It was an unlikely season with some unlikely conclusions.
–A rare playoff run by San Diego teams in the Southern California playoffs.
–San Diego High’s march through four rounds to win its only CIF Southern Section championship, along the way setting a school single-game scoring record…maybe.
–Hoover’s blitz of Class B opponents in a sequel to championships in 1931-32, 1933-34, and 1934-35 but with no hardware and no satisfaction.
San Diego entered the season with four lettermen starters, Ernie Mallory, Melvin Hendry, Vance Randolph, and Lowell Lee, and picked up a fifth, Bill Patterson, who transferred in from Frankford, Indiana.
Alhambra and Long Beach Poly were favored to fight it out for Coast League laurels. The Hillers were 6-8 overall the previous year, 3-7 in league play, and 0-4 against the Moors and Jackrabbits.
San Diego made it clear early that it was vastly improved, sweeping Class A (a more preferred nomenclature than “varsity”) competition in the annual San Diego County Interscholastic Tournament that opened the season in December.
With Mallory leading, Coach Mike Morrow’s squad whipped through Grossmont, 48-13, Point Loma, 36-14, and Ramona, 54-15.
Alhambra was the visitor in the league opener and went home a stunned, 31-28 loser after trailing, 15-9, at halftime. Mallory led the winners with 13 points.
The San Diego-Alhambra contest was played on a Friday afternoon at 3:30 instead of at the usual 7:30 p.m. because the Moors didn’t want to be headed home late at night on the Coast Highway with the threat of fog.
Travel and its various inconveniences always was a nemesis for the far-flung Coast League squads.
COAST IS CLEAR
The visiting Hilltoppers led Long Beach Poly, 18-17, at the end of three quarters in their next game but couldn’t hold on and dropped a 21-19 decision. It was the Jackrabbits’ 17th victory in the 19 games between the teams since they first met in the 1920-21 season but it also was San Diego’s last loss in the 15-1 season.
A 40-18 victory at Santa Ana was followed by a 29-23 win at Alhambra, setting up another big game with Poly at San Diego. The Hillers prevailed, 29-25, as Vance Randolph, who would be lost to the team at midterm graduation, scored 11 points.
Randolph and acting captain Eddie Preisler were scheduled to participate in cap and gown ceremonies but opted to stay with the team and make their final appearances at Santa Ana. A 37-29 victory over the Saints clinched the Hilltoppers’ first outright league championship. They had tied for first with Poly in 1932-33.
With time before the beginning of the playoffs, the Hillers took on the touring Knapps Grocery Stores squad from Oakland. The 51-25 rout was part of a doubleheader in which Coach Ed Ruffa’s B team, playing an independent schedule, defeated the Markel-Johnson Poultry House, 31-28.
BEERKLE LOOKING FOR EDGE?
Point Loma, 7-0 and Metropolitan League champion after a 24-16 victory over 6-1 Escondido, was the Hiller’s’ first playoff opponent.
The Pointers did not have a gymnasium (one newspaper reported the Pointers defeated their alumni, 38-28, “on an outdoor court made soggy by the rains”) and even used the Hillers’ gym in preparation for the game.
Pointers coach Joe Beerkle also bemoaned the fact that he had players who were “on call” to the tuna industry.
Beerkle said that if a fishing vessel came in, starters Gil Gonsalves and Joaquin Qualin would have to forego the playoff encounter and help off-load the boat.
There apparently were no arrivals at the Embarcadero, but the Pointers still were outmanned and lost, 32-18. San Diego the next night took on barnstorming Phoenix Union and beat the Coyotes, 45-35.
WHAT’S THE SCORE?
Morrow’s club met visiting Huntington Beach in the quarterfinals and scored a 73-45 victory. Or was it 82-45?
The San Diego Union noted the upcoming game early in the week but then ignored the usual day-of-game advance and did not report on the Saturday night contest.
The rival Evening Tribune printed a very short Monday afternoon story that San Diego had won, 73-45. That score also was corroborated by Don King’s Caver Conquest, with attribution to The Russ, San Diego High’s newspaper.
Ernie Mallory’s 18 points represented the only individual total in the Tribune.
The account seemed all well and good until the Los Angeles Times’ result showed a Huntington Beach dateline and a different score.
The Times’ story presented an editorial slant toward the losing team and essentially was a wrap of the Oilers’ Orange League championship season, but the text was accompanied by a comprehensive box score, which showed that San Diego exploded for 53 points in the second half and won, 82-45.
Mallory was credited with 18 points, followed by 15 each from Bill Patterson and Melvin Hendry, 2 by Lowell Lee, and 9 by the fifth starter Roy Cleator. Substitutes included Billy Cesena (2), Herman Gatewood (6), Mike Shea (4), and Bob Barth (2).
A player named “Peder” also was credited with 9 points, but there was no record of such human. There was a Homer Peabody on the squad.
CIF Southern Section playoff results for the season also honored the 82-45 score.
The Times’ box score still begged the question. Why no definitive story and complete box score in the San Diego publications?
We’ll have to go with the locals’ 73-45 count until hearing otherwise and with their subsequent 34-32 win over Santa Barbara and 47-35 championship gme victory over Bonita. Semifinals and finals were played at La Verne College
What makes theSan Diego-Huntington Beach score enticing is that San Diego’s point total, 73 or 82, was 40 to 50 points above normal for the era. Basketball was a slow-moving, low-scoring, and slowly evolving game offensively, although San Diego somehow scored 75 points in 1917-18 against Escondido.
If 82 was correct in San Diego’s progression of high-point totals, the 80 against Grossmont in 1952-53 would be invalid. The issue became moot in 1957-58, when San Diego outscored La Jolla, 86-40.
RIVALRY ON HIATUS
“Though coaches and principals of both schools are anxious for the series to continue, it now appears that students of San Diego and Hoover Highs will be without their annual Hilltop-Cardinal cage titanics, yearly the high spot of the basketball programs of the rival city schools,” was the lead on an article in The San Diego Union on Jan. 15, 1936.
Hoover had become a member of the Bay League and played league games on Friday. San Diego played Coast League games on Tuesdays and Fridays. Coaches Mike Morrow of San Diego and Bruce Maxwell of Hoover looked for loopholes in their schedules.
The series could be played on Wednesday or Thursday, but this would have put Morrow’s players at the disadvantage of two league and one bragging rights game in one week.
The Cardinals and Hillers, who first played in 1933-34, would resume their rivalry in 1936-37 and played at least once a season until 1976-77.
SWARM OF BEES
Hoover’s powerful Class B team, won the County tournament by defeating Grossmont, 37-4, San Diego, 30-26, and Sweetwater, 37-7, and, led by future San Diego State legend Milton (Milky) Phelps, left their new Bay League rivals reeling.
The Cardinals won league games by scores of 61-24, 49-7, 43-25, 59-27, and 51-14. Santa Monica came closest but still was a well-beaten 35-19. The Cardinals rolled in the playoffs, running Carpinteria off the court, 60-12, and swarming San Luis Obispo, 66-30.
The B playoff semifinals and final rounds were at El Monte High.
Hoover’s opponent in the finals was well regarded South Pasadena, a 32-31 winner over El Monte and the team the Cardinals defeated at San Diego State, 36-22, in the 1934-35 championship.
The venue essentially represented a home game for the Tigers. The distance of about 14 ½ miles from South Pas to El Monte was in contrast to the 120 miles that Hoover had traveled to get to the final four site.
The dispatch from El Monte following the semifinals was curious: “Some doubt remains as to where the final game will be played, although Coach Bruce Maxwell has been advised to report to the El Monte gym here tomorrow afternoon with his Hoover team for the finale.”
Maxwell and his team arrived on time and had his team on the court, but South Pasadena didn’t show, announcing that it would play only on its home court.
The CIF bulletin of April, 1936, announced that the executive committee unanimously voted that no champion be declared since “A disagreement had developed over the place of playing the final game in Class B basketball.”
The committee also passed a resolution ending existing playoffs arrangements in Classes B, C, and D and allowing league champions to host at least one interleague championship game.
HILLTOP BEES ALSO STUNG
Competing as an independent team and holding wins over Long Beach Poly and Santa Ana, Coach Ed Ruffa’s San Diego High B team was rebuffed in its attempt to gain a playoff berth.
CIF boss Seth Van Patten suggested that the Hillers’ B squad take on Hoover’s super team in a best, two-of-three series, with the winners being admitted to the postseason. Since Hoover already had won its league and was in the playoffs, the idea died a quiet death.
The San Diego High gymnasium, when not used for practice by the Hilltoppers’ teams, was in use virtually every day of the week.
Point Loma and Sweetwater moved their Metropolitan League opener up one day in order to play on the San Diego floor. The teams didn’t want to use Sweetwater’s outdoor court.
San Diego’s playoff with Point Loma was rescheduled for the afternoon. Hoover had quested the San Diego gym for that night.
Metropolitan League teams came from long distances to play games at San Diego. Army-Navy, Coronado, and Escondido were the only other schools to have gyms. Oceanside’s building was almost complete.
Ernie Mallory, one of the top players of the first half-century in the County, and Vance Randolph of San Diego were on the all-Southern California first team…a second-team guard was Pasadena Muir Technical’s Jackie Robinson…Point Loma coach Joe Beerkle, short of players, moved varsity standout Joaquin Qualin to Class B and Qualin scored 12 points in a 40-12 win over Army-Navy…Ramona won the Southern Prep League championship by defeating runner-up Julian, 43-8…Hoover fielded five teams, Varsity, Class B and C, junior varsity and junior varsity B…Hoover’s Class C squad nosed out Memorial Junior High 15-13…after players had dressed and departed for home it was discovered that Memorial had scored an additional two points…the teams agreed to play another game the next week…Dick Tazalaar scored 16 as Hover prevailed, 30-24….
