Monday, April 20, 2009

The Big Reds in the State Basketball Finals

State titles in basketball at Muskegon High School are relatively rare, with the last coming in the spring of 1937 and their most recent appearance in the final game occurring in 1942.
Still, the team is no stranger to the final rounds of the tournament.

The Big Reds have advanced to at least the quarterfinal round in the spring of 1920, 1921, 1923, 1924, 1926, 1927, 1935, 1937, 1940, 1942, 1947, 1952, 1962, 1975 and 1999.

Here are some Flashbacks to those teams that have appeared in the championship game.

1923 Finals - Continuing the tradition of alternating the sites of the state basketball tournament, Michigan Agricultural College (now Michigan State University in East Lansing) played host to the Class A prep championships, while the University of Michigan played host to the Class B and Class C games.

The contests were staged as Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Associations events. The MIAA was a forerunner to the Michigan High School Athletic Association.

Muskegon, led by future University of Michigan All-American Bennie Oosterbaan, defeated the tourney favorite Detroit Northwestern 36-24 at the M.A.C. College Gymnasium. The senior chalked up seven field goals in the contest, as Muskegon opened up a 17-9 lead at the half and a 15 point margin after three frames.

Following the victory, Muskegon advanced to the National Interscholastic Tournament hosted at the University of Chicago. On Wednesday, April 4, Muskegon dispatched Yankton, South Dakota, 18-13, then downed Windsor, Colorado 29-26 on Thursday.

Oosterbaan, playing center, worked the backboards for 14 points as Muskegon squeaked past the championship squad from Osage, Iowa 26-25 in Friday’s quarterfinal. Tied 13-13 at the break, Muskegon had opened up what looked like an insurmountable nine point lead with nine minutes to play and went into a stall. The strategy nearly cost Muskegon the game.

In Saturday afternoon’s semifinal, eventual tournament champions Wyandotte High of Kansas City defeated Muskegon 44-28. With the loss, Muskegon faced Charleston, South Carolina in an evening consolation match, losing 35-26. The team finished the tournament in fourth place, earning a shield in honor of their accomplishment. Oosterbaan was named to the first-ever All-American team for his play in the tournament.

1926 Finals - The championship contests were played at split locations, with the Class A and D games at Waterman Gymnasium on the campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and the Class B and C games at College Gymnasium in East Lansing.

Detroit Southeastern defeated Muskegon 26-20 in the Class A title match, played before the largest crowd of the tournament.

The game was described by an Associated Press writer as "one of the most sizzling games ever played on a Michigan court." Shaw of Southeastern and Norm MacDonald of Muskegon tied for top scoring honors, with eight points apiece. Due to "the furious play" Muskegon was whistled for fouls on 13 occasions, while Southeastern was called for 11 in the tightly called contest. Two players were dismissed from the game after "collecting four fouls each."

1927 Finals - Clair Helmer and Bill McCall starred for the Big Reds as Muskegon downed Battle Creek 32-24 in the Class A championship hosted at Detroit Central High School. Ray Priest, who finished with 12 points on six field goals, led the Battle Creek squad throughout.
Trailing 15-12 at the half, Muskegon rallied to a 22-20 lead at the end of the third, then shutdown their opponent's offense in the final frame. McCall finished with 11 points, while Helmer added nine. After winning the state crown, the team again advanced to the National Interscholastic Tournament at Chicago, but dropped their opening round contest to Batesville, Ark 28-20. The team immediately returned home, forfeiting their spot in the consolidation round.

1937 Finals - Muskegon ended the year as the state's only new champion, with a 31-27 Class A win over Holland. Played at Flint's spacious Industrial Mutual Association Auditorium which had opened in 1929, Bob MacIntyre scored 11 and Charles Vanderlinde eight points for the Big Reds, while Jim Grisson scored all of Holland's second-half points, to lead the Dutchmen with 14. Muskegon finished the season undefeated in 18 contests.

1942 Finals - At Jenison Field house in East Lansing, Saginaw's speedy Tony Pabalis pumped in 18 points as the Trojans defeated Muskegon 27-24 in overtime for Class A laurels. Pabalis netted five of his team's points in the first half as Saginaw trailed the Big Reds 13-8 at the intermission. Saginaw cut the margin to one, 18-17 at the end of three to set the stage for a wild finish. A bucket by Larry Savage, who converted following a stolen pass, gave Saginaw a 23-21 lead with just over a minute to play. But a field goal by Muskegon's Paul Bard as the gun sounded pushed the game to overtime. Pabalis and Stewart Francke each contributed a basket for the Trojans in the extra frame to secure the victory.

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