Kansas Prep Basketball History Part 6                       Kansas High School Basketball  History

 Part Six:  Kansas CLASS AA, A & B Tournaments  1941-1951              * = Overtime    ! = Forfeit     by Patrick Macfee    Revised 5/2/2013


Chapter 1: War Years 1941-1945     Chapter 2: Post-War Boom 1946-1951

                       1941   1942   1943   1944   1945 


1944                                   Final Four Officials All Classes: Ed Hess  KANSAS CITY, Mike Oberhelman RANDOLPH, Barney Forker PRETTY PRAIRIE, Carl Kopelk MC PHERSON, Darrell Hinkhouse PALCO

1944 CLASS AA Tourney

March 23-25 Topeka - Topeka High Gym

Harold Reade NEKL 1 Shawnee Mission (20-5)

Frank Lindley ARK VALLEY 2 Newton (21-2)

Marion Wools INDEPENDENT SF KC-Wyandotte (21-3)

Harold Opdycke CKL SF Salina (18-6)



KC-Wyandotte 31-28

    Shawnee Mission

Salina   30-27

TDC AA All-Stars

  Shawnee Mission

Shawnee Mission 30-29

David Wright F NEWTON



Kansas City Sectional

KC-Wyandotte KC-Wyandotte

Chanute 44-23 KC-Wyandotte

KC-Ward KC-Ward 27-21  

Columbus 25-22

Shawnee Mission Shawnee Mission

Parsons 56-25 Shawnee Mission  

Lawrence Lawrence 21-13

Independence 32-29

Hutchinson Sectional

Salina Salina

Hutchinson 30-28 Salina

Wellington Wellington 36-34

Dodge City 52-35   Salina

Newton Newton   26-19

Winfield 28-17 Newton

El Dorado El Dorado 30-19

Junction City 27-25 *

1944 CLASS A Tourney

Topeka - Topeka High Gym

March 23-25
Art Leas ^ UNION PACIFIC 1 Hays (20-1)

Barney Hayes NEKL 2 Olathe (18-6)

K.A. Piper SKL SF Anthony (19-2)

Fr. George Schmidt INDEPENDENT SF Wichita Cathedral (17-6)



Anthony 40-36


Olathe   28-26


TDC Top Five

Wichita Cathedral

Don Ashlock F OLATHE

Eldon Rebsamen F OLATHE

Gib Stramel C HAYS

Cecil Calvert G HAYS

Oscella Meckel G HAYS
Hays Hays

Belleville 27-24 Hays

Russell Russell 30-20

Hill City 32-23


Anthony Anthony

Neodesha 35-21 Anthony

Fredonia Fredonia 45-29

Cherryvale 32-25


Topeka-Seaman Topeka-Seaman

Topeka-HP 47-34 Olathe

Olathe Olathe 23-21

Osage City 39-19


Wichita Cathedral Wichita Cathedral

Liberal 50-39 Wichita Cathedral

Abilene Abilene 52-39

Moundridge 34-31

^ Leas inducted into military - Dennis McKee coached last 2 games

1944 CLASS B State Tourney

March 23-25 Topeka - Topeka High School Gym

< 200 Students
Avy Masterson MID-KANSAS 1 Halstead (25-0)

Bob Whitesell SUMWICK 2 Clearwater (20-7)

N.G. Sheffer NCKL SF Mankato (20-1)

Lafayette Haughn INDEPENDENT SF Olivet (26-2)



Olivet 51-22



Clearwater   29-20

TDC All-Star

Mankato Clearwater

40-15 36-24
Harold England

John Senter

Albert Vierthaler HALSTEAD

Hutchinson Sectional

Tex Smiley

Ivan Freeman

Halstead Halstead

Sylvia 36-28 Halstead

Pretty Prairie Pretty Prairie

Hugoton 42-36

Ottawa Sectional

Olivet Olivet

Tampa 30-27 Olivet

DeSoto DeSoto 46-43

Centralia 40-37

Eureka Sectional

Clearwater Clearwater

Arma 44-26 Clearwater

Moline Moline 41-32

Oxford 42-41

Russell Sectional

Mankato Mankato

Palco 43-22 Mankato

Almena Almena 40-15

Bennington 39-38

Hutchinson Sectional scores: Hutchinson News Herald     Ottawa Sectional scores:  Ottawa Herald     Eureka Sectional scores: Topeka Daily Capital     Russell Sectional Scores: Russell Record
Final Four Scores at Topeka: "One Hundred Years of Hoops", KSHSAA  2011

