Monday, March 3, 2008

The Argus Observes -- Ontario high basketball team goes to state tourney

By Don Lynch
From The Argus-Observer, March 9, 1953

The 1953 Tiger cagers have won the highest honor ever achieved by an Ontario high school basketball team, a berth in the state basketball tournament at Eugene.

They outpointed Baker in two straight wins Friday and Saturday nights for victory in the two-out-of-three series that made them district one champions.

Although Ontario has often been sub-district champions and has battled in many series for the district title, this was the first time it has won the series, a victory which brings with it the dual honor of the district championship and the right to play in the state tourney.

In two nights of play, the Tigers won a kind of immortality that can come only to high school athletes. The men on this team will be remembered in the conversations of basketball fans in this community for at least a generation. And they will be enshrined in the hearts of their aspiring juniors down to the tiniest midget in midget league play. They are today’s heroes in Ontario.

The achievement of this team is remarkable because its qualities of greatness are illusive. It has no outstanding stars. It had no players with an impressive scoring record for the season. It is not a smooth-playing aggregation. It had tough sledding to win the Snake River Valley crown.

When a team without individual stars turns in a stellar performance one suspects the coach had more than a little to do with it.

It is team play that has made the Ontario Tigers outstanding. They have a remarkable talent for performance in the clutches, for inspired play in a critical quarter or a critical game, for coming from behind to win, for the “will to win” in every way --- the most valuable asset a team can have.

In the third period at Baker Saturday night, they made 19 points while holding their opponents to six points. I’d like to know what Coach (Ken) Moore tells them during the halftime intermission.

Whatever it is, he must have a little of what made Knute Rockne famous. He knows how to inspire players.

This team has shown an unusual sensitivity to its opposition. It has rarely won by along margin. It has often come from behind to win. The pace of its play seems largely one of response to its opponent.

So don’t count the Tigers out in tourney play. They rise to the occasion. No one knows how good they really are because so far they have lifted their performance to counter that of any opponent.

Although they lack outstanding stars, virtually every man on the team can look like a star on occasion. If they all got hot at once they’d be pretty hard for any high school team to beat.

It’ time now to start arranging your trip to Eugene to see Ontario in the state tournament March 17 to 20.

Editor’s note: The team lost its first game 63-61 to The Dalles. The outcome of a consolation game that was game to be played against either Albany or Medford is unavailable to us. Fifteen players were listed as members of that team in the 1953 high school annual: Charles Garcia, team captain, Vance Savage, Bill Stoner, Jim Beem, Terry Fujginaga, Ken Ackerman, Charles Binder, Burke Nicholson, Darwin Hall, Wayne Anderson, Dave Burton, Jim Groghan, Ralph Barker, Dick Speelman and Jim Williams.

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