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PHILADELPHIA BIG 5
In the News: 1958-1959

 

From the Daily Pennsylvanian, January 31, 1959:

 

Penn Quintet Upends LaSalle, 73-70, In Overtime Thriller

By William T. Bates

 

The locker room was as full of well wishers as it was with steam and sweat. Harry Litwack, Larry Merchant, Jack Ramsay, Bob Vetrone and a raft of satisfied alumni and students pumped Coach Jack McCloskey’s hand. The words “nice game…”great game”…”whatta game to win”…were echoed over and over again in the clamoring cubicle.

Co-captain George Schmidt maneuvered his towel draped body into a crowd that was backslapping McCloskey, cupped his sweaty hand around St. Joseph coach Jack Ramsay’s neck, looked him in the eye, and said “You’re next.”

The reason? The occasion for all the melodrama?

Penn’s never-say-die basketball team (10-5) had just pulled a major area by upset by beating mighty LaSalle, 73-70, in overtime in a Big Five contest that was replete with thrills and chills.

The win was the second in city series play in five years for the jubilant Quakers with LaSalle being the victim both times. The game was a carbon copy of Penn’s last year 67-66 conquest of the Explorers that now gives the winners a 2-12 slate in Big Five play.

The dangerous Olneyites took the court with a commanding 4-0 record in the Middle Atlantic Conference and an overall season log of 10 wins against only three losses, only to meet defeat at the hands of a shorter but more aggressive club.

 

A Team Effort

There were stars galore. George Schmidt turned in a superb performance with 19 points, nine rebounds, and a dazzling display of adept ball handling. Joe Bowman and Al Schwait chimed in with 17 points, their tallies coming at times when it appeared the bubble had finally burst for the Quakers. This duo also grabbed off 25 rebounds while playing outstanding floor games and Herky Rubincam’s ice calm on the foul line in the late stages of the game was something to see.

 

Aberman Stars

But perhaps the unsung hero of the game award should go to big Hughie Aberman. The little-used junior came off the bench to collar ten clutch rebounds and score three points after Jackie Follman fouled out early in the second half. Of the seven rebounds via LaSalle shots in the five minute overtime frame, Aberman retrieved four and figured in a tap-back for another one in addition to scoring Penn’s first two-pointer of the extra session.

LaSalle managed to stay on top after a 34-30 halftime lead despite Joe Bowman’s eight points in seven minutes at the start of the second half but Schwait hit with a 30 foot set to put Penn ahead with 10:40 remaining. The lead changed hands six times before Hugh Brolly tied the regulation game at 65 with 45 seconds remaining.

Then, with Aberman doing a tremendous job on the boards and the team as a whole exhibiting excellent ball control, Rubincam iced the game with three foul shots in the last 14 seconds.

 

“Jack the Snipper”

As the buzzer went off, the Quaker players hoisted McCloskey to their shoulders and “Jack the Snipper” proceeded to cut down the net at the East end of the court. Joe Bowman finished off the job at the other end of the court while the sparse Penn contingent was making merry.

Jubilation was rightly the order of the day as the Penn team is now riding how on the crest of a four game win skein. The Quakers notched their third Ivy win some two and a half weeks ago in a contest with Cornell at Ithaca. Coupled with previous wins over Yale and Columbia, the team figures to be in good physical and mental shape for the upcoming trips to Yale and Brown this weekend.

McCloskey’s defensive strategy paid dividends in the win over La Salle, a team that had posted wins over top teams as Camsius, Western Kentucky, Bucknell, and Syracuse.

The Penn mentor said he switched from man to man to zone in the second half “so we wouldn’t run out of gas and so we wouldn’t pick up so many personals” (Penn had 13 in the first half).

McCloskey also praised the physical condition of the squad as they had not played for 4 days and were relatively inactive in practice sessions due to finals.