The cry is as old as the game. Visiting teams screaming that the referees or the timekeeper did them unjustly.
Huntington Beach certainly had those thoughts when the Oilers, 4-0 on the season and a reported 20-1 in 1944-45, were on the short end of a 38-37 score at San Diego in a game punctuated by a wild finish and “pandemonium, with fans spilling onto the floor,” according to The San Diego Union.
Huntington Beach had taken a 37-36 on a free throw after Hilltopper Ben Cendali fouled with two minutes remaining in the game. Cendali got back into his team’s good graces when he converted a free throw to tie the score, and then, in the final seconds, scored on another trip to the foul line.
As time was running out, or ran out, depending on whose side you were on, the Oilers’ Elmer Coombs launched a desperation shot from behind the halfcourt line that drained the basket but was disallowed.
Neither the Union or Evening Tribune stories carried a byline, indicating that the sports desk probably received a game call from Cavers coach John Brose or a student representative.
The Huntington Beach coach apparently claimed that there was no moment that declared the game was over, charging that the starter pistol used to signal the ends of periods of play was faulty and never went off.
And no one heard the timer blowing a whistle that the game was over, according to the newspaper reports.
It also was reported that the game timer was Amerigo Dini, a Cavers football letterman who had to be filling in for a faculty member or coach.
And that’s the way it was on the cool, overcast evening of Dec. 16, 1945, as the city, relieved that war was over, prepared for the most joyous Christmas in years.
CAP AND GOWNS BECKON
Midterm graduates, the bane of coaches, were leaving school around the first of February since the early days of the CIF.
Southern Section historian John Dahlem pointed out that the practice of students accumulating credits and graduating early probably began to diminish in the 1950s. Dahlem was part of one of the final midterm graduations in Southern California when he and others got their diplomas in 1961 at Santa Monica High.
San Diego High had lost players for years, even during the 1935-36 Southern Section championship season but that team was talented enough to overcome.
Pre-war coach Merrill Douglas had returned from the Army but would not take over again until the 1946-47 school year, leaving the wartime mentor, John Brose, to cope with the departure of four starters.
That’s four, as in a starting lineup of five. Wally Pietila, Norm Scudder, Bob Grant, and Lee Bowman all left early, along with Elfego Padilla and Joe Castagnola, six of the top seven.
Brose coached splendidly in Douglas’ absence, his teams posting a 48-12 record in Brose’s three seasons, including 20-5 this year, but the Hilltoppers flattened out with a 4-4 record after a 16-1 start.
Grant, a three-year letterman at center, was the leading scorer in his Victory League games, averaging 15 points a game.
An assembly honoring the mid-term graduates saw the team’s most-valuable player trophy go to Grant and Pietila received the Parents Teachers’ Association award after earning 20 grades of A. Pietila was scheduled to enroll at the University of California at Berkeley.
The players’ last game was a 49-30 victory over Point Loma as Grant led the way with 18 points.
Brose pointed out that “Pietila, Castagnola, and Bowman actually are Bees, but their play elevated them. It is unusual for a B exponent player starting on varsity.”
The 5-foot-5, 128-pound Pietila, one of the Hilltoppers’ starting forwards, just missed qualifying for Class C, based on the exponents of height, weight, and age.
Brose began his team’s second season by inserting reserves Bob McCommins, Jerry Dahms, John Holloway, Charlie Coffey, and Clyde Barnes into the rotation with junior Ben Cendali, who became the team’s leading scorer, averaging nine points in seven league games.
The Hilltoppers had no time to ease into the transition. Their next opponent was Grossmont, like San Diego, with a 4-0 record.
The Hilltoppers led, 26-25, late in the game, but the Foothillers’ Ish Herrera drained a 30-foot set shot and Ralph Lamp added a basket for a 29-26 victory. A 48-36 loss to Hoover dropped San Diego into third place tie with Coronado at 5-2 in the final standings, while Grossmont and Hoover, each 6-1, tied for first.
BEVERLY OR PLAYOFFS?
San Diego, with an invitation from the Beverly Hills Tournament, switched its Victory League game from Feb. 22 to Feb. 12.
The bid undoubtedly came before the midterm graduation, when the Cavers were undefeated in league play and with one of the best records in Southern California.
Hoover, as winner of the first Beverly event in the 1941-42 season and in the resumed event in 1944-45, also was part of the field Grossmont expected an at-large bid, but The San Diego Union cited a “misunderstanding” between Beverly Hills officials and the Southern Section and the Foothillers were out.
Hoover’s bid for a third consecutive Beverly Hills title stalled against Santa Barbara. The Cardinals led, 19-8, at the half, and 26-19 after three quarters but fell to the eventual tournament champion, 33-32. San Diego started fast, 43-13 over Lawndale Leuzinger, but went home after a 43-24 loss to Anaheim.
The Victory League campaign ended on Feb. 22. The Southern Section playoffs would not begin until March 1. Hoover and Grossmont first engaged in a playoff to determine the league champion and drew an estimated 2,200 persons to the reported 1,800-seat capacity Men’s Gym at San Diego State.
A 49-29 victory sent the Cardinals into the first round of the Southern Section tournament and they responded with a 54-44 win over Brawley. The season ended when South Pasadena, 27-2 coming into the game, defeated the Cardinals, 33-23, in the semifinals.
Hoover finished the season and Rickey Wilson’s tenure as coach with a 13-6 record, following seasons of 10-4, 11-4, 14-5, and 16-1. The best in school history far into the 21st century.
Wilson’s overall record of 64-15 and .810 winning percentage remained as the best in school history through a succession of mostly successful coaches through the turn of the century.
SAY, AREN’T YOU…
The man coaching the Brawley Wildcats in their first-round playoff game against Hoover looked familiar.
Hoskins had been the Sweetwater football coach two decades before, posting a 40-29-3 record from 1919 to 1928. He moved to the Imperial Valley after leaving the Red Devils and taught chemistry at Brawley, adding basketball resume before the 1943-44 campaign.
Hoover won its 15th consecutive Victory League game by defeating Kearny, 39-21. The Cardinals had not lost in league play since 1943-44, but Kenny Tennison’s basket for Grossmont with five seconds remaining gave the Foothillers a 34-33 victory, ending the Cardinals’ streak.
Play resumed in the Chino Invitational after wartime hiatus following the 1941 tournament…defending champion Hoover dropped a 41-39 decision to Burbank in the semifinals…San Diego bowed, 32-24, to San Bernardino in the semis…lack of local competition annually forced Hoover and San Diego to the road…the Cardinals began their season with a U,.S. 395 trip to San Bernardino )29-26 loss) and Ontario Chaffey (37-34 win)…Grossmont went East, through snow in the Laguna Mountains, and was beaten, 24-20, at El Centro Central…San Diego warmed up for league games with 22-13 and 36-29 victories at Compton and Redondo Beach Redondo, respectively…the Cavers went North late in the season to defeat a group of prisoners at the Chino’s Men’s Institute, 37-34,and at Huntington Beach, 21-15…Coronado’s Dave Melton\on was the leading Victory League scorer, averaging 12.1 points with 85 in seven games…Melton played 13 years ibn baseball, most in the high minors, and had cups of coffee with the Kansas City A’s in 1956 and ’58…Melton hit .299 with 116 runs batted in and 19 home runs for San Francisco in the PCL in 1955…St. Augustine defeated Santa Monica. St. Monica’s, 24-13, in a Southland Catholic League contest on an outdoor court at Navy Field…Grossmont took season high point honors in a 63-10 rout of San Diego Vocational…Bob Grant scored 20 points in San Diego’s 60-22 win over Kearny….
Two young coaches destined to become legendary in San Diego basketball lore arrived as varsity mentors at the city’s two prep powerhouses.
Rickey Wilson, a former San Diego High player, succeeded Lawrence Carr at Hoover and Merrill Douglas, a transplanted Montanan, took over for Bill Schutte at San Diego High.
The schools continued to be San Diego’s prime representatives, the Hilltoppers going 15-3 under Douglas and Hoover 10-4 under Wilson, but teams in the Metropolitan and Southern Prep Leagues commanded their shares of attention, although headlines were reserved for the war clouds that loomed in the West and the “The Battle of Britain”, being fought between the British and Germans in the skies above London.
San Diego and Hoover would join a 17-team super conference beginning in 1941-42 as the CIF attempted to separate large schools from small schools. San Diego, Hoover, and Long Beach Poly, were the only members of the Coast League.
Down to three teams since Santa Ana bailed after the 1935-36 school year and Alhambra after 1938-39, the Coast basketball season was shortened. The Hilltoppers and Hoover seasons ended this year in late January. The Metropolitan and Southern Prep were active through the end of February.
CIF commissioner Seth Van Patten often had to hustle to fill playoff brackets. Some leagues, notably the Metro, at the geographical bottom of the Federation, just didn’t want to be bothered. Records in the CIF archives showed only a four-team field this year.
Poly won the Coast, taking three out of four from San Diego and Hoover, but the Jackrabbits were beaten in the CIF finals by Glendale Hoover, 23-20.
A spirited, six-game Metropolitan League race ended with Coronado, Escondido, and Grossmont, each 5-1, tying for first place. Ramona ran the table with a 12-0 record to win its fifth consecutive Southern Prep championship.
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
It took the San Diego news corps awhile to get it right with Ermer Robinson, the San Diego High star and future Harlem Globetrotter. He was known as “Irma” Robinson for the first month of this, his junior season.
Martin Payne, the sports editor of The Russ, San Diego High’s weekly newspaper, covered several games for The San Diego Union and was the first to ensure that Robinson was correctly identified, when Payne covered the Hilltoppers’ 25-19 league victory over Long Beach Poly.
