Meet the Blue Creek Comets and their coach
By GERALD SINN
Special to the Progress
Part 3 of 7
Dennis Doster’s mother was unaware her son played high school basketball, until his junior year, it was told in 2012. His dad was a fireman on a Nickel Plate locomotive, always on trips (he always took the family car to work). Dennis’ mom had all the duties at home and no auto to drive. She didn’t need any other issues.
What Dennis needed was a buddy to get him to the games and practices. His buddy turned out to be cousin Otis. Otis was convincing to his mother; she liked Otis. “If Otis Pease hadn’t driven me around I’d never have played basketball for the Blue Creek Comets of 1954,” Dennis said.
His mom may never have known except for the Paulding Progress newspaper. Dennis was a star basketball player for four years. This stardom brought news clippings. It took four years, but Dennis’ dad and mother did see a game at Hoaglin Jackson in 1955. Their only game – Dennis’ team won.
Not only did Dennis’ mother Gladys raise a very personable sports star, but her pretty daughter, Margaret, was a BC Comets cheerleader and a Paulding County beauty contestant in 1953. Many mothers in high school America would envy Gladys' results. She was Otis’s Aunt Gladys, and must have been quite a woman.
THE MOVE TO BLUE CREEK
In 1951, the Latty Lions won their first Paulding County basketball championship. They repeated in 1952. However, in 1953 the “Lions” moved to Haviland to join the “Wildcats.” Together, the schools became the “Blue Creek Comets.”
Officially, Latty High and Haviland High schools (four miles apart) shared Haviland’s school building late in 1952 and became Blue Creek High School in future years. The number of boys in Blue Creek High was 27.
The Comets of 1953 were a good basketball team, they were league champions at 14-6. This was coach Rex Scarbrough’s final year as a basketball coach. He won more Paulding County tournaments than any other coach; a total of nine since 1926.
The Grover Hill Hornets won the tourney championship in Paulding County in 1953. That was the end of the Don Elston era, as an all-star player, with Jim Ladd, “Hook” McClure and Bob Sanderson, coach - all were memorable names in Paulding County sports.
As for the 1953 Comets, they had six varsity lettermen returning comprised mainly of the young Lions from Latty except for one Wildcat.
Late in 1953, a young teacher barely out of college and teaching science and math classes was appointed coach of the 1954 Blue Creek Comets. Something promising, when assisting Coach Scarbrough, he did take the Comets’ young reserve team to a winning 14-4 season in 1953 – his first effort at coaching. But that was it, no more coaching background.
His name was Ned Jay. He was a young, bright, futuristic and promising warrior, with no second doubts about anything – including winning.
One of his players commented, “Ned had the fastest eyes and mind I’d ever seen on a basketball floor.” His players improved game after game because of these attributes. If any player threw a bad pass or interception or made a bad judgment, he was on the bench. After a few games into the season, the Comets made no mistakes – mainly out of fear of their new coach.
Ned was also known to have a fiery temper. Not particularly at the boys, but more at improper use of basketball principles. It also included referees principles. Not to mention Ned throwing a skidding chair across the gym in one game. His clipboards took a real beating in many games.
His intent at all times, however, was 100 percent directed to the success of the Blue Creek Comets. That said, “Welcome to the era of Ned Jay’s Comets.”
THE TEAM – THE COMETS
Ken Zimmerman, number 53, 6’0”. In 1950, Zimmerman didn’t show up for classes at Latty High. Instead he was attending Haviland High (four miles south), leaving the young Lions (not by choice). In desperation, Coach Scarbrough of the Wildcats took a chance and put him into a varsity game as a freshman. He needed a center. Ken Z. amazingly scored 27 points. He started every varsity game thereafter and became one of the highest scoring four-time all-stars in Paulding County.
Dennis Doster, number 35, 5’9”. Started on the Latty Lions first five in his first high school basketball game and scored 15 points. Dennis didn’t have a basketball hoop at home, or a barn, or any place to practice. His only practice place was at school, at recess, noon hour or mornings before class. His practice was limited, “but he could just make baskets.” He was a natural with speed. How dynamic was it to have Doster and Ken Zimmerman; four-year, high-scoring, all-stars starting on the Comets of 1954?
Max Pease, #40, 5’6”. Max was a rough and tough kid (but also friendly and bright, good at math). Every bit of strength he picked up in the War Years, with no dad, he put into a positive life. That included being a Comet on the basketball floor. It showed in his defensive drive, his scrappy dribble and ball handling, his foul shots, long shots and passing. His heart was in the game, his presence demanded winning. To his seven years of expert coaching, add three years of varsity and an all-star trophy for his play on the ’54 Comets.
Gerald Sinn, number 33, 5’9”. Claimed he had taken over 500,000 practice shots during his high school basketball career. So if he was hitting 65 percent of his long shots it probably wasn’t blind luck. He was also one of the leaders of assists, rebounds and interceptions. In the BC yearbook someone said “Gerald never missed a foul shot.” The great part of this is you could say the same thing about the entire Comets first five. All the guards and forwards were sharpshooters and center Ken Zimmerman was the leading scorer in Paulding County in 1954. Dennis Doster was second, only two points behind.
Walter Sinn, number 50, 5’10”. The young Lions got lucky. They inherited a point guard who was ready to play basketball. He came from the Wildcats of Haviland in the move to Blue Creek High. His older brothers, Carl and Ray, were legends on the Wildcats teams of ’48 and ’50. That’s how Walt learned the game, from his brothers on the farm, in the hay mow gym, in the barn - and from Coach Scarbrough.
Walt always had the compliments, “Nice shot, Gerald,” same for the other guys as well. Walt was great at passing off with lots of assists, but by tourney time he was scoring 20 points a game. Something interesting, 60 percent of his points came from hitting foul shots. At season’s end, he was awarded the MVP sportsmanship trophy at the Paulding County Tournament. Also, in his junior year, the Ohio State coaches poll placed him on the third team All-Ohio State, guard, first five.
Harold Sinn, number 44, 5’9”. Twin Gerald had just stolen the ball from an Oakwood guard at the half-line. Harold saw it happen and streaked for the Lions’ basket down the floor (at Oakwood, February, 1952). Gerald sent him a long, hot pass for the lay-up. Harold caught it, stopped, turned and waved Gerald to run down to make the easy two points (reward for interception). Gerald smiled, shook his head and hands - No! So Harold sunk the lay-up.
Oddly enough, those two points made Harold high point man, 18 points for the night. Gerald scored 16 for the game. He could’ve been high man if he’d taken the shot. Sixty years later, Gerald commented, “I think back to what a pleasure it was that I could extend this small honor to my twin. The next year we moved to Blue Creek where the coaches made him the sixth man. It was less playing time and less opportunity to score. But having a sixth man with talent to score 18 points a game was great support for a championship team.”
NOTE: Dennis Doster offered Gerald the same opportunity many times in the ’54 season. It described all these Comets not a selfish bone in their bodies. A great ingredient for a winning team.
Next week: The season – game by game.
© Gerald Sinn 2014