Forfeits, ineligibles, and nuptials.
Three words that sum up a season filled with hot shooting, high scores, and dramatic finishes but ended with flat, early exits for San Diego schools in their next-to-last year in the Southern Section playoffs.
–San Diego High, 24-2 on the floor, was 8-18 legislatively after forfeiting 16 victories because of an overage starting player. CIF Southern Section rules state that an athlete cannot turn 19 years of age before Sept. 1 of his senior year. Forward Otha Phillips, a strong defender who had scored 140 points in 18 games, passed his 19th birthday in May.
The CIF had lowered the eligibility rule from age 20 to 19 in 1939.
–There was no forfeit, but Hoover lost starting forward Ron Crosby for several games during the season because of classroom grades (and starting center Harry Stadnyk for several games from a knee injury). St. Augustine lost three Eastern League games because of ineligible Sal Villanueva. Other players throughout the area were sidelined after unsuccessful stints with the books.
–Sweetwater’s Wayne Sevier, a three-sport star, quarterback of the Red Devils’ football team, and a starting forward for coach Wells Gorman’s basketball squad, was declared ineligible because he had gotten married and had to leave school.
–Lincoln was sidetracked when the question of reserve forward T.R. Lowery’s age surfaced two days before a first-round playoff.
DREADED ADMINISTRATIVE GLITCH
This was one of the most egregious of all the bookkeeping and clerical errors that had short-circuited teams over the years. It robbed the Cavemen of a chance to compete in the playoffs in a season in which coach Dick Otterstad’s club had taken its place among the best in school history and had performed at a higher level than expected.
Cavers officials quickly owned up.
Vice-principal Bill Bailey was seen walking through a deserted parking lot south of the Spreckles Building on Tuesday morning Jan. 27, 1959, heading toward the Union-Tribune building at 919 Second Avenue.
A bystander spotted Bailey and wondered why the VP of the high school would be visiting the newspaper office at this time of day on a school day. Bailey soon demonstrated why, delivering the news to Evening Tribune high school beat writer Paul Cour.
“The ineligibility was brought to our attention by another school,” Bailey told Cour, declining to name the informant. Bailey said failure to note Phillips’ ineligibility “was an oversight on our part.”
Principal Lawrence Carr apologized for the error in a statement released that morning and said Phillips’ “correct age has been listed on our eligibility sheets sent by us during the season to all of our opponents.”
No one noticed for 18 games.
Bailey said an eligibility report is filed with each school before a game is played. Each report lists a player’s birthdate, birthplace, and academic standing, according to Bailey.
Phillips, a senior competing for the first year, did not realize that he was too old to compete, said Carr.
Otterstad was stunned and became ill when the word came down. He excused himself from a coaches’ planning meeting at school and retreated to the men’s room.
The coach and his bosses appealed to CIF commissioner Ken Fagans, hoping San Diego could be a candidate for the playoffs as an at-large team.
If there was an opening in the 32-team playoff bracket, a very slim possibility, Fagans said he would give the Cavers consideration.
Five weeks later, after several telephone calls between Caver officials and the CIF, the San Diego plea was denied by the Southern Section’s executive committee.
Otterstad said that he called the vice-principal of the school that reported the Philips glitch and, while expressing disappointment, held no rancor toward the rival.
The Cavers’ coach also revealed that he had been approached by Compton coach Bill Armstrong, whose Tarbabes would be the Cardinals’ opponent in the second round of the playoffs.
Armstrong wanted Otterstad to impart any knowledge acquired in San Diego’s two victories over the Redbirds.
“I told him that Hoover was in our league and that I wouldn’t do that,” Otterstad revealed to Jerry Magee of The San Diego Union.
City League coaches, though profiting from the Cavers’ malfeasance, sympathized.
“It’s an unfortunate thing for the boy himself and others on the squad,” said Lincoln’s Don Smith. “We’re interested in the best team representing our league in the playoffs.”
Smith went on to say that coaches would be more attentive to “checking the eligibility lists in the future.” A month later the Lincoln mentor was forced to deal with the possibility of T.R. Lowery’s being too old.
Lincoln scrambled and found proof that Lowery was clear to play, but the Hornets, the hottest team in the City in the last month other than San Diego, never hit their stride in a 50-48 loss to Compton Centennial on the Hoover floor.
“That’s not the way we like to win games,” said Hoover’s Charlie Hampton. “What a tough break for Dick…his ball club wasn’t expected to do much this year, but it came along and now this happens.”
Hilbert Crosthwaite of Point Loma noted that “last year Dick had another (tough break) when Chula Vista knocked his great ball club out of the playoffs.”
Mission Bay’s Paul Beck said, “I sure hate to see this happen but we’re back in the race and will be trying all the way.”
San Diego’s Arthur (Hambone) Williams didn’t score in a 63-44 victory over Santa Monica, then had 24 in a 57-51, semifinals win over Lincoln and 28 (including 10 consecutive free throws) in the championship-game, 62-49 triumph over Beverly Hills. The Cavers became the first team to win the title three times.