–Known as the County Interscholastic Tournament, an eight-team event took place with games at San Diego High, Hoover, Municipal Gym, and San Diego State. Grossmont defeated Point Loma, 30-12, for the championship.
–San Diego and Hoover at the same time were in the Huntington Beach Tournament, which also included Coronado. The Islanders opened with a 46-7 victory over Laguna Beach as Bud Ingle scored 20 points. They were eliminated the next day by Ontario Chaffey, 22-17.
San Diego defeated Hoover, 24-15, for the Huntington Beach title after advancing with wins of 28-20 over defending champ Chaffey and 29-23 over Long Beach Wilson. Hoover was in the finals after defeating Whittier, 36-26, and Santa Barbara, 20-19.
San Diego was forced to give up the Huntington Beach trophy when Bob (Lefty) Felthaus was declared ineligible by the CIF a few days later for having signed a professional baseball contract in 1939, days before his 17th birthday.
Brooklyn Dodgers scout Tom Downey, under heavy criticism from local prep officials, said that he signed Felthaus after the player stopped attending school, his having dropped out of Hoover. Felthaus became a student again at San Diego and had turned out for basketball.
–“Irma” Robinson scored 10 points as San Diego, playing for the first time without Felthaus, opened the post-Christmas Chino Tournament with a 42-9 win over San Juan Capistrano. The Hilltoppers buried Huntington Beach, 38-13, but lost to Burbank, 30-20, in the semifinals. Poly won its second straight title, 34-24, over Burbank.
–St. Augustine lost to St. Mary’s of Phoenix, 36-27 in the Los Angeles Catholic League tournament. Hoover defeated Grossmont, 11-7, and Point Loma topped Hoover, 26-8, in finals of the San Diego High invitational for Class C and D teams, respectively.
WE’LL PLAY ANYONE ANYTIME
Army-Navy’s 34-33 victory clinched a best, two-of-three series against the Oceanside chapter of the Knights of Pythias. The cadets were not as fortunate against the so-named Vista Outlaws, who prevailed, 21-15.
Ramona’s 59-17 victory over Fallbrook represented the single-game scoring high for the season. The Bulldogs also defeated Julian, 53-26.
Julian’s Bud Farmer had the top individual performance with 24 in a 38-31 victory over Army-Navy and added 22 in a 30-24 win over San Dieguito. Julian’s 51-6 rout of Fallbrook, with Farmer scoring one point, represented the third, 50-plus game in the county.
San Diego’s season was over but Coach Merrill Douglas enticed Chino to come south a couple weeks a couple weeks later. Douglas employed only players who would return for the 1941-42 season, opening with a starting lineup of Ermer Robinson, Jim Warner, Ron Maley, Denzil Walden, and Gerald Patrick.
The underclassmen delivered a 32-15 victory but Douglas would never see them play together again. He would respond to a call from Uncle Sam before the next season and not return until the 1946-47 campaign.
ANYTHING FOR THE TEAM
Hoover’s Willie Steele set a record of 24 feet, ¾ inch, in the broad jump at the Southern Section track finals in Glendale in May, a few months after Steele served as student manager of the varsity basketball squad. Steele was awarded a letter by coach Rickey Wilson, as was B squad manager Monroe (Bookie) Clark.
Steele, who played class B basketball the season before, went on to win the national collegiate broad jump championship at San Diego State and was the 1948 Olympic gold medalist in the event, with an all-time best of 26 feet, 6 ½ inches.
BE IT EVER SO HUMBLE
St. Augustine principal the Very Rev. W.B. Kirk announced that the Saints had found a home and would join the Southern Prep League in the next school year, after free-lancing and scuffling as an independent since the school opened in 1922. The agreement was for one year, depending on the circuit’s ability to develop a schedule for eight teams.
Ramona, Julian, Fallbrook, Brown Military, Army-Navy, San Dieguito, and Vista were the other SPL members. St. Augustine’s games would not count in the standings and the Saints eventually joined the Southland Catholic League of the Los Angeles area in 1945.
SIGNS OF THE TIME
The U.S. census for 1940 reported San Diego County’s population at 289,348, including 203,737 in the city. Other “township” totals: Borrego, 90; El Cajon, 20,160; Encinitas, 4,473; Escondido, 9,487; Fallbrook, 2,308; Jacumba, 1,214; National City, 32,213; Oceanside, 8,191; Ramona, 3,384, and Vista, 4,091.
San Diego State, which would win the 1941 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics championship, drew a record 19,256 persons to 17 home games in the 1,800-capacity Men’s Gym. The largest turnout was 1,713 for Santa Barbara State, although the record was 1,907 for a 1939 game against the Broadway Clowns.
The San Diego High gym was packed to the rafters with an estimated 1,900 persons when Hoover upended the Hilltoppers, 32-17…seven days later San Diego won at Hoover, 32-17…Coronado’s Metro League co-championship was achieved despite Coach Hal Niedermeyer’s suspension of Bud Ingle, the Metro’s leading scorer in 1939-40; Bill Hakes, and Al Galpin, early in the season…the three-team Coast’s all-league squad featured San Diego’s Bob (Lefty) Felthaus, Bob Carson, and Jack Maupin…Felthaus’ selection apparently was made on his reputation; he didn’t participate in league play…Hoover’s Rupert Crosthwaite, later well-known in San Diego circles for his ownership of a local sporting goods store, made second team….
City schools Hoover and San Diego usually wielded the sharp end of the stick, but smaller schools, for the second year in as row, stepped up. Coronado, from the mostly suburban Metropolitan League, and Vista from the rural Southern Prep represented the area in Southern California playoffs.
There was no minor division or small school postseason alignment, in which the Islanders and Panthers, with relatively paltry enrollment numbers, probably would have been included.
You make the postseason, be prepared to play anyone, size of school no matter. One bracket of 16 teams met on successive weeks, two days each, almost all games at Redondo Beach Redondo.
A Small Schools division for the postseason would not be in place until the 1949-50 season, according to CIF historian John Dahlem.
Coronado likely would have enjoyed similar success in a group with more even student body numbers, as did the mid-1950s Islanders, who advanced to the finals two years in a row.
Thus, when Coronado thumped Inglewood, 46-28, in the first round, John De La Vega’s account for the Los Angeles Times began: “Little Coronado high school, unbeaten champions of the Metropolitan league in San Diego county, furnished the big surprise yesterday….”
The Islanders, coached by Keith Broaders, hammered the Bay League champions but were beaten, 39-29, by Ventura in the second round, closing out a 21-2 season. Loyola earlier eliminated Vista (14-8), 48-24.
The exiting teams had faced the Southern Section’s premiere squads.
Loyola reached the round of 4 and defeated Coast League champion Compton, 34-33, and Ventura handled Alhambra, 58-41, for the championship.
Coronado’s record was listed as 21-1 in Bill Finley’s Evening Tribune High School Record Book 1945-69.
The obvious loss was to Ventura, but research showed that Broaders also scheduled a game in which he reportedly utilized only substitutes and the Islanders were upset by Brown Military, 29-27, in overtime.
Finley’s excellent publication reflected the difficulty finding complete, individual scoring statistics or total won-loss records from newspapers’ coverage in the early years until well into the late 1950s.
COAST NOT CLEAR
The three local teams, Grossmont, San Diego, and Hoover, won six of seven games at home on the opening weekend of Coast League play. The only setback was Grossmont’s 36-35 loss in overtime to Compton.
Three days later Grossmont beat San Diego, 41-40, on Herbie Fennel’s free throw with three seconds remaining before a full house at Grossmont.
The Cardinals and Foothillers soon dropped off the pace, however, and San Diego assumed the lead, taking an 8-1 record into its final game against 6-2 Compton.
The Hilltoppers had edged the Tarbabes, 34-27, early in league play but Compton prevailed in the rematch, 31-29 and then defeated Muir, 50-48, to forge a tie for the title.
WHICH IS WHICH?
One San Diego report declared that Compton and San Diego would flip a coin to determine the champion, but another said the winner of the teams’ first-round meeting in the Beverly Hills Tournament would determine the league’s sole playoff representative.
The Hillers came up flat, losing, 55-33, and closed out a 15-7 season. Grossmont signed off at 10-8, Hoover at 9-11, and St. Augustine at 11-6.
NO GAME, SNOW!
The dateline said San Diego, not somewhere in northern Minnesota, or numerous other wintry outposts.
Snow had forced postponement of two games.
That is not a misprint.
In the dead of winter a couple high school basketball contests in San Diego County were called off because of the flaky white stuff.
Southern Prep League games sending Brown Military to Mountain Empire in Campo and Vista to Julian could not be played “because of bad traveling conditions,” according to The San Diego Union on Jan. 14, 1949.
Five feet of snow in the higher elevations, the newspaper reported, “silenced rural telephone circuits so completely that the Police Department rushed a mobile radio transmitter to Julian to establish an emergency communications center.”
Down below the 4,000-foot elevation the coastline was hit with storm waves that caused damage to small craft and wreaked havoc on the beaches along U.S. 101.
San Diego rainfall totals were almost two inches above normal.
A view of the San Diego River from the Junipero Serra museum in Presidio Park showed water runoff to the ocean for the first time in three years.
Eight of the 11 San Diego-area teams in the 23-team, two-division, second annual Kiwanis Tournament were defeated in the first round of the three-day event at San Diego, Hoover, and San Diego State.
Hoover played twice on the first day, defeating Long Beach Poly, 34-31, and then lost to Beverly Hills, 22-18.
San Diego, outed by Long Beach Wilson, 36-33, came back to win the Unlimited Division consolation title, 43-27 over La Jolla. Chula Vista defeated Oceanside, 23-20, for the Limited Division conso’ crown.
Sweetwater won the Limited Division championship, 40-24, over Brawley. El Monte trimmed Beverly Hills, 60-40, for the Unlimited title.
