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Flyers’ season stirs up memories of 1951 ‘Famous Five’ basketball team


Members of the 1951 St. Joseph Flyers basketball team were: front row from left to right, Tim Rolph, Fred Lavender, Larry Dunworth, Don Miller, and Joe Gleichauf; second row from left to right, head coach Jim “Bears” Mains, Jimy Carey, Bill Lawless, Bob Fisher, Clarence Walker, Jim Compliment, Clarence Walker, and Father Joseph Pollack.

Jim Walker
jim.walker@irontontribune.com

The St. Joseph Flyers have stirred some memories.
When the Flyers beat Federal Hocking 61-59 last Monday at the Ohio University Convocation Center, it was the program’s first win at the district level since the 1951 team.
The 1951 team has been called the best team in school history. The Flyers had their first winning season in 1950 and followed that with a school-record 21 wins the next season.
The 1952 team finished 17-5 which has been surpassed by this year’s team which is 19-5.
Ohio originally had just two classifications, Class A for larger schools and Class B for schools with enrollments of 126 or fewer boys.
St. Joseph has long had small enrollments including this year. In fact, half of the boys in the senior class are members of the basketball team. They are Zach Roach and Ryan Payne.
That’s it. There are four boys in the senior class. Only the girls had a better representation this season as all of the senior girls played basketball.
Those senior girls are Kaitlyn Sheridan and Faith Mahlmeister.
That’s it. Two. Yes, six members of the entire class.
But the Flyers aren’t making any excuses. They would just like to stand beside that 1951 team.
And what a team.
The 1951 team starters were Joe Gleichauf, Don Miller, Fred Lavender, Tim Rolph and Larry Dunworth. They were given the nickname “The Famous Five.”
Other team members included sixth-man Clarence Walker, Bob Fisher, Joe Swarts, Jim “Meat” Compliment, Charles “Buddy” Lawless, Jim Carey and Ed Fields.
The team was coached by the late James J. “Bear” Mains who later was the football coach and principal at Ironton High School and the first campus director of the Ohio University branch campus.
“That was a great basketball team. We were the scourge of Southeast Ohio. No one understood how those kids could move,” Mains once said about the team.
“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 attributed a lot of their success to having Mains as the head coach.
“Mr. Mains elevated us to a level of play far beyond our abilities and we had a lot of luck,” said Dunworth.
One story Mains told about elevating the team’s play came on a Saturday afternoon game at Coal Grove. The Flyers played slow and sluggish in the first half and found themselves behind.
Mains had a halftime motivator that did not involve yelling or spitting profanities.
“I had the manager go to the concession stand and get some potato chips, some pop and some hot dogs,” said Mains.
“The players were sitting there and I set it all down on the floor in front of them. I told them to have a picnic and have some fun in here since you aren’t having any fun out there. It really made them mad and lit a fire under them. We went out the second half and ran away with it.”
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,” said Lavender. “We grew up playing together.
“The seventh-grade team was (Lawrence County) champs and there were there players on that team. 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 start so famously as the Flyers lost 44-42 to Ashland Holy Family. But they bounced back with four lopsided wins before losing once again to Holy Family, 45-44.
A win over Windsor and then a 55-50 upset at Chesapeake got the team rolling.
“The first time we beat them 55-50, They were considered the power and beating them was the first time I realized we had a good team,” the late Gleichauf once said. “It was a tough place to play. They pinched you and tried to pull your shorts down.”
The Flyers won the Lawrence County tournament by beating Chesapeake 53-45 after losing to the Panthers 42-39 earlier in the double elimination tournament.
The two teams met yet again in the district with the Flyers racking up a 71-59 win.
The school’s first trip to the regional tournament had the team excited, but they lost to Corning 77-64.
“We did finally beat Ashland Holy Family. They beat us by 30 points the year before (1950) and one and two points in 1951. They always had several games in and we were coming off football,” said Lavender of a game in the 1952 season.
Miller led the Flyers with an 18.2 scoring average and was second team All-Ohio in Class B and first team All-County. Lavender was second team All-County and Dunworth honorable mention.

St. Joseph Flyers
1951 Season Results
St. Joseph 42 Ashland Holy Family 44
St. Joseph 75 Portsmouth Catholic 48
St. Joseph 67 Pedro 38
St. Joseph 65 Russell, Ky. 50
St. Joseph 61 Chillicothe 29
St. Joseph 74 Pedro 28
St. Joseph 45 Ashland Holy Family 46
St. Joseph 50 Portsmouth Catholic 42
St. Joseph 55 Chesapeake 50
St. Joseph 51 South Point 29
St. Joseph 66 Coal Grove 55
St. Joseph 51 Russell, Ky. 41
St. Joseph 71 Windsor 33
St. Joseph 69 Fairland 37
St. Joseph 50 Waterloo 51
Regular Season Record: 12-3
Lawrence County Tournament
St. Joseph 77 Blackfork 33
St. Joseph 74 Fairland 27
St. Joseph 39 Chesapeake 42
St. Joseph 64 Coal Grove 51
St. Joseph 53 Chesapeake 45
(Double elimination play)
District Tournament
St. Joseph 73 Clarksburg 49
St. Joseph 56 Waverly 54
St. Joseph 57 Minford 53
St. Joseph 95 Beaver 70
St. Joseph 71 Chesapeake 59
Regional Tournament
St. Joseph 64 Corning 77
Overall Record: 21-5

 

All-County Team
First Team
Cecil Wilds, Rock Hill
Don Miller, St. Joseph
Jerry Gillen, Chesapeake
Don Meeks, Waterloo
Don Nance, Windsor
Emerson Webb, Coal Grove
Second Team
Fred Lavender, St. Joseph
Bob Pyles, Waterloo
Fred Freeman, Fairland
Henry Robinson, Fairland
Jack Hunt, Chesapeake
Gene Kelly, Coal Grove
Honorable Mention
Larry Dunworth, St. Joseph
Curtis Boggs, South Point
Charlie Pleasant, South Point
Tom Beard, South Point
AP All-Ohio
Second Team
Don Miller, St. Joseph 18.2 ppg
Lawrence County Standings
Team W L
St. Joseph 7 1
Chesapeake 7 1
Waterloo 5 2
Coal Grove 4 2
Fairland 4 4
Windsor 3 3
Pedro 2 4
South Point 1 7
Blackfork 0 8