By mid-February 1953 preparations were underway at Marietta College's Ban Johnson Field House for the Class B Washington County high school basketball championship. This arena was host to the county tournament, sectional and district competition. It would be the scene of the Bruins next seven games.
The Bruins, league co-champions, had finished the season 21-1 and 9-1 in the league. In the pairings Beverly was the favorite in the upper bracket. Vincent, the other league co-champion, was the favorite in the lower bracket. If all went as predicted, the two teams would play each other for the county championship. Unlike in league play where there could be a tie for the championship, in the county tournament there could be only one winner.
Beverly, one of the league's leaders, did not play in the first round. On February 16th Beverly beat Newport 66-43 in the second round. On February 18th, in the semi-finals, Beverly edged by Matamoras (61-58). The Bruins built up a lead of 45-27 with just a little over three minutes left in the third quarter. Then, noted The Marietta Times, "the Bulldogs started one of the most stirring rallies ever witnessed in the county tourney." With just one and one half minutes to go, the score was in Beverly's favor 56-52. The game had been a thriller. As usual the Bruins had spread out their attack with four players in double figures.
On February 21st Vincent and Beverly played for the county championship. Vincent, with a season record of 20-2 and co-champion status, was no pushover. Vincent led 21-14 at the quarter and 33-26 at the half. It looked like the Bruins' year was coming to an end. Then in the third quarter, Coach Whiting's boys caught fire and within minutes the score was tied at 34. By the end of the quarter Beverly had a 49-40 edge. At the end of the game Beverly had won the county championship (65-55). The newspaper called the tournament, which had one of the highest attendance records at 9,787 during the four-day event, "one of the most thrilling final sessions in the history of Washington County's Class B basketball tournament." Captain Willie Blackford and Don Malster were selected to the first team all-county tournament team. Bob Combs made the second team. The Bruins took a record of 24-1 into the sectional.
On Wednesday, February 25, 1953, Beverly made an impressive initial appearance in the Eastern Ohio Class B sectional by defeating Summerfield (83-51). A crowd of 1,071 saw Blackford score thirty-three points for the tournament high. The Bruins upped their record to 25-1.
On the 27th Beverly defeated Bethel (23-3), the Monroe County champion, by a score of 43-40 before a crowd of 2,020. The Bruins trailed 37-30 with two and one half minutes left in the third period, but rallied for ten straight points to go ahead 40-37. Little mention has been made in these articles about Beverly's outstanding defense, but this was especially apparent in the Bethel game when the Blackhawks were kept scoreless for nine straight minutes. The Bruins were now 26-1 for the year.
On March 2rd Beverly won the sectional title by defeating Vincent (52-43). It was the fourth time Beverly had won against this team during the year. Sprague missed the game due to illness. Lauer, who scored 13 points, played his best game since returning from his illness. The Bruins were 27-1.
Philo (22-3), the Muskingum County champions, put an end to Beverly's year by downing them 76 to 66 in the first round of the district tournament on March 5, 1953. The Bruins, usually deadly from in close, missed many times and had to settle for 42 percent from the floor. Philo shot 43 percent. The difference was at the free throw line with the Electrics converting 20 out of 28 and the Bruins only 10 out of 23. Don Malster was sick during the day and, although being one of the leading scorers during the year, only scored two points. Beverly ended the season 27-2.
By the end of the state tournament, Mariemont, a Cincinnati suburb with 6' 11" Jerry Weber leading the scorers, won the state championship by beating Philo (87-44). Philo finished 27-4, with one of the losses early in the season to the Bruins.
Dr. Victor Whitacre, who had keys to the gym since he was the team's physician, often opened the doors so the boys could practice. Being a standout basketball player himself, he often played one-on-one against the Bruins. Superintendent Clayton W. Stringer sometimes pulled the boys aside and gave them advice. Heber "Chop" Ullman provided steak dinners for the boys at Lakeside Motel on game days. These men, dads, moms, family members, many fans and others deserve much of the credit for the team's success. On occasion members of the reserve team played in the varsity game. They were Raymond Okey, Merle King and Hugh Motz. The managers were Clarence Laughery and Ray Martin. Cheerleaders were Charleen Noyes (Graham, Hinson), June Wilson (Wise), Shirley Waterman (Combs) and Nancy Stringer (Brooks). They yelled so many times what was called "Cheers," stirring the fans: "Let's go team, let's go. Let's go team, let's go. Beat'em, bust'em, that's our custom. Let's go team, let's go."
Phillip L. Crane, a Waterford resident and Marietta history teacher for 32 years, will share stories of historical events in the Lower Muskingum Valley.