San Diego’s Bob McClurg and Eddie Simpson made the all-tournament team. Simpson scored 42 points in the 4 games. Jim Loews of El Monte was leading scorer with 56.
While the Metropolitan and Southern Prep leagues got ready for league openers, the three Coast League locals went north to Compton College for the annual Western States Tournament.
San Diego topped Alhambra Mark Keppel, 45-37, and then went into the consolation bracket after a 43-37 loss to Los Angeles Mt. Carmel. Hoover topped Long Beach Poly, 43-41, but lost to Compton, 48-36.
Grossmont fell to Mt. Carmel, 47-37, in the opening round.
The threesome were quickly sent back home from the losers’ bracket. Long Beach St. Anthony nudged San Diego, 39-38, Long Beach Wilson nipped Hoover, 56-55, and Santa Barbara beat Grossmont, 50-44.
Alan Logan of Ramona had the highest reported individual scoring total with 30 points in a 40-25 win over Brown Military. Bob (Bama) Shell scored 28 in St. Augustine’s 47-39 victory over Chula Vista.
Shell scored 23 points and Lou Kuslo 17 as the Saints defeated Los Angeles Cathedral in the Southland Catholic League event.
Shell was denied an opportunity to score more when Long Beach St. Anthony backed out of its own hoop carnival so team members and students could trek to the Los Angeles Coliseum to watch their football team play Santa Barbara for the Southern Section title.
NOTHING, ZIP, NIL, NADA
The timeworn maxim that “they couldn’t hit a bull in the — with a barn door” resonated with those watching a Grossmont junior high tournament middleweight division game.
Coronado shut out Ramona’s Mt. Woodson Mountain Lions, 37-0.
SIGN OF THE TIMES
Sixteen-year-old Casey Moffet of Shelby, N.C., drove to the basket, missed a layup, and crashed through a wooden wall in a game against Waco, N.C.
Moffet penetrated the ½-inch plywood (?) barrier and fell 10 feet to the frozen clay surface outside the gym. He sustained, head, shoulder, and arm injuries.
Ivan Robinson scored the winning basket for the San Diego High alumni against the Hilltoppers’ varsity and played the next night for the Alumni against the San Diego Junior College Knights…Vista defeated San Dieguito, 40-30, to gain a tie for the SPL title and then won a playoff, 34-31 over San Dieguito to earn the league’s playoff berth…future Hall of Fame coach Jerry Tarkanian was a starting guard for the Pasadena Bullpups…after opening with a victorious Coast League weekend, San Diego stumbled against Point Loma, 30-14, and St. Augustine, 42-33…the Saints won the sixth annual Coronado C & D tournament, 21-9 over Hoover in the Cees and 18-17 over Coronado in the Dees…
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 made three all-Southern California teams, in football, basketball, and baseball (equaled only by Bonita’s Glenn Davis in 1942-43, and Pomona’s Marty Keough in 1951-52), and McColl 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 become a dynamic, modern game since Dr. John Naismith found use for a spheroid and a couple peach baskets in 1891.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 was leaving the Southern Section at the end of the school year but was going out with an unprecedented show of force.
Hoover was ranked No. 1 and Helix No. 2 in seeding for the 32-team major playoffs. Glendale, beaten by both Hoover and San Diego, was seeded fourth.
Hoover’s undefeated regular season and the high scoring Highlanders had earned the respect of Southern Section commissioner Ken Fagans, who’d won championships as coach of the dominant Compton Tarbabes in the early ‘fifties.
But the Cardinals and their neighbors in La Mesa eight miles to the East were beaten by the two teams that would play for the title, third-seeded Anaheim (search 1959-60: Cardinals Come Up Short at Finish Line) and unseeded Long Beach Poly.
Helix was beaten, 50-48, at Poly in the quarterfinals, bringing an end to a record-setting, 26-4 season and to the career of coach Bob Divine, who had announced in January that he was stepping down to go into administration.
Divine’s timing was curious, coming in the middle of the season (“This basketball can make an old man of you, the way I coach,” he explained). His team’s sometimes uneven play also was curious.
Helix set a County record by averaging 67.9 points a game, breaking the mark of 64.6 set by St. Augustine in 1957-58.
They trailed host San Diego at the half, 36-13, and won, 52-50.
They lost at Hoover, 61-36, the next evening.
–They switched gears after losing the pre-Kiwanis Tournament game to Hoover and poked along on offense so effectively that the score was 33-30 late in the fourth quarter before the Cardinals prevailed again, 39-30.
They topped Santa Barbara, 65-62, to win the 11th annual Fillmore Tournament in Ventura County after Christmas.
Jim (Bones) Bowers scored 25 points in the Fillmore final and was player of the tournament. Teammates Bob Mackey, Wally Hartwell, and Larry Cook joined Bowers on the all-tournament team.
They defeated middle-of-the-road (12-11) Chula Vista, 49-26, at home but had a 14-game winning streak snapped at Chula Vista, 55-46, depriving the Scots of what would have been a 16-0 run through the Metropolitan League.
Bowers, who led the area in scoring with a 22.9 average and 670 points in 30 games, set a school record with 44 points in a 98-54 win over first-year El Capitan.
Helix had other games of 99 and 94 points and set a County record when it shot 64 per cent from the field in a 114-65 romp over the Vaqueros as Bowers (34) and Clayton Raaka (24) set the pace.
Helix defeated 13-8 Lincoln, 59-46, in the postseason first round and 16-11 Ontario Chaffey, 67-49, in the second round, played at Mount Miguel High. The crowd outside the gymnasium was almost as large as the standing-room gathering of 1,200 inside.
Helix took an 18-13 lead over Poly in the quarterfinals, but the resourceful Jackrabbits, a notoriously poor shooting team but quick and tough on defense, pulled ahead, 23-21, at the half.
After taking a 29-28 lead in the third quarter, the Highlanders “lost control of the boards and were shabby with their ball handling”, according to the Union correspondent at the game.
Bowers, who had scored 10 points in the first quarter, finished with 19. Poly defenders double-teamed Bowers and Raaka, who scored nine points, well below his average, and ignored the other three Helix starters.
The strategy worked.
Helix trailed, 49-48, with 30 seconds remaining, but the Jackrabbits’ Tom Sisk made one of two free throws to close out the win.
After losing to Glendale Hoover, 51-40, on Friday San Diego recovered to defeat Glendale and CIF player-of-the-year Tom Dose the next night, 57-49.
Willie Bolton, Ernest (Moe) Watson, and Lou Scott, who had played in the Cavers’ 53-0, football championship victory against Monrovia the night before, made the trip north the next day and saw action that evening.
San Diego’s 11-10 record was its poorest since a 6-8 record in 1934-35, but the Cavers not only trimmed high playoff seed Glendale on the road but were ahead of CIF champion Long Beach Poly before losing in the final seconds, 40-39.
San Diego overcame favored Lincoln with a 14-4 spurt in three minutes of the fourth quarter and defeated the Hornets, 64-59, in what Jerry Magee of The San Diego Union described as a “pell-mell” game in front of a shrieking crowd on the Hornets’ floor.
Alfred Willis, the younger brother of Cavers guard Albert Willis came out of the stands and launched a punch at Lincoln’s Al Catlin, who had been aggressively guarding the older Willis.
Lincoln coach Warren Barritt rushed off the bench and literally back-pedaled Catlin to the end of the gym as referees Doug Harvey and Nolan Harvey sought to maintain order.
San Diego’s victory was achieved despite coach Dick Otterstad’s suspending leading scorer Ben Pargo, who was not at the game.
Football star H.D. Murphy and Watson each scored 17 points as the normally offensively erratic Cavers controlled the backboards and shot 44 per cent on 26×58 shooting. Lincoln was 23×44 for 52 per cent.
POINTERS TAKE ADVANTAGE
Western League teams were slotted into small schools playoff participation in all sports except football. Eastern League teams would compete with large schools for all postseason sports.
The positioning was result of the City Prep League’s dividing into two circuits after the 1958-59 school year.
Point Loma, with a 5-8 record at one point in the season and 12-10 after clinching the Western League championship, was the postseason beneficiary.
The Pointers rolled to five consecutive victories to claim the Class AA crown, along the way defeating Beaumont, 32-24, Yucaipa, 55-23, Rosemead Bosco Tech, 54-37, Lompoc, 54-40, and, finally, San Marino, 52-36.
As Jerry Magee wrote, paraphrasing Britain’s World War II leader Winston Churchill, “Winston (Winnie) Yetta enjoyed his finest hour, scoring 22 points…”
Point Loma players hoisted Yetta and coach Hilbert Crosthwaite and paraded them around the floor at the Los Angeles State venue.
Yetta’s 10 field goals were reflective of the Pointers’ effectiveness. They converted 21 of 44 attempts for 48 per cent.
After two disappointing losses for San Diego teams in the semifinals, Crosthwaite admitted to feeling some pressure.
“We had everything to lose,” said the coach. “We couldn’t have walked out of here if we hadn’t won.”
Helix’ Clayton Raaka was able to shed a cast on his broken left hand and burst out in a 68-38 win over Escondido. Raaka scored 15 points in the second quarter, had 20 at the half, and finished with 28.
Lincoln’s Al Catlin was discovered to have played the entire season with a broken wrist on his right, shooting hand that he sustained during the football season. Catlin then was ruled out of the Hornets’ 59-46 playoff loss to Helix.
Hilltop, a first-year school, emerged to post a 20-9 record and win the post-Christmas Chino Tournament and Metropolitan League title.
DREADED ADMINISTRATIVE GLITCH
San Dieguito, aided by some legislation, clinched the Avocado League championship with a 63-43 win over Carlsbad as John Fairchild, a 6-foot-7 sharpshooter up from the junior varsity, scored 15 points.