Wartime draft requirements now claimed many high school age players before they could even think about college in 1944. The winter and spring sport of basketball was as popular in participation as anytime in history for the high school ranks. Football schedules, on the other hand, were reduced or canceled because of travel restrictions and lack of available coaches. Practically any male teacher could stand in as an official coach for a basketball team as team captains were still in charge of court play. Football required much more active participation from the coach and assistants and many young male teachers were by now inducted into military service. Official U.S. policy encouraged athletic participation as a prelude to basic combat training. 1

      The KSHSAA continued the format of 1943 with the final four from each class meeting for competition that moved in 1944 to the Topeka High school gym.


    Newton faced plenty of competition in the Hutchinson Sectional. They were still highly rated by the state press - some said they were the best Railroader team since 1937.
Don Pierce was a 1941 graduate of Kansas University who was working for the Topeka Daily Capital in 1944 and covered all the final four action played at the Topeka High gym.  He described Newton as "without qualification ... its best since 1937.  (Les) Monroe, (David) Wright and (King Kong) Brown form the fiercest rebound triumvirate in the state. The Railer passing tips off their class. It's cautious, painstaking and invariably accurate." 2

     Newton over came problems they experienced in the Hutch sectional - Monroe was damaged by a turned ankle. Salina's full court pressure allowed the Maroons to build a lead on Newton in the Sectional final. Then they relied on a zone defense to hang on to the victory. 3

   Newton drew their old nemsis, Wyandotte, in the semi-final at Topeka. They reverted to the dominance they had maintained all year against most opponents. Solid board and defensive work gave them a ten point lead entering the 4th quarter.  Then Glen Channell went to work inside to mount a furious Bulldog comeback. Wyandotte's hustling guard Al Zych was also a big factor in the surge that fell just  a few points short. A visibly shaken Frank Lindley gathered his boys together and awaited the championship game. 4

  Salina rode the upset special path to Topeka starting with their play in the Hutchinson Sectional. They were underdogs in those three contests (Hutchinson, Wellington and Newton). 5 Ark Valley experts were finally becoming convinced that the "rush-rush" game was a legitimate tactic. Salina forced several Newton turnovers that put the Railroaders in a big hole in the sectional final. Don Pierce warned Salina fans, "When Valley fans even hint that perhaps a fast break used sparingly, might be a ticket for improvement, everyone's got to take note. A clear cut Newton triumph here (Topeka) probably would relegate Salina's semi-final show back to a flash-in-the-pan category." 6

  Defending champion Shawnee Mission fell victim to the Salina pressure in the first half of their semi-final. Lippoldt and Tickel were the ball thieves who gave Shawnee the most trouble. The Indians were having a difficult time finding their offensive star Bud Shepard. Dick Conklin finally got the offense going by attacking the goal with as many outside shots as he could muster. He connected on enough of those shots to bring the Indians back from a 19-14 halftime deficit. A free throw from Johnny Koening with fifty seconds left sealed the Indian victory. 7

   The final of Newton vs Shawnee Mission presented a daunting task for odds makers. Newton had just recently lost to Salina - the same team that Shawnee Mission had just defeated. The Indians had lost to Wyandotte, just eliminated by Newton, three times during the season. Don Pierce described the Indian victory as "the most sparkling defensive show of the entire tourney. The cautious Braves sparred alertly until late in the third period when a five point deficit forced the Railers out of the Ark Valley snail pace. Alagna and Shepard, who turned in astounding rebound performances against the huskier Railroad front line, then cracked the Newton defense wide open in shaking loose for eleven late tallies." The Railroaders suffered a severe loss when Monroe was forced out of the game with a re-injured ankle and Ralph Brown found the bench in the 4th due to foul limits. 8

