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The Press Box For Feb. 7
February 7, 2018

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A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article about a local legend who scored over 70 points in a high school basketball game. Since then, I decided to do some research on high scorers in high school basketball, boys and girls across the country.

Lately we have had some players who are performing very well and getting into the high 20s and even 30s. Some seem to think that it's no big deal to score 30 points in a game. They say that we used to see it all the time, so why can't players do it now? They blame a lack of shooting skills and lack of practice. I've thought the same thing; however, on further examination, I believe it's a combination of other things.

Back in the late 1960s, we had some players that averaged in the high 30s. One local legend even carried a 40s average for two straight years. It wasn't uncommon to see higher scoring games and larger individual outputs, but the game has changed dramatically.

Back then you mostly saw zone defenses and seldom faced man to man. That meant more shots went up, and the inside game was more common. If you had a big man, you used him. That alone opened up the outside shot. The games were not near as physical; fouling was not as harsh, and calls were more frequent and consistent, especially when you were shooting.

So, higher scoring games were not uncommon. Defenses weren't as tight, and the pressure was not as great. Check back, and you'll see there were many 100 point games. In fact, there were also several 100 point scorers. However, most of them were in games where the opposition couldn't do much to stop it. I know several who could have had 100 point nights if the coaches would have allowed it and the team would have gotten the ball to them enough.

A little over 58 years ago, on January 26, 1960, a Burnsville High School (Braxton County, W.Va.) player - Danny Heater - set the all-time record for high school hoops by dropping a staggering 135 points in a single game. And while no one has been able to eclipse his feat on the high school level, there have been several others who have broken the century mark. Danny Heater's most impressive part of his 100-point game occurred in the second half when he dropped in 85 points. During the contest he made 53 of the 70 shots that he took. And in addition to scoring more than 130 points, he also grabbed 32 rebounds and dished out seven assists, all while leading his team to a 173-43 win over Widen High School. The question is, why? For what possible reason would a coach or player want to do that to another team?

I am going to list some others who have accomplished the feat. Don't get me wrong - to score 100 points in a single game would be a remarkable event, but nearly every game it occurred in was a lopsided affair. Just look at some of these scores:

Back on January 8, 1913, at Culver High School in Indiana, Herman Sayger poured in 113 points, which included 56 field goals in a 154-10 win over Winamac High School. 154-10! Not much to brag about there.

In 1922, at Brainard High School in Brainard, Nebraska, Ed Vonda put up 102 points on the board when he played alongside his two brothers who, according to reports, kept the ball in his hands, except for the other 46 points which they scored in a (148-2) thrashing of Raymond High School.

On February 6, 1953, Dick Boganrife, of Sedalia-Midway High School in London, Ohio, scorched the nets for 120 points. He hit on 52 shots and 16 free throws to get his points, during another lopsided win of 137-46 against Canaan High School. His coach, Don Strasburg, gave him the green light to keep shooting.

January, 25, 1955 - Morris Dale Mathis of St. Joe, Arkansas, at St. Joe High School, put up 108 points in a game against Witts Springs High School. Not much is known about the game, but records indicate he wasn't among the state's all-time leading scorers and didn't even average 25 points per game. So this was, by far, the most impressive performance of his career.

Wayne Oakley, in 1956, of Hanson High School, Hanson, Kentucky, hit for 114 points in a 128-26 win over St. Agnes High School. He made 47-55 field goals and 20-24 from the line. Oakley was 6'8" and his opponent's tallest player was 5'10". Get the point!

Pete Cimino, of Bristo High School in Bristo, Pennsylvania, put up 114 on January 22, 1960 in a game with Palisades High School. He scored all of his team's 69 points in the second half. "All I wanted to do was break the league mark of 62," he later said. It sure helped when his front line averaged 6'6" and got the ball out to him on the fast break.

John Morris, of Portsmouth Norcom High School in Portsmouth, Virginia, scored 127 points in February 1961 in a 173-47 win over Mary N. Smith, High School. It was reported that Mary N. Smith did all they could to stop him and even double and triple teamed him. However, he stayed in the game and continued to score with the help of his team and advice from his coach.

Now those are just a few examples, but every one I ran across showed there was very little competition for the scorer. Back in 1968, Union-Whitten High School in Union, Iowa, had a great player. As it turns out, she became the first high school girl to score 100 points in a game. In a game that was decided by six, Denise Long poured in 111 points, against Dows High School.

She averaged an astounding 68.2 points during her senior season and ended up finishing her high school career with more than 6,000 points. She later became the first female ever drafted by an NBA team in 1969 when the San Francisco Warriors selected her in the 13th round.

I like watching a good basketball game, and I like to see a lot of scoring, but it is also great to see the good sportsmanship displayed by coaches who realize a victory is at hand and allow all their players the opportunity to get in the game. What I don't like, and never will, is when a coach waits until the last 30-40 seconds just to get someone on the floor. That is a total embarrassment to the player and his family.

There are several players around locally who I am really impressed with. If I was to choose a player right now to lead my team it would be Tyler Consolidated's Griffin Phillips. Don't get me wrong. He's not the only good ball player in the area, but he certainly has a lot of skill, and his work ethic is unmatched. He can score when needed; he's a good ball handler, a great leaper for his size, a good passer, and a good defender. He is also a great team player and one who I have never seen lose his composure.

All of the above scoring feats, with the exception of Denise Long, really don't mean anything, considering the point spread in the outcome. However, just as an example, a player like Phillips - who can get you 25-30 on any night - is much more valuable than someone who will shoot every time to up their average, while failing to hit the open man for a layin.

Team play, good sportsmanship, understanding the game, putting out a good effort, and listening to your coaches are the most important part of the success of your team. Practice hard to make yourself better, and work on all phases of your game. Also stay in season. All too often, I hear, "I can't wait until baseball starts," or during football it's, "I can't wait for basketball." It's especially true when your team is not doing well.

That's a mistake. It's the same as giving up. It's like saying, "Let's hurry up and get through this," when you should be trying and playing harder. I'll never forget a team in Paden City that had won only four or five games during the year. Coach Burton kept on them, and he worked them hard, and he encouraged them. There were no excuses, just hard work. As the tournament rolled around, no one gave them a chance. The rest of the story is that they ended up in the semi-finals in Charleston, only to lose to the eventual state champs.

Finish the year, and finish strong. See where it takes you! If the season ends, then move on to baseball. While your playing basketball, stay focused. eparsons@tylerstarnews.com.

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