The Mustangs’ earlier, 64-54 loss to Oceanside had become a forfeit win after discovery of an ineligible Oceanside player and gave the Mustangs a one-game lead over Mar Vista.
MORE SMALL SCHOOLS PLAYOFFS
San Dieguito led until the final 56 seconds before bowing at Bing Crosby Hall in Del Mar to Orange, 46-45, in Class AA.
Orange was outscored, 24-18, in the fourth quarter but held on to defeat Kearny, 64-63, in a second-round game at Santa Ana.
Army-Navy’s Matt Burnett stole an inbound pass and scored with two seconds remaining to defeat Tustin, 42-40 in Class A. The Warriors then were eliminated, 60-38, by San Bernardino Aquinas.
Ramona was sidelined in Placentia by host Valencia, 62-39, the loss punctuated by a scoreless third quarter.
The Kiwanis Tournament individual scoring record was broken twice on the first night…Carlsbad’s Bob Wueste scored 40 in a 61-53 win over La Jolla…St. Augustine’s Jacob Crawford knocked down 42 points an hour later in an 83-40 win over Sweetwater…finals in the Unlimited and Limited divisions were held at one venue for the first time …Hoover was host and topped Crawford, 54-34, for the Unlimited and Mar Vista edged Oceanside, 51-49, for the Limited…for the first time there were no visiting northern teams in the tournament, only El Centro Central from the Imperial Valley… Helix’ 114-point game bettered the record set by St. Augustine in a 105-34 win over La Jolla in 1957-58…St. Augustine’s Jacob Crawford missed the team bus to Hoover, arrived late, and scored three points in the first half…the Saints, trailing, 35-12, at halftime made a game of it, outscoring Hoover in the second half, 39-38, and Crawford finished with 25 points in the 73-51 loss…Julian, scoreless until one minute remaining in the half, bowed to San Miguel School, 38-22…Fallbrook scored the first 22 points in a 51-18 win over University…Chula Vista received two technical fouls for not advancing the ball in the offensive court in its 49-26 loss to Helix…the Spartans trailed, 5-0, after one quarter and 16-1 at the half…the Spartans went into a freeze in their next game against Hilltop and got into a 15-2 hole…Hilltop won, 58-48…Mission Bay won a double-overtime, 57-55 game against La Jolla when a Vikings player was cited for goal-tending in the second, sudden-death period…Chula Vista moved out of the city’s Recreation Center into its own gym in midseason…Hilltop had a gymnasium when it opened its doors in September…Kearny coach Jim Poole, a 1950 Point Loma grad, was a national badminton champion and worked 20 years as an NFL game official…The Crawford-San Diego, Eastern League contest served as the preliminary to the San Diego Junior College-East Los Angeles Metropolitan Conference contest…the game at San Diego High featured ex-Cavers Arthur (Hambone) Williams and Edward Lee Johnson for the Knights….
Seldom was a defeat as disappointing as that which knocked out Hoover in the semifinals of San Diego’s swansong in the CIF Southern Section playoffs.
The Cardinals sustained a numbing, 39-34 loss to Anaheim in the semifinals round in a season when they were unbeaten for 26* straight games.
Coach Charlie Hampton had returned several key players from the 20-7 club of 1958-59, including twin towers 6-foot, 7 ½ inch Walt Ramsey and 6-5 Bill Wylie.
Ramsey and Wylie were joined again by John Bocko a sharpshooting 6-foot forward, and 6-foot, 1-inch Johnny (Bo) Williams, the glue in Hoover’s backcourt.
Baseball ace Dave Morehead moved up from the junior varsity and became the only underclass starter.
The Cardinals’ almost perfect season:
1—HOOVER 46, ALUMNI 42.
Unlike usually pliant, slightly out-of-shape graduates, the former Cardinals were competitive, losing, 46-42. Ramsey led the varsity with 19 points.
Norris Greenwood, who set a school single-season scoring record of 446 points in 1957-58 and had moved on to Cal Western University, played for the alums along with former first stringers Tommy Dobyns, Art Samuel, Wayne Britt, Harry Stadnyk, and Bill Lee.
2—HOOVER 48, GROSSMONT 32.
The Foothillers couldn’t find the basket and trailed, 25-5. at halftime. Ramsey scored 25 points.
3—HOOVER 61, HELIX 36, @San Diego.
Surprising, actually shocking, was this win over a team considered by some to be the best in the area. Helix had all of its weapons intact, including high scoring Jim (Bones) Bowers and Clayton Raaka. Ramsey (20), Bocko (11), Norm Potter (10) led the way.
4—HOOVER 57, @GLENDALE 49.
The Cardinals and San Diego High made December trips north for several years. The favored Glendale Dynamiters featured 6-5 Tom Dose, destined to be Southern Section player of the year, but Wylie (20), Ramsey (17), and Bocko (14) kept the hosts and Dose (15) at a distance.
5—HOOVER 64, @GLENDALE HOOVER 51.
The Cardinals pulled away the next night after leading 39-33 at halftime. Bocko scored 23 and Williams 19.
6—HOOVER 72, MOUNT MIGUEL 15.
Hampton emptied his bench as 12 players scored and 14 saw action in the opening round of the 12th annual event.
7—HOOVER 62, KEARNY 38.
The Komets’ Jim Johnson led all scorers with 19 points but that was offset by Ramsey’s 17, Bocko’s 15, and 11 by Morehead.
8—HOOVER 39, HELIX 30.
The Highlanders switched gears and played a slow-down game, this after Helix set an Unlimited Division record with 99 points the day before.
9—HOOVER 54, CRAWFORD 34.
Crawford, in its first year under coach Jim Sams, who would go on to compile one of the San Diego section’s all-time coaching records, took an 8-1 record into the contest.
The Cardinals’ stiff, man-to-man defense kept the Colts scoreless from the field for more than 10 minutes beginning with the start of the third quarter.
In winning its first Kiwanis Tournament since the inaugural event in 1948, the Cardinals’ average victories were by a score of 54-29.
10—HOOVER 49, @POINT LOMA 34.
The Cardinals stepped into the Western League for their last pre-Eastern League competition.
As it had been most of the season the refrain of Bocko and Ramsey, Ramsey and Bocko was heard as John scored 20 and Walt 13.
11—HOOVER 47, LINCOLN 45.
The Cardinals opened the Eastern campaign against the 4-3 Hornets, a talented team that hadn’t lived to its so-called potential under first-year coach Warren Barritt.
In a gritty struggle, Hoover finally put Lincoln away on Williams’ 30-foot jump shot with 3 seconds left.
Williams scored 24 points as Hoover survived. Bill Wylie was out with a leg infection. Hampton was “barely audible” from effects of the flu, and Ramsey, battling the flu, played only one quarter and scored one point.
Norm Potter, 6-2, and Dave Sickels, 6-5, replaced Ramsey and Wylie. Lincoln’s Joe Cisterna sustained a possible shoulder separation and was hospitalized.
The Cardinals made only 18 of 50 shots from the field for 36 per cent. Lincoln, behind T.W. (Tommy) Bell’s 24 points, shot 43 per cent, 19×43.
12—HOOVER 66, @CRAWFORD 36.
The recovered Wylie led with 15 points and 10 other Cardinals scored.
*(Did Hoover finish the regular season with 24 consecutive wins, as has always been accepted, or was their total actually 23?
(The number appears to be 23.
(Published reports were that the 11-0 Cardinals were scheduled to play only Crawford in the second week of league play. There was no record of a second game that week or a 13th win.
(The San Diego Union’s weekly, Monday morning rundown of standings, however, listed the Cardinals with a 13-0 record, although the Union’s weekly individual and team statistics were for 12 games).
13—HOOVER 63, SAN DIEGO 44.
Biggest crowd of year, probably 1,600 including standees, at Hoover. Hampton’s team collected its first victory over San Diego since 1956-57. Williams and Bocko scored 18 points each.
14—HOOVER 47, @MISSION BAY 36.
The newspaper reported this as the Cardinals’ 15th win in a row. The Union would be one game ahead of Hoover for the rest of the season.
15—HOOVER 59, POINT LOMA 44.
Wylie was picking up steam, connecting on 12 of 17 shots for 25 points and the Cardinals converted 23 of 43 shots for 53 per cent. Walt Ramsey scored one point and fouled out with 5:25 left in the game.
16—HOOVER 85, @ST. AUGUSTINE 52.
Ten players scored, with Wylie (26), Bocko (17), and Ramsey (13) leading the parade.
17—HOOVER 57, @CLAIREMONT 50.
The Cardinals apparently were not excited at the prospect of playing a first-year school with a 6-9 record, in its first game in a new gymnasium, and in the afternoon.
The seemingly disinterested East San Diegans were guided by John Bocko’s 20 points. Ramsey added 17 and Wylie 15.
18—HOOVER 66, @LINCOLN 52.
The Redbirds began the second round of league play with a convincing win at usually troublesome Lincoln. The Cardinals had beaten the Hornets five times by three points or less in the last three seasons.
Hoover converted only 37 per cent of field-goal attempts to Lincoln’s 40 but it commanded the backboards with 61 shots to 52 and with a 30-20 advantage in rebounds.
“Our all-around best effort,” said Hampton, who cautioned that if Hoover (6-0 in the Eastern) fell to San Diego in a couple weeks, “The race could end in a tie.”
19—HOOVER 60, CRAWFORD 36.
They were scoreless for the first four minutes and then solved Crawford’s zone defense, with all five starters scoring at least 10 points.
20—HOOVER 66, EL CENTRO CENTRAL 32.
Hampton picked up a late-season, nonleague game with the visitors from Imperial Valley. All 12 players on each team saw action.
21—HOOVER 59, @SAN DIEGO 43.
