The twists and turns of the season weren’t so much about the drama of last-minute shots and frenetic finishes but of quirky schedules, odd venues, and some World War II-like travel.
Coronado and Chula Vista met in the Metropolitan League’s most important game…at Point Loma!
It was Chula Vista’s home game, but the Spartans did not have a gymnasium.
There were no high school gyms in the South Bay area. The same could be said for the city.
Most venues had basketball courts, but you could count those with adequate seating on one hand, San Diego High, Point Loma, Grossmont, and Hoover.
WHERE AM I?
Chula Vista’s “home” court could have been Hoover. That’s where the Spartans played Escondido, Oceanside, and Sweetwater in league clashes…but it met San Dieguito in the Southern Section playoffs at San Diego.
Chula Vista and Sweetwater played another league game…at San Diego State.
Point Loma lost a “road” game to Chula Vista, in the Pointers’ gym
“Home” was either 10 (Hoover), 8 (San Diego), or 14 (Point Loma) miles from the Spartans’ campus in west Chula Vista.
Playing at Hoover was, for the Northern schools, almost a throwback to a decade before when there was wartime gasoline rationing to keep automobiles off the road and to conserve rubber.
By traveling to the Cardinals’ East San Diego campus, Escondido shaved 22 miles off what would have been 74 miles both ways to Chula Vista.
Oceanside would have had to travel 92 miles roundtrip but instead hiked 72.
Sweetwater played Mar Vista and Mar Vista played Oceanside, both games in Balboa Park’s Municipal Gym.
Mar Vista’s game in Oceanside would have been 100 miles up and back. The mileage would have been similar for Sweetwater.
It didn’t generate a “Hoosiers” atmosphere, but the cavernous, multi-court emporium in Balboa Park was convenient.
Within a couple years, there would be new arenas at La Jolla and Sweetwater, easing but not solving the problem. More high schools were on the way. Helix opened later this year and Lincoln, Mission Bay, and El Cajon Valley were coming soon.
The problem wouldn’t be solved until the mid-’sixties, when almost all schools had their own layouts.
For now, Sweetwater and several others were forced to conduct their practice maneuvers under sunny or cloudy skies or not practice at all when winter rains set in.
Ivan Robinson’s County-record, 38-point outburst against Kearny in the final game of the 1943-44 season had withstood some assaults in the ensuing years.
Hoover’s Dick Barnes scored 36 in one game in 1944-45. San Diego’s Ben Cendali had 37 in 1947-48.
But Robinson’s mark finally fell this season when Fallbrook center Paul Lockridge knocked down 21 baskets and 5 free throws for 47 points in a 90-31 win over Brown Military.
The feat had the aura of “Ripley’s Believe it or Not”.
Lockridge’s twin, point guard Frank, backed up his brother with 20 points and dished several assists.
Grossmont and Hoover competed their regular seasons with big wins on the final night of league play.
Coach Ralph Chaplin’s Foothillers clinched second place in the City Prep League with a 46-45 win over La Jolla and Hoover knocked off San Diego, 44-36, in a display befitting the Cardinals’ preseason favoritism.
(The Cardinals were 11-3 in December and averaging 44 points a game, but they were surprised by Grossmont, 48-34, in the CPL opener and flattened out to 6-5, finishing in a tie for third in the league, and 17-8 overall).
The teams pulled a three-hour trip the next day to play in the Beverly Hills Tournament.
Probably spent from the night before, Grossmont bowed to Los Angeles Loyola, 41-36, and Hoover, which led, 43-30, after three quarters, fell to Santa Monica, 48-47.
TRAVEL WEARY, CONT.
San Diego and Grossmont began play in the Southern Section playoffs almost two weeks later.
The CIF apparently “optioned” a doubleheader at Point Loma to the San Diego City Schools Association, which sponsored the contests.
Newport Beach Newport Harbor and Anaheim tied for first place in the Sunset League, necessitating a coin flip to determine opponents.
Grossmont defeated Anaheim, 34-31, in the first game and San Diego eliminated Newport Harbor, 46-34, in the nightcap.
