|'The Championship Team' 1951 Latty Lions, Part 2|
By GERALD SINN
Special to the Progress
Part 2 of 3
The Latty Lions’ coach, Charles Newton, didn’t know much about a basketball team’s defense. At one game he asked his ballboy, a seventh grader, if the other team was playing zone or man-to-man defense. A trained coach would never ask that basic question. This coach, however, would ask any of his players basic questions. His trained players would help him coach this team – perhaps at a timeout, in the huddles. That’s how they opened their season in 1951.
Game #1 – The season opened on Nov. 3. The Lions took a bus to Hoaglin-Jackson in Van Wert County. It wasn’t good. The Lions put up 47 points, but the defense didn’t hold. HJ won, 60 to 47. LOSS. The bus was quiet on the way home; no cheering fans, only the cheerleaders. They were thinking, “losing season.” What they didn’t know is they’d just played an Ohio state top-10 ranked team that night. Win 0 Loss 1.
Game #2 – The Lions 72, Sherwood 57. Where did this come from? Vern Vogel dumped in 24 points – a one-hand shot artist. Four starters hit double digits: Ray Treece 10, Dick Elston 13, Larry Adams 17 points – that’s a sign. In future games, Paul Pease would join them in double digits with 14 points against Farmer, and John Englehart, the sixth man, would hit seven points vs. Convoy.
Charles Newton was surprised; this was win No. 1 in his Ohio state high school basketball career. Should this night be considered a milestone? The hometown crowd was cheering him all the way. Win 1 Loss 1.
GAME #3 – “Latty Rolls Over Ohio City 70–43” headline hits next week’s papers. Three shooters hit 20 points: Vogel 22, Elston 21, Adams 20.
The Lions win two more ... Coach Newton’s record is at four wins, one loss. This shouldn’t happen! A coach doesn’t come out of nowhere to start winning basketball games.
Then it occurred to me – these were “Dick Holmes’ kids!” Seniors Treece, Vogel and Englehart were freshman when Coach Dick Holmes came to Latty in 1947; Adams and Elston were eighth graders, and Paul Pease a seventh grader. These players were practically next-door neighbors. They were tutored four years by perhaps the best basketball trainer in Paulding County in the late 1940s and ’50s. Add to this Charles Newton’s ability to communicate with the players. Now we can expect the Lions to enter the Paulding County “Winner’s Circle.”
STATE SCORING RECORD
Mark Center 87, Latty 85. It hit the newspapers: “Latty, one of Paulding County’s prize outfits, and Mark Center scored 172 points in an Ohio high school basketball game to establish, likely, a national and definitely an Ohio State H.S. scoring record on Dec. 8.” Dick Elston scored a high 33 points. Respect was growing for the Lions in the northwest Ohio counties.
The wins added up; they beat Grover Hill, Oakwood, Haviland and rolled over the Payne Panthers, 93-50 (Adams 27 points, Elston 26, Vogel 20, Treece 12).
Lions won the Van Wert ‘Holiday’ Tournament, downing Convoy and Farmer.
Vern Vogel won the Sportsmanship Award and MVP and scored 22 points.
First-half: Lions 8 Wins 3 Losses. It’s already been a “miracle season.”
IT HAPPENS AGAIN
UNION TIPS LATTY, 82 to 81– new Van Wert County scoring record. That’s 335 points scored – two games, two losses, by three points total, in the same season.
The cheerleaders were stirring up the crowds. The fans were reeling and tourney time was near. The four girls in purple and gold satin cheering outfits – Maxine, Ruthie, LuluBelle and Betty – kept the fans in the game. The Lions were looking like champions – the 27 years in-waiting was changing.
Next, the Lions tripped a strong Antwerp team, 50 to 48. Haviland and Payne fell next. That’s all it took; the Latty Lions were Paulding County League Champions in 1951. Lions’ league record at 7-1, Antwerp in second place at four wins three losses.
PAULDING COUNTY BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT 1951:
Latty 64 Grover Hill 42 – Lions by 22 points
Haviland 37 Oakwood 36 – upset, overtime
Latty 57 Antwerp 41 – Lions By 16 points
Then came the game of the decades for the Latty Lions – so many super Latty teams had waited for this eventful night, Feb. 22, 1951. Latty had never won a Paulding County tournament in its 27 years of existence as a school.
Who else, but the Wildcats from Haviland, stood in their way – last year’s champs, also main rivals. Coach Rex Scarbrough had the Cats peaking.
THE FINAL NIGHT
The tournament packed the house in the Paulding gym. The papers reported it was a battle – offensive forces (Lions) verses defensive (Wildcats). At halftime, Latty was up by four points. In the second half, Haviland scored one more point than the Lions. The champions were the Latty Lions of 1951 – winning 42 to 39.
The pilot from World War II, who had never coached a high school game, had taken his team of sharp-shooters to the Championship for the first time in 1951.
What’s left are the memories. The championship trophy, still in the coach’s hands 50 years later. Dick Elston received the Sportsmanship MVP Award. I played basketball and baseball with Dick for years – at his farm, in the hay mow, in the Latty gym, in the semi-pros. When you select the outstanding Paulding County athlete in those years, he would be the one to show you the best ppg, pitching curves and batting average.
Adams, Treece, Vogel, Pease, Englehart and Elston really were a “Coach’s Dream.” They knew the game – they were the best of the Lions.
The Latty Lions trounced the Edon Blue Bombers in the first round, 60 to 32.
The Deshler Pirates pulverized the Delta Panthers, 68 to 34.
We met on the way to the divisional semifinals on Tuesday night. The Defiance Crescent-News matched us up: Deshler is better in “play-making ability.” The Lions are hotter in “set-shot shooting.” Both are excellent on “pressing defense” and “man-to-man” (the Lions’ calisthenics paid off). The Pirates also had the edge on size (they were big) and had more back-up players (reserves).
By odd coincidence, both worthy teams gained their first county championships that year (Deshler in Henry County). Deshler did not have a first-year coach who had never coached or played in a basketball game, who had a 16-4 record (given two state scoring records) that year. That was the Latty Lions.
The great Deshler team did have a record of 24 wins 0 losses. Coach Newton and his Latty team were beaten markedly by the Class B Ohio State High School Basketball Champions that Tuesday night in Defiance – though the Lions could be proud. Compliments came from the news media, who matched them well against a state champion – but the Lions’ shots did not fall. Though what a year for LATTY.
? Next week: The “Education Man.”
© Gerald Sinn 2011
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