County champs win district semi final over Wren 57-56
By GERALD SINN
Special to the Progress
Part 6 of 7
TOURNEY TIME PAULDING COUNTY 1954
It happens every year in February. The sunsets are different – brighter. Days are longer. Winter is practically over. High school fans are ready for the tournament games. Will there be upsets? Will league leaders continue to win?
The opening game was Tuesday, Grover Hill beat Antwerp. On Thursday, Grover Hill beat an improved Payne team 52 to 45. At the 8:45 p.m. game, Blue Creek faced Oakwood. Winner plays Grover Hill in finals on Saturday night.
Tournament game #1: Blue Creek 79 Oakwood 54 (17-3).
Comets do it again – twice
First five in double digits
An Ohio state record (unauthenticated by the OHSAA). The Ohio Association simply had no teams and no category for scoring in five-double-digits. Blue Creek was an exception in Class B Ohio basketball. The Comets scored two “five double-digit” games and 12 “four double-digit” games in the same year. Both feats were unheard of before 1954.
Here in the Oakwood game, the Comets did it with a backup sophomore center Charlie Hart. He replaced the injured Ken Zimmerman. So much for Charlie’s 140 pounds at 6’3”. He helped set a scoring record as Blue Creek wins its first tournament game in 1954 by 25 points.
Comets points: Walt Sinn 20, Charlie Hart 16, Dennis Doster 14, Gerald Sinn 11, Max Pease 10 (all double-digits).
THE FATE OF THE COMETS IN 1954
There was confusion among the Comets. Ken Z. was shooting baskets in practice. He wanted to play. Ned Jay was still helpless, Ken’s mom and doctor had the last word. That was until Max Pease went home to tell his dad about it. Otis Pease got into the mix. He wanted a second opinion – Jay agreed. They talked Mom into it.
By noon on Friday, Otis, Ned and Ken Z. were in Fort Wayne. The opinion of the bone specialist was fast. It was a small quick-heal bone, in the lower hand, the doctor said. “Yes, play ball.”
Ken was in uniform at Saturday night’s Paulding County basketball finals at 8 p.m. (February 17, 1954.)
THE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Fans from every town in Paulding County were in the crowd that night. The glow in the gym was the people; in orange and black (Grover Hill Hornets) and scarlet and grey (Blue Creek Comets).
The hum of the crowd was only overcome by the familiar sound of the charming cheerleaders. Their names were Jeannine, Ruby, Noreda and Cary for the Comets. The Hornets girls were Greta, Marian and Rosealie.
Their energy was excitement for the players. Their presence added meaning to victory. These girls gave it their all – they got through to the varsity. “We liked them and needed them” was the protected opinion of the guys in the games though no high school jock could ever show such emotion. But it’s important for the guys to say thanks, girls, for all the years and all the teams in Paulding County and for all basketball teams in America.
The Comets’ fans rose to the surprise of seeing center Ken Zimmerman in the tip-off circle, back in uniform. Ken Z. checked with Gerald, who nodded yes, the first-five was ready. The ref tossed up the ball. It was two points in four seconds. The exciting Blue Creek Comets were back.
THE FINALS PAULDING COUNTY
Tournament game #2: Blue Creek 51 Grover Hill 47 (18-3).
Grover Hill had winning in mind in the first-half – but it didn’t stop there. They were the Comets’ toughest opponent in league play. The Hornets led by 15 to 9 in the first quarter; the Comets always led in the first quarter.
Ken Zimmerman’s hand was holding up, he kept Hornets center Jim Ladd’s points in line – a difficult task. The Hornets were using a tough man-to-man defense, the score was low. It was the Hornets 24 to 22 at half time. The Comets led for the first time in the third quarter 38 to 36. Dennis Doster put in 18 points for high scorer in the game. Injured Ken Z’s game was strong, scoring 13 points. Good news for the Comets and thanks to Otis Pease.
Strange risk: Ned Jay pulled his varsity off the floor for celebration with 1 minute 30 seconds to go. Which meant the Comets had no defense on the floor. An upset was still in the making – Grover Hill made a charge, down only six points. The two two-point tip-offs saved the game – COMETS WIN by four points, 51 to 47.
BLUE CREEK COMETS 1954 PAULDING COUNTY CHAMPIONS!
The Comets would now go into the Celina basketball district high school championships with momentum as one of the top teams in Ohio State basketball. Their three losses would make them underdogs, but their 18 wins competed among the state’s leaders. The Comets’ first-five in double-digits was something unknown to the other teams. Seven years of top basketball coaching experience would also make a difference.
Tournament game #3: Blue Creek 57 Wren 56 (19-3).
This was an exciting game. The Comets literally crushed Wren in November, doubling the score 54-27, a 27-point win. It was also happening at Celina, in the divisional. The Comets were up 19-10 in the first quarter. At half time they were up nine points, holding Wren to 22 points. Both teams scored well in the third period; 20 for the Comets, 17 for the Eagles. The Comets were up by 12 points, allowed only 39 points, 51 to 39, ready to cruise in for the win.
Then came Wren’s surprise guard, Gene Baker. He was a senior and didn’t want to end his season that night. He got away from the Comets and scored 13 points in five minutes – then fouled out. His damage nearly sunk Blue Creek, who led by one point in the last five seconds.
In fact, a split second made the difference. The Eagles’ center, lefty Dean Lichensteiger, took a long hook-shot and hit the net, but was ruled too late by the officials.
Gerald remembered, “He was too tall for me to stop him, but I put my hands over his eyes to block his sight. He still saw the basket. The clock was on our side.”
Comets win, 57 to 56.
“When Max Pease hit a foul shot in the first quarter, the Paulding County champions held the lead the rest of the game.” (Van Wert Times).
Walt Sinn hit 12 foul shots and four field goals for 20 game points, Gerald Sinn hit five field goals for 10 points. Only two Comets in double-digits. Dennis and Ken each with nine, and Max with seven points. Tip-off points won again, four points, four seconds. Blue Creek advanced to the semifinals.
Next week: In the final chapter, the Comets duel St. John’s as the season comes to a close.
© Gerald Sinn 2014