The floundering Cavemen were never really in it, trailing 52-28 after three quarters. Hoover’s Big Three scored 48 of the 59 points.
22—HOOVER 74, MISSION BAY 33.
Kenny Hale, whom Charlie Hampton had replaced at Hoover in 1952-53, had retired after beginning the Mission Bay program, and the Buccaneers, contenders in the previous three seasons, were not competitive.
Bucs coach Paul Beck inherited a team minus such recent standouts as Doug Crockett, Frank Schiefer, Tom Tenney, Jerry Dinsmore, and Bill Cravens.
23—HOOVER 73, ST. AUGUSTINE 51.
“Unbeaten, untied, unawed,” wrote Jerry Magee of The San Diego Union of the Cardinals, who concluded an 8-0 league season and 23-0 regular season.
Hoover led, 35-12, at the half after stunning the Saints with a 21-4 second quarter.
SOUTHERN SECTION PLAYOFFS
24—HOOVER 76, HILLTOP 58. The first-year Lancers, coached by the taciturn Paul Pruett, who had success at San Dieguito, posted a 20-win season and won the Chino tournament.
The Chula Vistans were game but not ready for prime time.
Hilltop still was in the contest when it trailed, 61-50, midway in the fourth quarter, but the Cardinals eased to the win behind Ramsey’s 25 points, and 18 each by Bocko and Williams.
Writer John MacDonald identified the Hoover back court as “Don” Williams and “John” Morehead.
25—HOOVER 60, COVINA 50,@Walnut.
Writer Magee said the Covina Colts resisted like a young bronc at neutral Mt. San Antonio Junior College in nearby Walnut.
Shorter Covina (23-7), with no starter taller than 6 feet, 3 inches, were coached by the legendary Windorf (Doc) Sooter, who won 647 games from 1947-72.
The Colts took an early, 11-5 lead and battled the Cardinals throughout, but Ramsey hitting jumpers and scoring under the hoop, logged 22 points and kept the Colts reined in.
Hoover, knocking down 50 per cent of its shots in the late regular season, may have felt playoff pressure in the unfamiliar environment, converting only 19 of 53 shots for 36 per cent to Covina’s 18×54 and 30 per cent.
Covina set screens for jump shooter Jerry Barron. Wylie sat with 4 personals with 6:13 left in third.
The story was similar to a 68-57, 1956 playoff loss to Montebello, when the Cardinals got into foul trouble trying to check jump shooting Jerry Pimm.
Hampton had to shift to a zone defense early in the third period. It was the first time this season Hoover had to abandon its favorite, man-for-man barricade.
Sooter wouldn’t say Hoover was toughest team he faced, “but they were toughest on the backboards. They were too big for us.”
Hampton declared the contest was his team’s poorest effort of the season. “Mainly because this was the best defensive team we had played.
“Our boys may have been scared,” added the surprisingly candid Hampton. “I told them how tough Covina was so often I may have scared them.”
26—HOOVER 41, MONROVIA 33.
Monrovia, routed 53-0 by San Diego in the football finals, brought a 20-4 record and a loss to Covina to Hoover.
Hoover led, 12-4, at the end of the first quarter and scored only 11 points in the second and third.
Monrovia played at agonizingly slow pace and the Wildcats’ 6-7 Les Christensen scored 15 points, controlled most of the tips, and held Walt Ramsey to 6 points.
Ramsey ran into foul trouble again, acquiring his fourth with 2:13 left in the half. With the visitors pressing at 22-20 in the third quarter, Hampton called on Ramsey, went into a zone defense, and pulled away.
27—ANAHEIM 39, HOOVER 34, @Los Angeles State.
“A basketball team which has won 27 (sic) straight games can’t possibly be in a slump…” wrote Jerry Magee, but Hampton was worried.
“We certainly haven’t played as well in the playoffs as during the season, but I think it has been more of a mental thing than a physical thing,” the coach told Magee.
Hampton went on to say, “We weren’t up for Hilltop. In the next two games (Covina and Monrovia) we were a little tense, more nervous than we should have been.”
Hampton concluded with “we’ve had two of our better practices. The boys have acted a lot better the last two days.”
Sunset League champion Anaheim won its 29th game against one loss in a 38-36 quarterfinals game against Santa Barbara that was decided in the last two seconds. That win followed a double-overtime, 50-49 victory over Montebello and a 50-47 triumph against Long Beach Wilson.
The Colonists, as they did versus Santa Barbara, continued to travel slowly but in style.
Magee wrote that “Hoover manfully struggled back (from a 25-12 halftime deficit) even with its 6-7 center, Walt Ramsey, out early in the third period with five fouls.”
With Wylie and Bocko scoring, Hoover pulled into a tie at 34 with 5:08 remaining.
But Anaheim continued its strategic pattern. The Cardinals scrambled for possession and fouled.
The Colonists scored the last five points on free throws, winning, 39-34, and advancing to the finals and losing to Long Beach Poly, 46-39.
28–VENTURA 53, HOOVER 50, @Los Angeles State.
Beaten by Poly in the other semifinal, 65-56, Ventura trailed Hoover, 50-45, with 4:11 to go in the third place game the next evening.
The Cardinals went scoreless the rest of the way and dropped a 53-50 decision.
BE LIKE NBA?
Jerry Magee indicated that Hampton, in the coach’s playoff postmortem, seemed to suggest that a rule similar to NBA’s 24-second shot clock should be passed down to the high schools.
“There should be something that should make a team shoot,” said the coach. “I wanted to go into a zone against Anaheim to protect against fouling but if I had I think Anaheim would have been content to just stand there.”
“Every coach thinks this, but I still think we had the best team,” said Hampton.
Name Hoover’s starting five in 1959-60 and Johnny (Bo) Williams probably would be the fifth to come to mind.
But Williams, a 6-foot, 1-inch guard, was an effective offensive player (269 points in 27 games) and outstanding defender for arguably the finest San Diego-area team before Bill Walton and Helix arrived a decade later.
Williams, 75, passed away recently at his home in Modesto, California.
The ’59-60 Hoover Cardinals were 23-0, the first major area team with an undefeated regular season, and the No. 1 seed in the CIF Southern Section playoffs.
The Cardinals fell short, losing to Anaheim, 39-34, in a stunning upset in the semifinals round and to Ventura in the third-place game, 53-50.
The losses left Hoover with a final record of 26-2.
The Cardinals’ starting lineup also included 6-foot, 7-inch Walt Ramsey, 6-5 Bill Wylie, 6-0 John Bocko, and 6-1 Dave Morehead.
Morehead teamed with Williams in the backcourt, later signed a bonus baseball contract , and pitched a no-hitter for the Boston Red Sox in 1965.
Who would have thought a team that started the season with a 1-8 record and finished 10-10 would be celebrated?
Hats off to the Sweetwater Red Devils!
An eighth loss in nine games was where coach Wells Gorman’s team stood on January 6, 1957, after a 55-50, Metropolitan League opening-game loss at Helix.
But that score against Helix, the reigning and decidedly favored league champion, was a tell.
Sweetwater had found a different track, shedding the memory of an awful December. They began a run that extended deep into the CIF Southern Section Central Group playoffs.
Coach Wells Gorman, who coached the Class B squad at Coronado before moving across the bay to the National City school this season, directed the sudden and remarkable turnaround.
What followed the loss to Helix was a string of league victories as opponents floundered against the Red Devils’ tight zone defense and patient, pass-oriented offense.
Sweetwater startled favored Chula Vista, 46-31, for its first league win; punished El Cajon Valley, 48-23, suffocated Grossmont, 54-16, and got even with Helix, 51-47, in a game that ended with a near melee between players and fans on the Sweetwater court.
Roger Lively, a 6-foot, 3-inch center who affected an outer-space look with thick, prescription glasses, scored 26 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter, as Sweetwater got even with the Highlanders.
Lively was joined in the starting lineup by John Dial, Jack Lensing, Bob Beardsley, and Bob Jordan, a 5-11 sharpshooting guard and blossoming star.
At 4-1 in the circuit and 5-8 overall, the Red Devils stepped out of league play and were briefly interrupted, 45-43, by City League honcho Mission Bay.
The National Citians returned to the league fray with a 56-54 win over Chula Vista on Lively’s hook shot basket with 30 seconds left and followed with a 69-31 dismissal of El Cajon Valley.
Grossmont, closing out a 4-19 season, strategized.
The Foothillers decided to played keep away. They held the ball after the opening jump ball and didn’t attempt a shot for the first four minutes. Guards Mickey Bruce and Larry Dearing played catch along the half-court line.
Sweetwater trailed, 3-0, at the end of the first quarter but had finally nudged ahead, 19-16, in the fourth quarter. At that point, the ‘Devils went into their own stall and finished a 23-19 victory.
THE RUN CONTINUES
More surprises were in store.
Jordan made 10 of 14 field goal attempts and scored 22 points, the Red Devils rapped in 24 of 45 overall for 53 per cent, and shot the favored host San Diego (16-10) out of the playoffs, 57-47.
Next up were the Newport Beach Newport Harbor Tars at neutral Kearny High. Sweetwater won a tense battle, overcoming the visitors with a 15-10 fourth quarter in a 49-45 victory.
Sweetwater won at the free throw line, converting 23 of 27 attempts, with Lively making 10 of 12, and with Dial converting three to give the winners a 47-41 advantage with 2:03 left.
The Red Devils finally were eliminated, 49-41, by tall (one starter 6 feet 7, another 6-4) Los Angeles Mt. Carmel in a quarterfinals game at Point Loma.
The Crusaders (30-1), who reached the finals before losing to El Monte, 55-54, pulled away with a succession of free throws after leading 34-33, at the end of three quarters.
A weekend doubleheader in mid-December seemed to indicate a changing of the guard.
