1949 Coldwater Basketball Team
Honored In Legends Program
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE --March 17, 1999
Contact: John Johnson or Mike Clifford-- 517.332.5046
EAST LANSING, Mich. - March 17 - In an effort
to promote educational athletics by showcasing some of the great
teams of past years, the Michigan High School Athletic Association
instituted a program called "Legends Of The Games"
in 1997, which honors its second boys basketball school at halftime
of the Class B championship game at its Boys Basketball Finals
on March 27 at the Breslin Sutdent Events Center in East Lansing.
Being honored at this year's finals is the 1949 Class B championship
team from Coldwater High School. The following is the text of
an article which will appear about that team in the souvenir
program to be sold at the event. (Copy by Tom Lang, a free-lance
writer from Detroit)
The 1949 MHSAA Class B Boys Basketball Final was both a beginning
and an ending.
It was the end of a decade that began to witness a new style
of basketball. It also was the beginning of statewide acceptance
of that new trend which would forever change the game.
Coldwater High School won the 1949 Class B title, 49-42, over
River Rouge at Jenison Field House in East Lansing in a classic
game, not only for the play on the court, but for the opposing
basketball masterminds pacing the sideline. Coldwater was coached
by Floyd Eby, while River Rouge was led that night by Lofton
The game was a major turning point that proved what Eby was coaching
and his players were executing would no longer be considered
a fluke. What Greene learned in that defeat changed River Rouge's
basketball focus and earned the school 12 MHSAA titles in the
next 35 years.
"Lofton told me that night, and many times after, that we
really took it to him," Eby said recently from his home
on Cardinal Lane in Coldwater. "He said that he would play
our style of basketball from then on."
Eby is not as well known as Greene, and he would rather keep
it that way. But, what Eby taught changed basketball forever.
He is credited by numerous sources with introducing and popularizing
the fast break, the full-court press, the box-and-one zone defense
and the one-handed jump shot (also developed at Stanford University).
In the 1940's, that style of play was unheard of, but was quickly
labeled "racehorse basketball." The jump shot was developed
as players didn't have time to stop and gather their stance for
the traditional two-handed set shot. To do so would have defeated
the entire purpose of racehorse basketball.
The 1949 title was Eby's second. The first came at the beginning
of the decade in 1940 at Class C Williamston, during his rookie
season while still a student at Michigan State University. It
was at Williamston where the radical new style began, particularly
the box-and-one, implemented the first day of practice by accident
in an attempt to best utilize personnel. Thus began a decade
of jeers, chuckles and disbelief for the "new" game,
especially by puzzled fans and officials who couldn't always
comprehend what was happening on the court.
Former Detroit Free Press sports writer Hal Schram wrote
this about racehorse basketball 10 years later in 1959: "The
offensive theory is one of basic simplicity. Get to the basket
with the shot that will score as soon as you can. You're only
going to sink a certain percentage of your shots anyway, so the
more you shoot, the more points you'll score. Organized confusion
- that's what they called it then."
Coldwater didn't like to hold the ball. But stalling the final
1:20 of the 1949 semifinal game over Grand Rapids Godwin Heights
proved to work in a 36-35 win.
"What an exciting time it was to be playing for the state
championship before such a huge crowd," Eby wrote in one
of his books, Champions Forever. "At the end of the first
quarter we were ahead 11-10. Midway through the second, I was
stunned when our superstar, Rex Corless (three-time all-stater),
sprained an ankle. He was helped to the locker room. At halftime,
we were still leading 22-18. The doctor had taped up Corless'
ankle. He said Rex could play, but that it would definitely cut
"Even with his bad ankle and against River Rouge's most
talented defenseman, Corless scored 18 points in less than three
quarters, which is comparable to 40 points in a game today. (Max)
McConnell went in and finished the game in great style. In the
first two minutes of the final quarter, we spurted ahead 39-26
and sewed up the game."
Additional members of the team that popularized racehorse basketball
were: Gene Fry, Eugene Sowles (co-captain), Lawrence Porter,
Tom Engle, Fred Weeks, Marvin Rosenberg, Bernard Hogoboom, James
Rhodes, Robert Simmons, and Carlos Clark (manager). Two players
and two assistant coaches are now deceased - co-captain LeRoy
Cox and Harry Cooper, plus Bert Grigg and Bob Livermore.
While the Cardinal basketball team helped launch a whole new
dimension to basketball, it was the lifelong lessons of athletic
discipline that helped the 1949 Cardinals lead successful lives.
The team produced two dentists, an ordained minister, a teacher
and coach, two high-ranking Army Officers, a pharmacist, a university
science professor, two high-ranking business executives and three
They also produced great memories that a small, south central
Michigan town has cherished for 50 years, while helping create
basketball as it's known around the world today.
Scheduled to be present at the ceremony are:
Floyd Eby, Head Coach
Carlos Clark, Manager
Rex Corless, Forward/Guard
Gene Fry, Guard
Bernard Hogenboom, Center/Forward
Lawrence Porter, Guard
James Rhodes, Forward
Marvin Rosenberg, Center
Robert Simmons, Guard
Gene Sowles, Guard & Co-Captain
Remembering The Title Season:
Gene Fry - Guard: "We
arrived at Jenison Field House early, because Coach Eby wanted
us to see the arena before the fans started to arrive. As we
entered the bulding, we were amazed at the enormity of the court,
as well as the seating capacity for the spectators. Our entire
school could fit into that building."
Robert Simmons - Guard: "I remember the intensity and dedication of each
member of the team, and knowing that each of us had to rise to
a higher level to beat a very good and well-coached River Rouge
team. I am now 66 years old, and the thrill of that day has never
Gene Sowles - Guard & Co-Captain: "I can still see Gene Fry coming from deep under
our defensive basket, intercept a pass and dribble the length
of the court for the winning basket in out 36-35 win over Grand
Rapids Godwin Heights in the semis the previous night. To the
man, everyone felt we had won the state that night."
Marvin Rosenberg - Center: "1949 was the year of champions for Coldwater.
We were co-champs of the Twin Valley Conference in football and
baseball, and were champions in basketball. We were a group who
played together from grade school up, before the days of camps
and other formal programs"
Bernard Hogenboom - Center/Forward: "The awesome size of the Michigan State field
house and the noise of the spectator crowd stand out in my mind.
I also remember that Coach Eby wore the same suit and tie that
he wore for earlier tournament games - his lucky suit."
Rex Corless - Forward/Guard: "The excitement and thrill of winning the "big
one" in Jenison Field House stands out, as well as the teamwork,
loyalty and respect we had for one another and for Coach Eby."