Only three outside clubs, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, and Manhattan Beach Mira Costa, entered the 12th annual tournament, composed of two, 16-team brackets, Unlimited and Limited. Escondido was in the Unlimited Division the first time and new schools University and Clairemont made their first appearances in the Limited Division.
San Diego’s victory signaled that the Cavers, despite losing their two highest scorers, Artist Gilbert and Edward Lee Johnson, from the 23-3 team of 1957-58, had reloaded instead of rebuilding. Hambone Williams, one of the County’s all-time great players, would go on to a career in the NBA with the San Diego Rockets and Boston Celtics.
GET READY TO RUMBLE
Hoover, led by southpaw Wayne Britt’s 23 points, connected on 17 of 22 field goal attempts in the first half to lead, 37-18, and was 30×49 for 61 per cent for the game in an 80-64 win over a Mira Costa team that was 9-0, a tournament favorite, and shot well enough, 25×53, 47 per cent, to win most games.
Mustangs coach Dean Sempert was so frustrated that, according to witnesses, encouraged his team to get tough with the lean, physically unimposing Cardinals. Hoover coach Charlie Hampton walked to the Mustangs’ bench in the second half and wondered when Sempert was going to “quit the roughhouse play.”
Hoover was knocked out in the semifinal round by Beverly Hills, 66-64, as the Normans qualified for the finals for the fourth time in five years.
Chula Vista, a regular at this post-Christmas event, defeated Newhall Hart, 39-37, for the championship after building a 19-5 first-quarter lead. The Spartans also topped Chino, 58-45, Placentia Valencia, 64-17, and Ontario Chaffey, 56-52.
Escondido opened with a 61-37 victory over Desert as Steve Thurlow had 11 field goals and 22 points and brother Toby had 11 free throws and 21 points. The Cougars also topped Upland, 67-50, but lost to Hart in the semifinals, 64-59, and to Chaffey, 80-69, in the third-place game.
Mar Vista was beaten by Buena Park, 42-40, in the consolation finals.
San Dieguito, which defeated Mar Vista, 36-30, for the Kiwanis Limited title, was beaten by host Banning, 34-29, in the finals of the Riverside county school’s tournament. The Mustangs got to the finals by eliminating San Jacinto, 46-30, and Palm Springs, 47-41.
Helix had a short stay in Ventura County, bowing to the host Fillmore Flashes, 43-37, and to Santa Paula, 57-50.
SOUTH BAY BARNBURNER
“Chula Vista shaded Sweetwater, 41-38, in Chula Vista Recreation Center last night in a double-overtime Metro League basketball game that had more false finishes than a Pearl White* movie.
“A medium-range jump shot by Fred Olmsted with 1:01 remaining settled it before a turnaway crowd of some 1,600. Officials said at least that many more were turned away after the doors were locked an hour and a half before tipoff.”
Jerry Magee of The San Diego Union wrote those words in describing one of the most exciting games ever played south of the San Diego city limits.
Olmsted supplied the winning points, but a reserve guard who did not score a point saved the Spartans from certain defeat.
Sweetwater led, 38-36, with four seconds left in the first overtime and had possession of the ball at midcourt, but “whippet-fast” Billy Ellis stole the inbounded ball and fired a perfect pass to Phil Lind, who scored the tying points from under the Sweetwater basket.
Chula Vista had taken a 34-32 lead on Bill Foley’s jump shot with a little more than a minute to play in the fourth quarter, but the Red Devils’ George Spicer forced the overtime when he drained a long jumper from behind the foul circle.
Olmsted, whose free throw with one second to play delivered a 51-50 victory over Mount Miguel in another league game, was on the floor because starter Richard Baumann, an all-Metro guard in 1957-58, was out for the season with an injury sustained in a wood shop class.
Magee wrote that the second half was played to the “accompaniment of near pandemonium.”
Perhaps because of the din inside the municipal facility, the Spartans attempted only seven second-half field goals and made five. They were 17×31, 55 per cent for a game. Sweetwater, led by Milton Horton’s 15 points, made 16×45 for 36 per cent.
(*Pearl White was a silent films actress and starred in “The Perils of Pauline”).
Grossmont coach Locke Olson declared his 6-foot, 5-inch center and hook shot specialist Jerry Halterman “the best college prospect in the area.”
Halterman scored 33 points in a 51-41 loss to Hoover, 33 in a double-overtime, 53-51 defeat by Sweetwater, 35 against the Cardinals in a 66-57 Kiwanis Tournament setback, and 35 in another game against Chula Vista. Halterman was the County’s leading scorer with 587 points in 23 games and averaged 25.5.
Southern Prep League statistics were not available, but Army-Navy Coach Richard Gronquist reported that star Jack McAboy averaged 21.5 points.
Lincoln had lost five out of six to Hoover, including by scores of 51-50, 48-47 in overtime, and 42-41 (after leading by 11 points at the start of the fourth quarter), and 53-50, this season. The latter was for third place in the Kiwanis.
The Hornets took out their frustration in the second round of City Prep League play, running the minus-two-starters Hoover off its home court, shooting 59 per cent and winning, 69-47.