Helix defeated Hoover, 63-46, on Friday night and San Diego, 64-58, on Saturday.
The Highlanders’ parlay, against two City Prep League powers, was usually reserved for Los Angeles-area teams.
Hoover was 25-5 in 1955-56 and returned several players from the squad that finished third in the playoffs. San Diego’s eminence extended almost back to the days of peach baskets.
Helix, although occasionally successful against its urban neighbors, had never been so convincing.
With 6-6 Ronnie Mulder, 6-3 Gael Barsotti and vest-pocket guards John Drumm, Jerry Goins, and John Wible, the Highlanders appeared set to make a run.
Under fourth-year coach Bob Divine, the Scots had shown some muscle during a 15-8 season in 1955-56.
Although stunned in a major surprise earlier by Point Loma, 45-43, Helix had a 6-1 record going into the Kiwanis Tournament and was favored to win its second straight Metropolitan League title.
The Highlanders dismissed Point Loma, 52-40, in their opening Kiwanis game and withered defending champion Beverly Hills with 26 consecutive points in a 29-4 fourth quarter that resulted in a 61-37 victory, punctuated by Barsotti’s 25 points.
Hoover, taking charge with success on 58 per cent of 24 shots in the last two quarters, broke from a 23-23 halftime deadlock to oust Helix, 57-45 in the Kiwanis semifinals.
The Highlanders gained a share of the Metropolitan League championship with Sweetwater and met Hoover again in the playoffs after a 55-50 victory over Long Beach St. Anthony.
The Cardinals were superior again, topping their La Mesa rivals, 51-44, and closing out the Highlanders, who completed a 22-6 season, best in school history, but were an early playoff casualty for the second consecutive season.
Hoover (22-4) was knocked out in the next round by 24-4 El Monte, 57-54.
Jerry Magee of The San Diego Union described El Monte’s 7-foot Bill Engesser as a player “who seemed to move with great gnashing and clanking of gears.”
Engesser did not have to move much. He took high lobs from his shorter teammates and dropped in 25 points, off-setting 19 in the second half by Hoover’s Wayne Adams, the City Prep League’s player of the year.
The 10th annual event featured 32 teams, 8 playing floors, 28 assigned game officials, and 46 total games. All City, Avocado, and Metropolitan league squads were joined by three teams from the Southern Prep League, and St. Augustine.
At the same time, host Sweetwater’s annual Class B tournament began, with teams from Chula Vista, El Cajon Valley, Grossmont, Helix, Coronado. Mar Vista, and St. Augustine.
ALL-SAN DIEGO FINAL
When four area teams, Hoover, Lincoln, Mission Bay, and Helix, reached the Kiwanis Unlimited Division round of four an all-San Diego final was assured for the first time since 1953, when San Diego defeated Hoover, 54-44.
Hoover was in the finals again but lost for the fourth time.
Upstart Mission Bay, bolstered by the transfer from La Jolla of starters Jim Anderson and Doug Crockett, and the arrival of 6-7 ½ Dave Hinds from Leadville, Colorado, nipped the Cardinals, 43-42.
Crockett dribbled half the court after a stolen Hoover pass by Jerry Dinsmore to score the winning basket on a layup with 2 seconds remaining.
The Buccaneers also got past Hoover, 42-40, with a basket in the final eight seconds in the league opener and were 18-7 in their third varsity season but finished third in the CPL with a 7-5 record, including a late-season 50-39 loss to the Cardinals.
The sentries apparently didn’t get the memo.
The old guard maintained, as Hoover and San Diego, with a predominantly underclass starting five led by Artist Gilbert and Edward Lee Johnson, finished 1-2.
Tom Shaules, a 5-foot, 8-inch, 123-pound junior guard, burst on the scene, scoring 22 points in his first game, a 44-37 win over Lincoln, and followed with 36 a week later in a 53-45 triumph over Escondido.
Shaules accelerated the trend to more offense by setting a one-season County record of 587 points. He averaged 25.5 points and improved on the unofficial record of 474, set by the Saints’ John Cunningham in 1954-55.
Shaules averaged 33.5 with 201 points in his final six games. His 49 points in a 87-55 win over Brown Military broke the County record of 47, set by Fallbrook’s Paul Lockridge in 1951 during a 90-31 romp over Brown.
Shaules did not load up on the poor. He also had six other games over 30, including 36 in an 86-72 defeat of Helix that reversed an earlier, 82-58 loss to the Scots.
Still campaigning as an independent, the Saints posted a 13-10 record against varied competition, a decided improvement over the 7-17 of the post-Cunningham squad in 1955-56.
St. Augustine would gain entry to the City Prep League in 1957-58 and Shaules would set additional records with his unorthodox delivery, a jump shot that featured a backward spin on the ball.
Sherman Burroughs High of Ridgecrest, adjacent the China Lake Naval Air Station, made the 224-mile trip to San Diego and the Kiwanis Tournament a rousing success.
The Burros defeated Mar Vista, 47-29, for the Limited Division championship and interrupted an Avocado League dominance of four championships in the previous five years.
Lincoln guard Bob Byrd, who missed two free throws with six seconds to play in regulation time, sent San Diego to the sideline in the Kiwanis quarterfinals when he drained a 15-foot jump shot with five seconds remaining in overtime for a 51-50 victory.
AFTER THE HOLIDAY
Chula Vista (12-12) reached finals of the post-Christmas Chino tournament before bowing to Azusa Citrus and high scoring Billy Kilmer, 54-48. Kilmer scored 17 points after 43 in an opening-round, 78-35 win over Grossmont, and 28 and 22 in the next two games.
Corona, after eliminating Mar Vista (14-15) in the semifinals, defeated Escondido (12-13), 59-44, for the consolation championship.
Helix lost to 12-0 Oxnard, 66-64, after defeating Ventura, 70-60, in the Fillmore Tournament. The Highlanders finished third in the eight-team event, overcoming a 16-point, third quarter deficit to top Burbank Burroughs, 70-69.
Mission Bay’s zone defense never was more effective than against Lincoln (12-12). The Hornets made one of their first 32 field goal attempts and shot 15 per cent overall, 10 for 63, in a 38-24 loss to the Buccaneers.
SIGNS OF THE TIME
Fifteen players got into the game and 14 scored as Helix set a Metropolitan League scoring record in a 97-50 win over El Cajon Valley.
Oceanside emerged with an Avocado League record after an 83-48 victory over San Dieguito.
St. Augustine was a 66-32 winner at Brown Military although Tom Shaules was held to a season low 11 points.
Julian, Ramona, and Army-Navy tied for first in the Southern Prep League but Army-Navy was odd man out in coin flips to determine which teams went to the playoffs. Julian and Ramona advanced.
Oceanside (14-7) was one and done in the Southern Group playoffs after a quarterfinals, 71-57 loss to San Jacinto, which had beaten Ramona, 49-36, in the first round. Tustin eliminated Julian, 62-45.
Rancho del Campo finished with three players on the court after 4 of the seven-man roster fouled out in a 55-32 loss to Brown Military.
There were 17 lead changes, four in the game’s final minute, before Hoover’s Wayne Adams, laboring with 4 fouls since midway of the second quarter, converted two free throws in the last five seconds to give Hoover a 51-50 win over Lincoln.
Julian’s Quinten Fernald led all Kiwanis scorers with 88 points in four games, the final a 45-35 loss to Hemet in the Limited Division consolation windup…also starting for Julian was Quint’s brother, Denny…Helix coach Bob Divine missed several games in December after contacting pneumonia…assistant coach Dave LeFever directed the early victory over Hoover…Hoover made 17 successive free throws and defeated Glendale, 47-36, and host San Diego nipped Glendale Hoover, 43-42, in a December twinbill at San Diego…switching sites, host Hoover beat Glendale Hoover, 54-25, and Glendale topped San Diego, 52-46…Lincoln was a loser, 46-33 and 53-31, in Long Beach against Wilson and Millikan…first-year Escondido coach Gene Taylor was 107-23 in the previous five years at Clifton, Arizona, 12-13 in his only season here…Chick Embrey replaced Walter West as head coach of Escondido football after West moved to Oceanside as basketball coach…Kiwanis director Darrell (Snuffy) Smith reported that at least 60 per cent of the 400 participating players were 6 feet or taller…Mission Bay coaches Kenny Hale and Chuck Coover produced a Buccaneers “press brochure”….
Coronado paid off an old debt.
Hoover’s playoff advance was halted at the foul line.
Merrill Douglas ended a great run at San Diego High.
Lincoln showed that patience pays off.
–John Kovac was a football coach who happened to come along at the right basketball time at Coronado.
The dour Kovac without prompting often recalled that he coached future professional stars Lenny Moore and Roosevelt Grier when Kovac guided the Penn State freshman team.
Relocating to San Diego’s trans-bay community in the early ‘fifties, Kovac still saw football in his future but found himself directing the Islanders’ basketball program, with stunning success.
Kovac’s teams posted a three-season, 63-13 record with players who weren’t very tall but had roadrunner speed and hounded opponents with swarming defense.
Despite starters Charlie Love, Willie Dickey, and Roger Nix returning from the 21-4 squad in ’54-55, Kovac’s preseason appraisal was loaded with typical coach speak:
“We will be very short and not nearly as fast or sharp as last year. We hope we’re not in for a long year.”
Coronado raced through the Metropolitan League schedule, finishing 12-0 and winning by an average score of 65-40. They were 27-1 overall, losing only to Hoover, 49-45, in an early December game.
Love, Dickey, Nix, Jon Crawford, Steve Solier, and Dennis (Swede) Grimaud, none taller than Nix’s 6-feet, 1 inch, were the principals as the Islanders won their last 25 and the CIF Southern Section Southern Group (small schools) championship.
