Thursday, April 18, 2019

One doesn’t have to look too far for some Cherokee County basketball folklore. Today, we look west to Meriden and south to Quimby.

In 1958, it was “David” Meriden Eagles vs. ‘Goliath” Quimby Peacocks in a fierce battle for the Cherokee Valley Tournament championship.

Frank Buckingham, the colorful scribe of the Daily Times then, dubbed a tall and talented Quimby team of Coach Duane Buttenob the “Goliath” of the county as they faced a small, but scrappy Meriden contingent, coach by Fred Knauer. Incidentally, at this same time period, Fred’s brother, Ray, was in the process of coaching Calumet to a state tourney title.

Buckingham reports some 1,250 fans watched as the Quimby giant legions edged a fired-up Meriden contingent, 40-35. Buck writes, “Undersized Meriden (12-6) gave the towering champions from south county a rugged go through the full 32 minutes and never were handy, gazelle like leaping Roger Smith & Company out of contention.”

Buck continues, “In the last half and to the end it was the 19-point plunking of huge Quimby pivot 6-8 Bob Stratton, and shot-blocking by he and 6-4 Dwayne Hempel that turned the tide for the Quimby Peacocks.

Buckingham billed the big game, “David vs. Goliath” - for Smith and Stratton came to pass as the major individual feature.

Meriden’s nimble Smith hoisted home 17 points and Stratton kept tourney scoring honors with 19. Big Bob (Stratton) scored 64 points in his three tournament games compared to 52 for Smith.

The Cherokee Valley Tournament was a big deal in these days, and demanded top billing on the local sports pages. I have always had great respect for the late scribe Buckingham, and will continue to enjoy his colorful game stories which are well worth sharing.

Showing up in the box score for the 1958 Meriden Eagles were Roger Smith, Donnie Olson, Gary Chase, Walt Gordon, Leon Chase and Paul Pedersen.The box score for Quimby showed Hempel, Stratton, Roger Samuelson, Harold “Butch” Benson, Dennis Haag, Dennis Hanson and Bill Boothby.

Buck chronicles how the game ended. He writes, “Roger Smith slashed Quimby’s lead to 38-33 with a basket with 1:39 left to play. Then Butch Benson collided with Smith under the bucket and suffered both ways - a foul and a half-dollar sized bruise on his temple. Benson was removed from the game and Smith’s free flip at 1:09 closed it to 38-34. Meriden promptly stole the ball off the press and Haag, in turn, fouled Paul Pedersen who hit one of them. Three points from a tie at 52 seconds, Meriden finally earned a jump ball. But Gordon fouled Hempel at the 29 second mark and he sank both of them to let everyone know where the crown was going.”


Just for the record, prior the the “David vs. Goliath” game of ’58, Meriden cagers won the county tourney in ’57 with a 34-30 win over Cleghorn.

Buck writes, “Meriden, synonym for basketball prowess over a two-decade tenure, proudly wore the gilded Cherokee County Boys Basketball Tournament crown. The “Mighty Mites” of county basketball thrust off Cleghorn’s fine defensive challenge to win the championship 34-30, before 1,400 thrilled fans at Cherokee’s Washington High School.”

Meriden Eagle cagers of Coach Dale Bruning that title year were Jim Halstrom, Don Olson, Gill Hartliep, Kenny Nelson, Bill Gordon, Roger ‘Meriden-come-lately’ Smith, Roger Nelson, Ronnie Smith, Leon Chase, Lee Miller, Walter Gordon, Gary Chase, Paul Pedersen and Jerry Jensen.

In the consolation game, it was the Grand Meadow Larks over Washta, 50-35. For the Larks, John Coburn’s 15-point accuracy led his team. Also, center Walt Brownlee and forward Jim Dawson helped in the Larks’ scoring balance with 10 each. Mick Cowan had eight and Jimmy Carlson seven.

For Washta, playmaker guard Gordon Sadler finished with 12, and forward Denny Krier added seven points.

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