Kansas Prep Basketball History Part 6               Revised July 4, 2012              Kansas High School Basketball  History

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


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

                       1941   1942   1943   1944   1945  

   The KSHSAA district and regional tournament pairings for 1941 can be found here
   Details of Classification Revision Included

   Revised July 4, 2012

1941 KSHSAA CLASS AA State Tourney       Emporia-White Auditorium   

March 19-22

Ashley Elbl INDEPENDENT 1 KC-Wyandotte (21-2)

Earl Morrison CKL 2 Salina (20-4)

Emmett Breen ARK VALLEY 3 El Dorado (18-4)

Frank Lindley ARK VALLEY 4 Newton (20-3)



Salina 29-25


El Dorado   Salina

  El Dorado 35-32

Topeka  49-32  



  Newton   36-31

McPherson 33-19  


KC-Ward   KC-Wyandotte

  KC-Wyandotte 26-25 *

KC-Wyandotte 26-18

3rd Place

El Dorado

  El Dorado
Newton 24-17

1st Round

Hutchinson Hutchinson
Manhattan 36-26
Salina Salina
Parsons 30-28
El Dorado El Dorado
Shawnee Mission 34-28

Coffeyville Topeka 

Topeka  36-30

Arkansas City KC-Ward
Percy Fossey
KC-Ward 28-26
Darrell Finkhouse
KC-Wyandotte KC-Wyandotte
Earl Yoos
Chanute 28-20
Bob Moffatt
Pittsburg McPherson

McPherson 30-29

Newton Newton

Junction City 41-20
* Overtime

1941 CLASS A State Tourney
Salina - Memorial Hall

March 19-21

Harold Barb CPL 1 Lyons (20-3)

Paul Nye SKL 2 Medicine Lodge (21-5)

Oran Burns NWKL 3 Norton (19-4)

Merle Crawford JAYHAWK 4 Seaman (15-7)

^ Invited



Lyons 42-33


Norton   34-30


St. Joseph's-Hays 28-24  




Sacred Heart-Salina 32-27  

  Medicine Lodge

Medicine Lodge   45-34

  Medicine Lodge

Hays 42-38

3rd Place



Norton 24-19

1st Round

Marion Olathe

Olathe 26-21

Neodesha ^ Lyons

Lyons 51-17

Norton Norton

Osage City 29-26

St. Joseph's-Hays St. Joseph's-Hays

Arma 50-23  ~

Moundridge ^ Seaman
Leroy Sandberg

Seaman 21-19

Sacred Heart-Salina Sacred Heart-Salina
Earl Bevan

Scott City 39-38 *
Mike Oberhelman

Immaculata-LV ^ Medicine Lodge

Medicine Lodge 43-35

Fredonia Hays

Hays ^ 27-20

1941 CLASS B State Tourney
Hutchinson - Convention Hall

March 19-22

Clifford Binns MID-CONTINENT 1 Sublette (28-0)

J.C. Hetzel OSAGE COUNTY 2 Olivet ????

Morris Detter MID-KANSAS 3 Nickerson (16-9)

C.D. Dean INDEPENDENT 4 Harveyville (24-5)



Almena 44-26


Harveyville   45-32


Leonardville 29-28 *  




Inman 29-28  


Nickerson   30-21


Powhattan 24-23

1st Team

3rd Place

Otto Schnellbacher C SUBLETTE

Wilbur Engelland G NICKERSON

Harold Shaver G SUBLETTE
Harveyville 25-24

1st Round

KSHSAA Honor Roll

Mankato Leonardville

Leonardville 39-35
Otto Schnellbacher C SUBLETTE
Haven Harveyville
Dean Lusk C OLIVET
Harveyville 21-18
Jim Crawford C NICKERSON
Amena Almena
Sun City 59-44
Sublette Sublette
Jay Poage F ALMENA
Moline 45-16
Richard Pfister F POWHATTAN
Olivet Olivet
Page City 38-23
Harry Michaels F OLIVET
Inman Inman
Wilbur Reeser F OLIVET
Cedar Vale 23-17
Vernon Rutledge F SUBLETTE
Powhattan Powhattan
Elton Winter F SUBLETTE
Fontana 52-20
HaroldShaver G SUBLETTE
Nickerson Nickerson
Roy Leathers G SUBLETTE
Basehor 42-30
Robert McGregor G OLIVET

Cloyd Schneider G NICKERSON

Wilbur Engelland G NICKERSON

Philip Cadue G POWHATTAN
Carl Kopelk Manhattan
Walt Buller G INMAN
William Hennigh Wichita
Bill Bartlett G ALMENA
George Gardner Arkansas Ciy

Vaughn McColey Smith Center

Scores per "One Hundred Years of Hoops" except for
Hays-St. Joseph: Salina Journal, March 20, 1941, 18

Class AA and Class A tournament reports do not list all-tournament teams or honor rolls.


