In our lives, as we are approaching, living, and even moving towards the latter part of our “middle age” years, we have a tendency to reminisce in a positive way about our high school years. Remembering and embellishing the good, putting the not so good far back in the recesses of our minds.
Something that I like to reminisce and think about, and is always a positive & happy thought, is that when I was in high school, we had a GREAT basketball team. I graduated in 1973. But from my freshman year, until the year 1974 when Manchester won the state championship, Friday & Saturday nights were always “rockin” in the small gym just South of Akron, Ohio.
I look back at those times, and think that it was truly a time of massive cultural change for people who grew up during that period. When Manchester won the title in 1974, one of the most turbulent 10 year periods in American history was coming to an end. It started with the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, and over the next decade, we experienced the Vietnam War, violent & peaceful demonstrations everywhere, The Beatles, drugs, clothes & hair styles, the killings of Bobby Kennedy & Martin Luther King, Kent State, Muhammad Ali, Black Civil Rights, the Cold War, landing on the moon, Richard Nixon & Watergate, just to name a few.
Back then, there were 3 classes in high school basketball, and Manchester was one of the smaller schools in “Class AA.”
Manchester was led by 6-10 center, Mike Phillips. After he graduated, Phillips went on to star at Kentucky, where he helped lead them to a National Championship in 1978. But the Panthers also had great players besides the big, burly center. The other starters during the 1973 & 1974 seasons were Tommy Thompson & Tim Neff at forwards, and Jack Sliger & Jeff Roberts at guards.
My senior year in 73, we were undefeated until regional play. Phillips was injured in the district title against Hudson. He couldn’t play the next game, and our season ended in a game against a team from Youngstown.
In 74, Manchester came back with a vengeance. They rolled through their schedule with ease. Included during this time was the last time I ever saw them play before moving to Florida to attend college. It was an early season game against the same, and very much disliked Hudson Explorers. The Panthers won 102-49, which included what I consider the greatest quarter I ever saw a team play. In the second stanza, Manchester outscored Hudson 37-5.
The Panthers had 2 separate 6 point wins during the season. Other than that, they were pretty much unstoppable until the tourney. Their only close game in post season was a narrow, 4 point win over Beloit West Branch.
Besides the starting 5, Manchester’s supporting cast was excellent. Gary Edwards, Joe Schler, Mike Arnold, Bill Dover, Larry Simmons, Bobby Eckert, and Brian Thompson all played key roles in the Panthers success.
As a sidenote, in his junior & senior years of high school, in games Phillips participated in, Manchester was 49-0.
Ah, the good old days!