The victory, combined with San Diego’s forfeits, allowed Lincoln to tie the Cardinals, each with a 13-3 record, and claim a tie for their first title. Lincoln, however, couldn’t get past San Diego, losing twice with leads late in the fourth quarter,
Unsung, young (just turned 17) senior Forrest (Big Child) Glitherow, a nonletterman transfer from Mission Bay, scored 21 points and had 18 rebounds and Lincoln led the Cavers, 57-49 with 4:30 remaining. San Diego scored 12 of the last 13 points and blanked the Hornets for the last 3:48 and won, 61-58.
The rematch, an all-time thriller on the Cavers’ floor, saw Lincoln, shooting 56 per cent, take a 70-69 on Russ Cravens’ basket and free throw with 1:29 remaining.
Hornet Pete Colonelli missed a medium-range jumper with 30 seconds left. As Colonelli shot, San Diego’s Hambone Williams, who scored 24 points, sneaked behind the Hornets, took a half-court pass and scored for a 71-70 victory.
After the game, Williams suggested that writer Paul Cour “Tell ‘em Hambone did it!”
HELIX LOSES TRACK
The Highlanders must have been in the twilight zone, coincidentally a television show of the same name that was making its network debut in 1959. First guard Wally Hartwell and then center Don Weist attempted field goals…at the Chula Vista basket.
Weist’s shot, during a scramble under the backboard, went in. The wrong-way hoop didn’t have an effect on the game. Chula Vista won, 47-37.
Had Coach Dick Otterstad not emptied his bench and played everyone, San Diego High might have scored 125 points against hapless Crawford. Instead the Hilltoppers set a school-record point total in a 96-37 win that was shared by 10 players.
Arthur (Hambone) Williams led the Cavers with 23 points. Others contributing were Ezell Singleton (15), Ben Pargo (11), Richard Flanery (10), Ernest (Moe) Watson (10), Alan Zukor (6), Willie Bolton (2), and Jack Henn and Morris Russ, 2 each.
Hoover topped Chula Vista, 56-46, and then was beaten at Compton, 86-47. Compton reached the semifinals before losing to eventual champion Glendale, 69-46. Centennial, which beat Lincoln, 50-48, also reached the semifinals, losing to Fullerton, 47-46, and then defeated Compton in the third place game, 46-44.
Fullerton eliminated Sweetwater, 69-49, and lost in the championship to Glendale, 59-49. Army-Navy of the Southern Prep League lost at Big Bear City Big Bear, 48-42, despite 22 points by Jack McAboy. First-year Clairemont, 6-6 in nonleague play, defeated Mar Vista, 46-39, but lost to Buena Park, 57-34.
Ramna won its first-round game in the 1-A playoffs for smallest schools, defeating Cerritos Valley Christian, 52-39, before losing to Oxnard Santa Cara, which topped Trona, 44-27, for the championship.
Unhappy with the way things were going, someone at Kearny High hung coach Jim Sams in effigy in the school gymnasium…Sams, 20-34 in two seasons, exited at the end of the school year and moved to Crawford…Few teams have shot with such accuracy as Sweetwater, which converted 30 of 43 shots from the field for 70 per cent and made 15 of 17 free throw attempts in a 75-64 win over Escondido…Hoover outscored San Diego, 26-8, from the free throw line but the Cavers had a 58-36 advantage from the field in a 66-62 victory in the first round of City Prep League play…the Cardinals were 26×32 for 81 per cent from the stripe, while San Diego was 8×15 for 53 per cent…the Cavemen repeated, 60-52, in the second round…Lincoln set a school scoring record in a 81-32 victory over La Jolla, breaking the record set earlier in the season in a 71-41 win over Coronado…not to be outdone, Hoover bettered its record in a 89-48 win over St. Augustine…Point Loma, 0-5 in nonleague games and only 10-11 overall, took San Diego to the wire…Otha Phillips’ basket with :15 remaining got the Cavers past the Pointers, 39-38…a basket and free throw by Phillips and Ezell Singleton’s late set shot allowed the Cavers to edge St. Augustine, 51-49, after they trailed, 49-46, with two minutes to play…the Cavers won an earlier meeting with the 10-12 Saints, 69-18…Glendale schools came South in a break from tradition to play San Diego and Hoover…Glendale High defeated San Diego, 63-51, and Hoover, 61-59…Glendale Hoover topped Hoover, 56-53, but lost to San Diego, 51-46…the San Diego schools had made the trip North for years to play various Los Angeles-area schools…the city exercised its annual December dominance over County teams, San Diego defeating Helix, 59-49, and Hoover topping Grossmont, 61-50, at Grossmont…the Cavers nudged Grossmont, 59-46, and Hoover beat Helix, 51-41 the next night…Grossmont lost six Metropolitan League games by a total of 18 points, including two in overtime to Sweetwater, 53-51, and 40-39, and one to Escondido, 64-56…San Diego led Long Beach Poly, 52-45, entering the fourth quarter but lost, 70-60…the Cavers could not complain about being the visiting team and getting the shaft from game officials…host Poly was whistled for 21 fouls, the Cavers 11….