      The press and business interests of Emporia welcomed the Class AA  tournament  to their newly constructed Civic Auditorium.  The structure contained 2,700 permanent seats and temporary seating was available to expand the total to 4,500 for basketball. 1  But, the hopes of Emporia High enjoying home town support at the tourney vanished when Chanute eliminated the Spartans 26-14 in the semi-finals of the Fredonia regional. 2 The Emporia Gazette urged the locals to support the tournament as a civic duty with a front page "Come on Emporia" editorial. "Maybe you don't know that a lot of Kansas towns think you are a poor sport, but they do. They think you're pinch-penny and selfish ... So lets show them our true colors. Lets pack the best auditorium in Kansas chockfull for every session of this event." 3

    The Topeka press aimed shots at the Emporia venue early on in their coverage. They were spoiled by Topeka's long reign as host of the top class tournament. Topeka Daily Capital coulmnist Jim Reed noted problems with the basketball floor. "The first day the floor was as slick as a wet bar of soap and one of the visiting coaches threatened to take his team home if the floor was not 'unslicked' for the next session." Tournament officials had lost an argument with another civic faction that held a dance on the floor two days before the tournament opened and the wax applied for that event was blamed for most of the slick floor  issues. 4

    In the meantime, basketball games were being played while the two newspapers argued with each other. Newton was the favorite with a team that entered the tournament with only one loss. Coach Lindley called this squad his most balanced team - every player was was above six feet and very capable in the shooting department. The rest of the field in Class AA did not appear to be as high a quality as the 1940 version. 5 KC-Wyandotte was described as a "ragged gang of left-overs from a great 1940 team" that gained top ten status through hard work in the regular season. 6 Salina adopted the "fire-wagon" style of play that was taught by the legendary Gene Johnson at Kansas Wesleyan.  Salina's Coach Earl Morrison studied Johnson's approach and while not especially trained for basketball coaching, he knew that the style depended on great physical conditioning. Chuck Lear, starting guard on that team, explained that the drills and running they did in practice allowed their team to maintain a pace that other high school teams of the era could not match.  Other teams like Parsons with Dale Hall - a future All-American at Army - had a great individual star that carried their school into the tournament. 7

    Salina, after a spirited victory over Parsons in a duel between two man-to-man defenses,  started their serious bid in the tourney with an upset of Hutchinson. The Maroons outhustled the Salt Hawks and provided the Emporia fans a look at the advantages of the rushing game that was gaining popularity in  Central Kansas. 8 Hutchinson played a zone defense that was the standard in the early 1920s and was making a strong comeback in high school play. Gene Kemper thought the zone revival was due to the popularity of a course taught by John Bunn at a recent Kansas coaching school. 9 At any rate - once Salina gained the lead, Hutchinson's reliance on the zone worked against them.

   Bill Mowery and Johnny Short were the scoring leaders in Salina's semi-final victory over El Dorado. This victory was also considered an upset and gave Salina their first final in the history of the school. The Maroon defenders were all over the court in a man defense but occasionally even played a zone to overcome the taller Wildcats. Guard Chuck Lear scored the decisive basket on a late steal - that play came after a referee had disallowed his made free throw that would have knotted the score. 10

   KC-Wyandotte showed signs of wins to come when they blitzed undefeated Shawnee Mission 41-14 in their regional final. 11 Coach Elbl played an independent schedule that prepared his team well for the tournament. They made a road trip in early January defeating McPherson and Salina but losing to Newton. They played all the Kansas City teams and ventured into Missouri for more road games. 12 Newton fans and most everyone else were shocked when the Bulldogs defeated Newton in a semi-final overtime. Coach Elbl had predicted that his team was much better than the early 32-24 loss earlier in the season indicated. The Bulldogs were a very efficient 12 of 18 from the free throw line and connected with a late free throw in overtime while Newton missed their free throw chance. 13

   The final between KC-Wyandotte and Salina was an intense struggle but Wyandotte built a lead in the second half that they never relinquished. Both teams connected for the same number of field goals, but the Bulldogs advantage came on the free throw line. Salina was unable to pry the ball away from Wyandotte even with their pressure defense. Coach Elbl used his deep bench to keep pace with the "fire wagon" Salina game. "Run, Shoot, Run" basketball was on display from both teams and the Wyandotte team without a big star player prevailed. 14

