St. Joe remembers famed 1951 season

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 8, 2000

They set the standard.

Saturday, January 08, 2000

They set the standard. The 1950 St. Joe Flyers had a winning record, the first in school history. The 1952 team was 17-5 and had the best record until the 1999 team went 14-7.

Email newsletter signup

But it was the 1951 team that is best remembered in the long history of St. Joe basketball.

The 1951 team posted a school record 21 wins against just five losses and became the only boys team to reach the regional tournament.

That success earned starters Joe Gleichauf, Don Miller, Fred Lavender, Tim Rolph, and Larry Dunworth the nickname of "The Famous Five."

Now, nearly 50 years later, that success story was remembered once again as the 1951 team was the guests of honor for the St. Joe homecoming game.

Team members Gleichauf, Lavender, Rolph, Dunworth, Bob Fisher, Joe Swarts, and Jim "Meat" Compliment were on hand for Saturday’s banquet honoring the squad. Other team members were Bill Lawless, Charles "Buddy" Lawless, Clarence Walker, Jim Carey, and Ed Fields.

Oh, and one other person from that famous team was on hand: head coach James J. "Bear" Mains.

"That was a great basketball team. We were the scourge of Southeast Ohio. No one understood how those kids could move," said Mains.

"Any of the five or six could bring the ball up the floor on the break and we ran the fastbreak. It was an enjoyable group. All those kids were intelligent. They did what you asked and there were never any questions. We didn’t have any height. We had no business beating people like we did."

The players may have been hard workers with great character, but they deflected all the credit to Mains.

"Mr. Mains elevated us to a level of play far beyond our abilities and we had a lot of luck," Dunworth said.

Lavender said Mains was a major factor in the team’s success, but he said it was a cohesive group as well.

"We were all lifelong friends. We liked each other and Mr. Mains was a great coach," Lavender said. "We grew up playing together. The seventh grade team was (county) champs and there were three players on that team, and the eighth grade team was champs and there were two or three on that team. We were just the best of friends."

The season didn’t begin in glorious fashion. The Flyers lost 44-42 to Ashland Holy Family. But the team bounced back with four lopsided wins before losing once again to Holy Family, 45-44.

Next came a win over Windsor and then a 55-50 upset at Chesapeake.

"The first time we play Chesapeake we beat them 55-50. They were considered the power, and beating them was the first time I realized we had a good team," Gleichauf said. "It was a tough place to play. They pinch you and tried to pull you shorts down."

The Flyers won the Lawrence County tournament by beating Chesapeake 53-45. Chesapeake had won the first meeting in the double elimination tournament 42-39.

Next was the district and St. Joe won all five games including the championship game over Chesapeake by the convincing score of 71-59.

But the season came to an end in the regionals as Corning downed the Flyers 77-64.

Although 1951 was the most remarkable in school history, Lavender said a win over Holy Family the following season was the most memorable for him.

"We finally beat Ashland Holy Family. They beat us by 30 points the year before and one and two points (in 1951). They always had several games in and we were coming off football," said Lavender.

Miller, who led the Flyers with a 19.7 scoring average, was All-Ohio and first team All-County. Lavender was second team All-County and Dunworth honorable mention.