Basketball Championship 1952
By Keith Gibson
The basketball season was coming to a close in 1952. White Pine had a great team and had earned the right to play Las Vegas or I should say that LV had the misfortune to win the honor of playing us for the championship.
It had been an exciting sophomore year for me as I had the honor to be playing in the WP Pep Band trumpet section. We were to travel to Reno to play for our Bobcat team at the championship game. We traveled in a Lewis Brothers company bus. It was loaded with other students that were just as excited as we were. I think we stayed at the El Cortez hotel.
WP had a great, well deserved, reputation for its tremendous marching band and Pep Band. The University of Nevada invited us to play a jam session in the concert hall on campus for the students. It was a fun time.
That evening we set up in the gymnasium on the bleachers at about the center line. We played the WP school song when our team entered and at several timeouts. I don’t recall the score at halftime, but it was a very close game. We played out hearts out for the crowd. One our favorite tune was the “Hawaian War Chant”. The crowd loved it. Ivan Call sat first chair trumpet. At one point he stood up and played a great ad lib. The crowd was starting to clap in time with us. Then Bob Swain started his famous drum ad lib and the crowd really went wild. The refs were blowing their whistles trying to quiet things down so the second half could start. The crowd wanted Swain to keep going. The refs came over and asked us to quit, which of course we did and the game got started.
The score went back and forth the whole 3rd quarter. The excitement was mounting at each basket. The 4th quarter was just as exciting. The end of the game was just seconds away when WP scored 2 points putting us ahead by one. LV brought the ball back in quickly and scored a basket putting them ahead by one. There were maybe 5 seconds left when WP threw in the ball at the LV end of the court. A long quick pass went to Frank Evans. He caught it on the run and went in for a layup. Just as he let go of the ball, the game ending buzzer blared out over the roar of the crowd. Frank’s lay up went off to one side of the rim. It was over. The LV crowd swarmed all over the court screaming and cheering. However the fickle hand of fate was to come into play. The refs were blowing their whistles and the announcer was yelling for everyone to clear the floor. It took a few minutes to accomplish. The refs stood in the middle of the court and yelled that a LV player had deliberately hacked Frank’s arm as he made the shot. Frank had a telltale red mark on his arm.
The rule was that since he was attempting a shot he would get two free throws. The Vegas crowd was booing and screaming at Frank as he walked up to the foul shot line. The refs tried to hush the crowd, but to no avail. It was evident that Frank was very nervous, but he bounced the ball a few times and then let go. The ball hit the backboard and then rolled around the rim several times and then dropped in to tie up the game. The Vegas crowd was really screaming and booing, while we were literally sitting on pins and needles. The ref handed the ball back to Frank at the foul line. Frank took his time and then pushed the ball toward the basket. It again hit the backboard and then rolled around the rim. It was painful to watch, especially when, it almost came out once, but eventually dropped in, putting WP in the lead. The Vegas fans were intolerable. Too, bad. Their payer caused the loss with the deliberate hack on Frank’s arm. We were almost too excited to pay the school song, but somehow it came out. What a night that was.
We boarded the buses right after the game and headed back to Ely. It was not quite sunrise when the buses rolled into Ely. We expected a crowd and were ready to unpack some horns to play the school song, but there was no crowd, just a few parents to pick up their kids. We were stunned.
What had happened was that the radio station KELY had managed to broadcast the game even though it lasted past their usual signoff time. When Vegas made the last shot and went ahead KELY signed off the air. There were a lot of surprised WP folks later that day. It was a time in one’s young life that will never be forgotten.