As one of the top seeds, the Islanders had a first-round bye in the playoffs, and then blew out Tustin, 75-55, with a 28-13 fourth quarter on the neutral Sweetwater floor.
They sweated out a 55-50, semifinals victory over San Jacinto, after having built a 34-19 halftime lead at neutral Hemet High and then seeing top scorer Roger Nix foul out midway through the second half.
(“Neutral” courts, as mandated by the CIF, meant that host teams usually played at venues close to home. Hemet was less than three-and-a-half miles from the Tigers’ facility.)
Nix and his teammates then surprised and silenced most of the 2,300 persons in attendance at Azusa College with a 60-54, championship game victory over Citrus and high scoring Billy Kilmer.
Winning on the road was the sweetener. Citrus had beaten Coronado, 63-58, in the finals the year before as the visiting team at Point Loma High.
Kovac left Coronado and moved to Hoover as an assistant football coach in 1956.
Two years later the transplanted Pennsylvanian joined the staff at San Diego Junior College and became the Knights’ head coach in 1961. Kovac started the new Mesa College program and posted a 30-14-2 record from 1964-68.
–Hoover won the postseason Beverly Hills Tournament title in 1944-45 when there were no CIF playoffs because of World War II. The East San Diego squad had not gotten this far before or since.
Three days prior to their win over Coronado, the Cardinals came from behind in the fourth quarter for a 41-39 win at Long Beach Poly, giving them victories over two of the three eventual Southern Section champions in less than a week.
Poly won the Central Group (large) playoff championship, defeating Montebello, 74-63, after the Oilers had beaten Hoover, 69-57, in the semifinals.
Hoover was 11-1 in the City Prep League and opened the postseason with a 63-52 win at Point Loma over Newport Beach Newport Harbor, which had knocked out Helix, 66-60, in the first round.
Next was a quarterfinals test at Manhattan Beach Mira Costa against nearby Redondo Beach Redondo.
Hoover led, 54-47, with 2:45 remaining. Redondo went into a press. Rex Hughes scored with 46 seconds left to forge a tie at 54.
The Seahawks stole a pass as Hoover attempted to get the ball down court after Hughes’ basket. Traveling was called on Redondo. Hoover inbounded again and Bill Landry saved the San Diegans with a 25-foot set shot with 15 seconds remaining for a 56-54 win.
The Cardinals were eliminated in the semifinals before an overflow crowd at Long Beach City College by Montebello and jump-shooting Jerry Pimm, whose lovely floaters and 28 points kept the Cardinals at a distance and in foul trouble.
Pimm found the range firing behind screens as Hoover’s man-to-man defenders, trying to keep up with Pimm, constantly bumped into one of Pimm’s teammates, usually center Bill Doner.
The Cardinals outscored the Oilers, 46-40, from the field, but the winners, had an 18-point advantage at the free throw line, converting 29 of 39 attempts, 10 by Pimm, and 13 by Doner. Hoover was 11 of 23.
Larry Elliot, Hoover’s all-City forward and second-team all-Southern California selection, scored 22 points, 14 in the second half, but Elliot fouled out, as did guards Bill Landry and Walt Baranski.
Landry actually held Pimm scoreless for the game’s first seven minutes, but acquired four personals during that time.
Hoover defeated Glendale Hoover, 57-53, the following evening for third place and a final, 25-5 record.
–Lincoln, 2-18 and 6-16 with virtually the same squad in its first two seasons, reaped the fruits of their sometimes painful development, which originated with games on the Hornets’ outdoor, asphalt court and in Municipal Gym.
Coach Don Smith’s club, with City League player of the year and three-year starter Bob Mendoza leading the way, were 10-2 in the league and 20-4 overall.
A 62-46 loss to Hoover in the first round of play was erased with a 56-43 victory before a packed house in Lincoln’s new gymnasium in the second round of CPL play.
The Hornets’ foray into the playoffs started with a 62-54 win over Grossmont.
The postseason ended quickly and with finality in a 71-52 loss to Long Beach Poly, led by the Southern California player of the year, 6-foot, 7-inch Jim Hannah.
Two busloads of Lincoln students arrived at Long Beach Jordan at halftime of the second-round contest. Poly led, 36-23.
The seemingly awestruck Hornets were outnumbered everywhere. Poly had more cheerleaders than Lincoln had players and the Jackrabbits’ bench was a long, green and gold line.
“We were like a bunch of elementary school kids (in that environment),” said Hornets guard Brad Griffith.
–Merrill Douglas, who succeeded Bill Schutte as head coach in 1940, stepped down at San Diego High and moved across Russ Boulevard to San Diego Junior College.
Douglas, who missed three seasons serving in the military in World War II guided teams that averaged 19 wins and posted a 223-86 (.722) record in 12 seasons.
The San Diego JC Knights won the Metropolitan Conference championship in Douglas’ first season. He also served as the school’s athletics director and took the same position when Mesa College opened in 1964.
Olympians teams and high schools eventually would play football and compete in track and field and soccer in the Merrill Douglas Stadium on campus.
–Lincoln, 2-18 and 6-16 with virtually the same squad in its first two seasons, reaped the fruits of its sometimes painful development, which originated in 1953 when the school had no senior class and games sometimes were played on the Hornets’ outdoor court and in Municipal Gym.
Coach Don Smith’s club, with City League player of the year and three-year starter Bob Mendoza leading the way, were 10-2 in the league and 20-4 overall.
A 62-46 loss to Hoover in the first round of play was erased with a 56-43 victory before a packed house in Lincoln’s new gymnasium in the second round of CPL play.
The Hornets’ foray into the playoffs started with a 62-54 win over Grossmont.
The postseason ended quickly and with finality in a 71-52 loss to Long Beach Poly, led by the Southern California player of the year, 6-foot, 7-inch Jim Hannah.
Two busloads of Lincoln students arrived at Long Beach Jordan at halftime of the second-round contest. Poly led, 36-23.
The seemingly awestruck Hornets were outnumbered everywhere. Poly had more cheerleaders than Lincoln had players and the Jackrabbits’ bench was a long, green and gold line.
“We looked like a bunch of elementary school kids (in that environment),” said Hornets guard Brad Griffith.
No, not Davey Crockett, but La Jolla had a couple sharpshooters by the same name. Clyde Crockett led City Prep League scores with 209 points in 12 games, a 17.4 average. Crockett’s younger brother, Doug, had 94 points and a 7.8 average.
Mission Bay’s Leroy Brandt (15.2) was runner-up to Clyde in league scoring, followed by Jim Gilchrist (14.0) of San Diego, Lincoln’s Bob Mendoza (13.6), Willie West (13.2) of San Diego, Bill Landry (11.7) and Larry Elliot (11.3) of Hoover, and Brad Griffith (10.8) of Lincoln.
Helix’ Gael Barsotti led Metropolitan League scorers with an 18.4 average in eight games. Chula Vista’s Bill Collins (15.8), Helix’ Ronnie Mulder (15.4), and Grossnont’s Lowell Raper (12.5) followed.
Prep writers of the day did not list scoring beyond league play and Avocado and Southern League scorers, such as Coronado’s Roger Nix and others, were not listed at all.
Beverly Hills defeated Hoover, 45-42, for its second consecutive Kiwanis Tournament Unlimited Division title.
San Diego, waiting on several players still playing football, surprised Inglewood Morningside, 51-46, in the first round. Months later Morningside scored a 64-62 win over Beverly Hills for the CIF Northern Group (small) playoff title.
Mar Vista’s Larry Boyd, who earned all-Southern California second-team honors in 1954-55, scored 99 points in four games to break the tournament scoring record of 96 set the year before by Morningside’s John Arrillaga.
Boyd scored 25, but the Mariners couldn’t overcome the 19 each by Jon Crawford and Willie Dickey, who led Coronado to a 53-49 triumph in the Limited final.
ABOVE THE TREE LINE
Helix reportedly had 14 players on varsity and JV, standing at least 6-3. The varsity measured 6-6 Bill Turpin, 6-5 Ronnie Mulder, and 6-5 Mel Robinson.
Tallest Metro Leaguer was Grossmont’s Lee Carick, a 6-9 reserve center.
Andy Dunn, a reserve forward at Point Loma, and Lincoln backup center Bill Beatty stood highest in the City League, each at 6-5.
Grossmont won a coin flip with Helix to determine playoff pairings after the teams tied for the Metropolitan League title…Lincoln topped the Foothillers at Hoover behind 20 points by Bob Mendoza and 14 by Brad Griffith…Helix led Newport Harbor, 17-12, after one quarter at Garden Grove High, but Ronnie Mulder was sidelined for long periods with 4 fouls…Lincoln’s first victory over San Diego in football or basketball was a 55-53 thriller in which the Hornets overcame a six-point San Diego lead in the fourth quarter…Mendoza’s two free throws, after a layup by Griffith, put Lincoln in front, 54-51, in the final minute…San Diego coach Merrill Douglas surprised Lincoln in the league opener with a zone defense that stymied the Hornets, 35-30…late-arriving football stars Willie West (guard) and Deron Johnson (center) were starters for the Cavemen…Escondido made 29 of 44 free throw attempts in a 65-59 win over Vista…the Cougars and Panthers committed 46 fouls in the 32-minute game …Coronado set an Avocado League points record in an 81-55 victory over Escondido…Helix posted the highest total in the Metropolitan League in a 79-50 conquest of Sweetwater…Coronado’s starters played all but two minutes in a 71-32 rout of Escondido…La Jolla’s George Graham set a City League Class B record with 33 points in a 68-46 win over Kearny…San Diego’s sophomore team, paced by Edward Lee Johnson’s 17.2 average, was 20-0…Vista played in the post-Christmas Banning tournament and Helix was in the Fillmore event…Chula Vista topped Bell Gardens, 50-46, for the consolation title at Chino…