   Tournament coaches joined in a discussion of rule changes for the game and some came up with what were considered wild ideas in 1941. Chop Cairns (Hutchinson) : He suggested a penalty box, like in ice hockey, for players who have two personal fouls. (Today many coaches enforce a de facto penalty box by benching players when they get two early personal fouls.)  Austin Andrews (Arkansas City) : Andrews would have a line drawn in a half circle at a radius of twenty-five feet from each basket and award three points for every field goal scored outside of these lines. Coach Lindley (Newton): Outlaw the zone defense. "It is the thing that is causing low-score ball games. Eliminate it and you will see higher scores, better ball handling, better games." 15

   The only sour note
of the tourney, according to the Emporia Gazette, came with the playing of the consolation game. Both El Dorado and Newton were barely motivated to play for third place after battling all year in the Ark Valley and losing heart breaking semi-final games. Coach Lindley and Coach Breen came to a gentleman's agreement to play substitutes in the second half. KSHSAA Commissioner Thomas forced Newton regulars to the dressing rooms when he saw them carrying pop and ice cream bars to the bench for the start of the second half. The boys were ordered to finish their snacks before returning to the bench. The press blasted the play of both teams for going through the motions. Coach Breen issued an apology - but Coach Lindley was defiant. 16 He replied to criticism of his tactics with a letter to the Emporia Gazette that contained some valid points. But, he made no reference to the display of Newton fans towards officials and instead complained that Emporia did not have the floor ready for the tournament and cited poor attendance for the first round games as "sour notes" of the Emporia event. 17 The competitive fire of the Newton Coach had built a great high school basketball program, but his critics were gaining momentum. Coach Lindley's combative nature was not slowed by the comments of others. "Naturally," Lindley said, "I'm disappointed that we didn't win. However, losing in state tournament play needs no explanation. Under the best conditions winning is uncertain, For Newton and the Ark Valley, those conditions were far from best, I still feel in a series of three games with average officiating we can take any team in the state. 18


     The remodeled Class A division was really the new tournament in the KHSAA line-up. Salina was chosen as the host for this event even though criticism had been leveled about poor lighting and seating at Memorial Hall. The town did have experience in hosting state tournaments and there was plenty of local media coverage of the event.

    The entries in the tourney included many schools that had never qualified for a state tourney - Topeka-Seaman, Marion, Neodesha, Arma, Medicine Lodge and Fredonia were in this category, although some were invited or played in the old "open" version of the event.  A few higher population schools that previously competed in Class B entered the new Class A division - Salina-Sacred Heart and Osage City. 19 The field presented a great challenge for anyone offering predictions on the eventual champion. Very few of the teams had played each other in the regular season or even shared common opponents. 20

   The early elimination of Sacred Heart, Hays and Hays-St Joseph's was a rough blow to the Class A box office. Throw in that a lot of Salina fans who were away watching their team play in the final four at Emporia and it was not a surprise that the  Class A event was not financially successful. 21 Norton's patient offensive attack was responsible for taking the highly regarded Cadets from Hays out of the tourney. Seaman from Topeka made the most of their first trip to a tournament and eliminated Sacred Heart. The Vikings would not allow the Knights inside and their big men dominated the rebound battle. Medicine Lodge and Hays traded leads a few times but the Hays squad was unable to stop Bill Forsyth who scored 23 points for the Lodge boys. 22

   A team that made the trip from an area of Kansas once visited by Spanish explorer Coronado in 1541 won the Class A trophy in 1941. Lyons was in the midst of celebrating the 400 year anniversary of the Spanish visit to their area and the local press had promoted the idea of fans wearing colorful Spanish costumes when attending the Salina tourney.
23 A few in the crowd were noticed, but the Lyons Daily News acknowledged the presence and play of two "descendants" of the Spanish visit. This was a reference to Casimiro Morales and Elmer delaTorre , two "Mexican" boys who made solid contributions to the state tournament effort. Don Maison was the star scorer for the team from Rice County. 24

  No all-tournament team was published  but these were the top  players according to game reports :  Don Maison LYONS, Bill Forsyth MEDICINE LODGE, Ted White LYONS, Jack Valcour SEAMAN, Chick Hixson NORTON and Scott Tyrell MEDICINE LODGE would have been named on most ballots.