Instead of being competitively idle four days, until the following Tuesday, the Hillers and Foothillers were required to travel to Redondo Beach the next evening for the quarterfinals round.
Compton sent Grossmont (17-6) to the sideline, 48-37, and South Pasadena topped San Diego (18-6), 46-39.
Chula Vista (15-8), the defending small schools champion, fought back after trailing, 27-18, at the end of the third quarter but was beaten in the semifinals on a late free throw, 34-33, by Bonita at Pomona.
POWELL IS BACK
A football injury sustained on Nov. 10 had dealt a crushing blow to San Diego’s Southern Section playoff hopes and sidelined Charlie Powell for the first 11 games of the basketball season.
The Hillers were 7-4 in the absence of Powell and his 230-pound presence at center but were 11-2 after he returned for the opening of league play Jan. 11.
The big center scored 12 points in a playoff victory over Newport Harbor and had 19 in his final game, a postseason, 55-42 win over Hoover in the Zane Fentress charity game that attracted a sellout crowd of 1,000 persons in the Hilltop Gym.
Fentress, a 190-pound wrestler for Hoover, was competing in a Southern Section playoff wrestling match against San Diego’s Tom Loman, who weighed more than 250.
Fentress sustained a severe injury and was temporarily paralyzed from the waist down.
CIF wrestling rules eventually had a weight limit for the heavyweight division and a super heavyweight class was added.
HELP AGAIN FOR ZANE
Another benefit for Fentress was held a week later, with a unique format.
Hoover and Grossmont met in a game that featured only players returning for the 1951-52 season.
Hoover returnees won, 47-29. The Hoover Alumni defeated the San Diego Alumni, 62-40, in a companion skirmish.
Names to remember: Hoover’s Bob Metzler, who scored 16 points, and Grossmont’s Noel Mickelson, who had 15.
KIWANIS TO SENTINELS
Inglewood won the 16-team, third annual San Diego Kiwanis tournament, 50-45 over Hoover. San Diego was consolation champion, 45-38, over Grossmont.
Kearny’s David Miramontes scored 72 points in four games to break Bill McColl’s record of 69 in 1947 that was tied by Grossmont’s Phil Embletlon in 1949.
San Diego High and the Downtown Kiwanis sponsored the event. Individual teams were supported by their local Kiwanis clubs.
Visiting squads, including El Monte, Inglewood, Beverly Hills, and Santa Monica, were housed in barracks at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot.
San Diego’s Percy Gilbert was an all-Southern California first-team selection and La Jolla’s Jim Ranglos made the second team.
Ranglos led CPL scorers with a 15.3 average in 10 league games and Gilbert and Grossmont’s Ray Preston tied for second at 12.2. Mark Davis or Coronado (138) topped
Kenny Iles of Escondido (128) in the 10-game Metro scoring race.
SIGN OF THE TIME
The Muni facility did not just host prep games.
The San Diego Park and Recreation Department announced pairings for its 31-team preseason tournament, which promised to keep the building busy.
Former Hoover star Dick Barnes, who passed up the NBA after being drafted in the fifth round by the New York Knicks, was playing for Al Riley Concrete.
Among other entries were Buono Bail Bonds, Clementine McDuff, Crown Carpet, and Mutual Fire.
The City Prep League was 19-1 against the Metropolitan League from the opening game in late November until league play after the New Year…Metro League clubs were 9-27 against all opposition overall in the same span…San Diego set a Compton Invitational single-game point total in a 66-48 win over Norwalk Excelsior but bowed the next day to Los Angeles Cathedral, 41-30…El Centro Central was one point short of a Kiwanis point record in a 74-32 win over San Diego Vocational…Ron Maley, younger brother of San Diego football boss Duane Maley, was coach at Kearny…San Diego played host to Hoover in the CPL finale with a reversed format… the varsity game tipped at 6:30 p.m., followed by the Class B contest, won by San Diego, 39-27…the Caver B’s 9-1 league record equaled that of the varsity…Hoover bowed to Ventura, 67-55, in the Santa Monica B Tournament, while San Diego was eliminated by L.A. Mt. Carmel, 30-27, after defeating Long Beach Poly, 36-28….