At the halfway mark of the 1952-53 season, the Beverly Bruins were 10-0. School records had already been broken. The team had an amazing fifteen wins in a row at home. They had twice scored over 100 points in a game. Their point average per game was in the 80's. In most games four Bruins-and in a few five-scored in double figures. Attendance had never been higher. More shattered records were to come.
The Bruins opened 1953 with a victory that really started to raise their fans' hopes. On January 3rd the Bruins beat Woodsfield (73-69), ending the Redskins 30-game regular season win streak. The next four games were won by Beverly: Newport (74-50), Lawrence (95-50), Salem-Liberty (89-59), and Lowell (72-54). With the victory over Lowell on January 23rd, the Bruins were 15-0 and 9-0 in the league. They had at least tied for the league title. Only Vincent (8-1) could catch them, but only if Beverly lost their final league game to Bartlett.
With the seating capacity at the Beverly High School gym about 250, the next home game was moved to Marietta High School gym. On January 24th an estimated 1,500 fans saw the Bruins blast Woodsfield 76-49. The Times noted that "it was the largest crowd at the gym since the Waterloo Wonders packed in 1,800 some 18 or 19 years ago." Located in northern Lawrence County, Ohio (twenty miles southwest of Gallipolis), Waterloo High School had a total male enrollment of 26, but they won the Class B state basketball championship in 1934 and 1935. Beverly fans were thinking the Bruins might win the 1953 state championship.
Counting the last part of the 1951-52 season and through January 29, 1953, the Bruins had won 23 games in a row. They had not lost a game at home since the 1950-51 season. Behind the sidelines, however, there was trouble developing. During December 1952 Coach Whiting had suspended two players for a week due to disciplinary reasons. In the game with Salem-Liberty during this time, the Bruins won a narrow victory by two points in the last half minute of the game. Even more threatening was sickness that had prevailed over the team. Looking back, the 89-59 victory over Salem-Liberty on January 20, 1953, was a turning point. It was their fourteenth win of the season and their offensive point average had jumped to 87 points per game, but two players missed the game due to illness. Two players suffered from yellow jaundice as the season progressed. Flu also disabled some of the players. Even after players returned from their illness, they were not at full strength and the team's performance was affected.
At Bartlett on January 30th, the totally unexpected happened. Bartlett beat Beverly (79-78). The Times called it "the biggest upset since Humpty Dumpty fell off his wall." "The outcome," the paper noted, "ended the Bruins long victory streak at 16. It also halted a regular season skein of 23 wins ..." The paper continued, "Right from the start, the Bruins, who were without services of ailing Wayne Lauer, their ace playmaker, knew they were in for a rough evening." The game was one of those classic barnburners. It was rough and every second was exciting and unpredictable, as only those who have played in the Bartlett gym know. At the end of the first quarter, Beverly was in the lead 21-20. At half time they were dead even at 36-36. At the end of the third quarter Beverly led 59-57. With moments to go Bartlett tied the score at 76-76. In the final seconds Bartlett scored a field goal and foul shot, making the score in their favor 79-76. Sprague drove in and scored just as time ran out, but the Bruins were one point short. The fouls were evenly divided with twenty against each, counting a technical against Beverly. The game was decided by five or six traveling violations called against the Bruins by referee Benny Stump, who insisted the ball had to hit the floor before a player could move his feet. The loss was even more upsetting for the Bruins because they were playing in their new orange uniforms for the first time. The Bruins and Vincent ended league play with a 9-1 record, making each team co-champions.
The next four games were played without Lauer. The following night (Jan. 31), at Marietta High School gym, the Bruins edged by Bethel (44-43). Combs, always a clutch player, won the game with a jumper from the foul line in the last seven seconds of the game. Their record was now 17-1.
On February 3rd Beverly beat St. Mary (81-63), boasting their record to 18-1. On the 6th Beverly extended their record to 19-1 with a victory over Vincent (75-64). On February 10th Beverly beat Lowell (107-79). It was the third time during the year the Bruins had scored over 100 points in a game. They were now 20-1 for the season and this game marked the 20th straight win on the home floor. Playing across the river on February 13th, Beverly, with Lauer playing one quarter, beat Waterford (97-47). The Bruins' record was 21 wins and 1 loss. As the season concluded Beverly was tied for nineteenth place in the state in Class B high school basketball.
Phillip L. Crane, a Waterford resident and Marietta history teacher for 32 years, will share stories of historical events in the Lower Muskingum Valley.