   While giving full credit to Shawnee Mission for their championship season, Topeka Daily Capital columnist Pierce summarized the opinions of many in regard to the Newton team. "The Railroaders choked to death in their own methodical toils against Shawnee Mission ... When the Trainmen got a bucket, the Indians fired back pronto. It took two or three shots, maybe four. But they got the points back because their percentage was reasonably high ... Newton's methodical teams aren't adept at this type of ball playing. Newton can't stand rush-rush tactics unless it's got a lead to work on. When a team eternally is composed of fine ball handlers, brawny rebounders, and top shots, but doesn't loop for the ring enough times to beat undermanned opposition, ther isn't any mystery about its losses. It is difficult to criticize a system that has yielded more state championships than any other school. Nevertheless we wonder if the Railers ever would get beat if they used their finesse to tear loose once in a while." 9


    Hays boys won the first ever title for the western Kansas city. They nosed out the favored Olathe who many thought was a threat in the Class AA ranks. Hays coach Art Leas was not in attendance to accept the 1st place trophy because military training prevented his presence at the final four tournament. Dennis McKee covered his spot on the bench for their wins over Anthony and Olathe. 10


   Perhaps the best team in the state in 1944 was the Halstead Dragon five that qualified for the final four with Olivet, Mankato and Clearwater. Ark Valley expert Chop Cairns of Hutchinson thought that Tex Smiley and Harold England would have started for any of the powerful Ark Valley teams. Columnist Pierce said of England, "If there were any 25 carat players in any of the three classes, the Dragon center, was one. His rebounding and ball handling would have earned a front line berth on any five and he counted twenty-seven points for his two night's work." 11

  Other teams in Topeka were not exactly slouches. Ever competitive Olivet returned for another run at the title. This year they had 100% participation as usual with the boys from the school - all seven boys were involved, but because of the short bench they had to be careful with agressive play on the defensive side. 12 Halstead slashed throught the Olivet team  and gave the Osage County boys ( they had adopted the name Zoomers) only their second loss of the year.  Mankato was the defending champion and proudly undefeated. Clearwater upset the Mankato boys with a fast break offense that caught the champs by surprise. Johnny Senter of Clearwater scored many of his 18 points in the second half surge that secured the win for the Indians. 13

  For just a few moments early in the championship game, Clearwater looked like a credible challenger to the dominant Halstead team. The Dragons responded to a 9-2 deficit by driving to a 21-13 haltime lead. Halstead controlled the boards through out the game and squashed most of the shot attempts by Clearwater in the second half. Halstead completed the first undefeated season in the history of the school with the championship win. 14 The banquet for the players back in Halstead was well attended and spirits were high for next year as Smiley and England would return for the 1945 season. Coach Phog Allen made room on his schedule to serve as guest speaker for the affair. 15 Recruiting for Phog Allen, in those days, was usually restricted to congratulatory letters from the famous coach. 16 Phog proved he had more than a passing interest in Halstead's star England.  After his military service, Harold was a four year letterman for the Kansas Jayhawks (1947-50).

1   Fred Mendell, "Sportangles", Hutchinson News Herald, March 12, 1944 Major John L Griffith, Commisioner of  Athletics for the Western Conference (BIG 10) quoted .. "The prep school programs are an asset of war. Military opinion leaves no doubt boys trained on American play fields acquire fighting values denied those of enemy nations trained in mass drills."
2   Don Pierce, "In This Corner with Don Pierce", Topeka Daily Capital, March 25, 1944
3   Salina Journal, March 20, 1944, 6
4   Topeka Daily Capital, March 24, 1944, 16
5   Salina Journal, March 20, 1944, 6
6   Don Pierce, "In This Corner with Don Pierce", Topeka Daily Capital, March 21, 1944
7   Topeka Daily Capital, March 24, 1944, 16
8   Topeka Daily Capital, March 26, 1944, 14A
9   Don Pierce, "In This Corner with Don Pierce", Topeka Daily Capital, March 26, 1944
10 Hays Daily News, March 26, 1944, 6
11 Don Pierce, "In This Corner with Don Pierce", Topeka Daily Capital, March 26, 1944
12 Topeka Daily Capital, March 19, 1944, 10A
13  Ibid, March 25, 1944, 8
14 Halstead Independent, March 31, 1944, 3
15 Ibid, 1
16  Blair Kerkhoff, Phog Allen:  The Father of Basketball Coaching  (Indianapolis: Masters Press, 1996)  162-163