   By the time this tournament ended, there were many observers that really believed that a few of the "B's" might actually challenge the champs of the other tournaments. 25 Hutchinson's Convention Hall was the gathering place for players from small towns that went on to big basketball careers.
   The greatest of all these stars in 1941 was Otto Schnellbacher from Sublette. "Snelly" was an overpowering presence under the boards and considered the greatest player to ever come out of Southwest Kansas. Players from this area rarely received enough press coverage  to gain notice from college coaches - but it was thought by the press that Otto could pick and choose from any BIG 6 or Missouri Valley school and be most welcome. 26 He was a an All-American football player and All-BIG 6 basketball player at Kansas University. Wilbur Reeser was the rock that guided tiny Olivet to a final face-off against Schnellbacher and the Sublette Larks.
27  Reeser played on Emporia State's post-war NAIA tournament teams. He was named a 2nd team NAIA All-American and is a member of Emporia State's Hall of Fame. Jack Dean was the son of Harveyville High's Coach and Principal C. D. Dean. 28 He was a valuable starter for Kansas State when the Wildcats played in the 1948 NCAA Final Four. Jay Poage was a scoring star for Almena - 31 points in a first round game - that had to face Sublette in the second round or he might have broken all Class B scoring records. 29

   The press and fans statewide were intrigued by the story of the Olivet basketball team. Jim Reed wrote, "Olivet didn't hold school last week ... There are eighteen students in the school and all eleven boys are members of the squad. State tournament regulations call for ten man squads, so one of the boys was left (off the team). The seven girls were busy cheerleaders." J.C. Hetzel was the Superintendent, Teacher and Coach for the Osage County team that  did not have an indoor court to play on until 1940. 30  The team's 29-28 win over perennial tough luck school Inman was portrayed fittingly as a David vs Goliath contest. The boys from Olivet had no nickname (mascot). 31

   Harveyville was invited to the tournament and their fans were as devoted as any in the tourney. The Yellow Jackets finished second to Olivet in the Osage City regional - so experts did not give them much of a chance at State. Perhaps
the 130 fans and students who chartered a special train gave the boys the extra encouragement to win a close first round game and follow with an overtime victory against Leonardville. Gus Daum and Jack Dean were able to score enough to actually stay in contention against Sublette for three quarters. Dean could take some pride in his defensive work on Schnellbacher who scored his tournament low point total of thirteen. 32

   Nothing could stop the Sublette drive for the title. The Hutchinson Herald said, " Schnellbacher scored 29 points on machine gun shots from an under basket pivot position."33 His tournament total of 84 points broke Bill Engalland's Class B record. Wilbur Reeser, who many thought was the "most valuable player to his team", wasted no words when he announced over the tournament loudspeakers, "Sublette is the toughest team we met all season." A happy Schnellbacher replied , "We've been trying for three years to win this." He held the tournament plaque in his hands and acknowledged the thunderous applause from the audience. 34
Lawrence Daily Journal-World, March 17, 1941, 6
2   Emporia Gazette, March 14, 1941, 5
3   Ibid, March 19, 1941, 1
4   Jim Reed, "Off the Sports Cuff", Topeka Daily Capital, March 22, 1941
5   Gene Kemper, "Gene Kemper's Column", Topeka Daily Capital, March 19, 1941
6   Wyandotte High School, The Quiverian, 1941, Basketball
7   Chuck Lear ... "That ref made a mistake, my foot never touched that free throw line."
8   Emporia Gazette, March 21, 1941, 9
9   Gene Kemper, "Gene Kemper's Column", Topeka Daily Capital, March 21, 1941
10 Chuck Lear
11 Kansas City Kansan, March 16, 1941, 6B
12 Ibid, March 10, 1941, 7
13 Curtis Buller, 369-370
14 Kansas City Kansan, March 23, 1941, 1
15 Jim Reed, "Off the Sports Cuff", Topeka Daily Capital,  March 23, 1941
16 Emporia Gazette, March 24, 1941, 5
17 Ted McDaniel, "Sport Chatter by Mac", Emporia Gazette, March 27, 1941
18 Curtis Buller, 371
19 "One Hundred Years of Hoops", State Tournament Appearances 1912-2010
20 Salina Journal, March 18, 1941, 12
21 Ibid, March 21, 1941, 8
22 Topeka Daily Capital, March 21, 1941
23 Lyons Daily News, March 21, 1941, 1
24 Ibid, March 24, 1941, 4
25 Hutchinson Herald, March 24, 1941, 2
26 Ibid
27 Jim Reed, "Off the Sports Cuff", Topeka Daily Capital, March 20, 1941
28 Hutchinson Herald, March 21, 2012, 2
29 Ibid,  March 19, 1941, 2
30 Jim Reed, "Off the Sports Cuff", Topeka Daily Capital, March 24, 1941  
31 Hutchinson Herald, March 21, 1941, 2
32 Harveyville Monitor, March 27, 1941, 1
33 Hutchison News-Herald, March 23, 1941, 2
34 Sublette Monitor, March 27, 1941, 1