gehring scored 23 points and teammate Don Portis 20 as the visiting Cougars defeated the Spartans, 62-50, and reversed a 42-38 loss in the league opener.
Escondido won its last seven league games and caught Chula Vista in the standings, both finishing at 11-3, as Gehring averaged 22.1 points.
Gehring’s 25 led a fourth-quarter, come-from-behind, triumph over Chula Vista before more than 1,000 persons at San Diego State three days after the regular season ended,
Escondido trailed by as many as seven points in the fourth quarter before Gehring’s basket and two free throws iced the victory after the Spartans tried to freeze a lead in the final two minutes.
Gehring, who averaged 22.8 points in his final 10 contests, followed with 28 points in a 53-47, CIF small schools’ playoff victory over Calipatria and 20 points in a semifinals, 54-45 loss to Hemet.
The burly, 6-foot, 5-inch center also played end in football and was the Metro League’s hurdles champion in the spring.
Gehring set a school record with 35 points in a 74-44 win over San Dieguito and averaged 18.4 with 258 points in 14 league games.
The outburst against the Mustangs was the difference in a points battle with Vista’s Ed Myers, who averaged 17.2 with 241 points in circuit play.
Gehring, who led the County with 440 points (17.1) for the 16-9 Cougars, was almost matched in the CPL by Point Loma’s sharpshooting Ronnie Robertson, who scored 377 points in 22 games (17.1) and led the Pointers to the major CIF playoffs.
Helix’ Jerry Hurst nudged Robertson for the CPL scoring championship, scoring 221 points in 12 games and averaging 18.4 to Robertson’s 214 (17.8).
San Diego’s Willie Pitts averaged 15.6 points and was third in league play, topped by a 34-point effort (16 field goals, 2 free throws) when the Cavers set a school single-game scoring record in an 80-40 win at Grossmont.
Not to be outdone, Hoover got into the scoring trend, defeating Grossmont, 72-45.
Grossmont also was easy pickings for Robertson, who had 34 points in a 55-38 victory.
Chula Vista’s Lavon Baker (15.0) scored 210 points in league play and was third behind Gehring and Myers. Oceanside’s Dick Whaley (14.3) had 200.
Beverly Hills defeated Grossmont, 74-51, setting a Kiwanis Tournament record of 125 points. Two teams had scored 109 points each in 1949.
Beverly Hills forward Dick Eiler, who moved south after attending the University of Utah and became head coach at Clairemont in 1960-61, set a single game record of 30.
Eiler’s four-game total of 85 bettered the mark of 72 by Kearny’s David Miramontes in 1950.
San Diego stunned Santa Monica with a 28-point third quarter in a 57-49 victory. Samohi outscored the Cavemen, 37-29, in the three other eight-minute periods
For the first time the tournament featured an all-San Diego final.
Paul Darrock’s 21 points, aided by 10 each from Dale Luther and Bob Hetzler, led the La Jolla to an overtime, 54-49 victory over San Diego on the Cavers’ floor. Tom Cofield had 20 and Ellsworth Powell 12 for San Diego.
A starting forward for La Jolla was Bob (Bones) Gutowski, who set a world track and field record of 15 feet, 8 inches, in the pole vault in 1957 while competing for Occidental College in Eagle Rock.
The 24-team tournament began on Thursday and did not end until Monday.
With Sunday off, Beverly Hills and others had a chance to visit San Diego tourist attractions. Living at the Marine Corps Recruit Base allowed the visitors to get by on expenses. Beds and meals were free.
STRANGER THAN FICTION
San Diego dropped a December game to Long Beach Poly, 47-39, although Poly, the home team, had 25 personal fouls to 11 for the Cavers, who outscored the Jackrabbits, 23-9, at the free-throw line but were outscored from the field, 38-16.
Chula Vista and Escondido resolved their Metro League title deadlock with a playoff, because only one team would be invited to the eight team smalls schools postseason.
CIF small schools playoffs were divided into two, eight-team groups, Northern and Southern.
San Diego and Point Loma each finished with 9-3 CPL records and both qualified for the large, Central Group 24-team tournament.
CPL president Lawrence Carr of San Diego High conducted a telephonic vote after the final Friday night games and league bosses gave the No. 1 nod to Point Loma, which twice defeated San Diego.
The Pointers were byed into the 16-team second round against Colton, which had eliminated Point Loma, 44-36, in 1951-52.
The Pointers (17-9) dropped a 48-39 decision to the Yellowjackets at the same venue, San Bernardino Junior College, as the previous season and by an almost identical score difference.
San Diego (17-7) went out in the first round, beaten at Anaheim, 50-39.
SIGN OF THE TIME
Dick Bogenrife of Midway, Ohio, scored 120 points in a 137-47 victory over Canaan. Midway coach Dick Strasburg said he “had planned for several games to turn him loose.”
Perhaps coincidentally, Bogenrife’s onslaught came three days after Mel (Fatty) Frye of Clarington set a state record with 80 points.
San Diego High’s single-game scoring record had stood since 1916-17, when the Hilltoppers defeated Escondido, 76-25, although a more significant victory was in a 1935-36 playoff game against Huntington Beach, which the Mike Morrow-coached Hillers outscored, 73-45…Ramona’s Bruce Furman, all of 5 feet, 1 inch, was a favorite of Kiwanis spectators…Mar Vista’s Glenn (junior) and Al Maisey (senior) were the only brothers in the CIF Southern Section to start every game…Hoover’s 11-12 record under first-year coach Charlie Hamption, was its poorest since before World War II…Kearny was 7-5 and third in the CPL and its 16-7 record was best in school history….