Wilmington High School’s historic boys basketball season continues Saturday night in the regional championship game.
The Hurricane will face Centerville 7 p.m. Saturday at Xavier University’s Cintas Center in the Elite Eight. The winners advances to the Div. I state Final Four.
A WHS baskeball team has advanced to the Elite Eight just one time in school history prior to this season — 1926-27. Should WHS post a win Saturday, it would join the 1929-30 Jefferson High School squad as the only Clinton County boys basketball team to advance to the state Final Four.
The ’26-’27 Hurricane was coached by John Nowald and finished with an 18-3 record. They won the South Central Ohio League championship and then participated in the Class B post-season tournament.
Among the players on that WHS squad were Peyton Telfair, Bennie Garrison, Fred Spears, Fred Murphy, Ira Carnes, Harry Poorman, Dale Davis, Wayne Jenkins, John Baugh, Frank Johnson, (No first name) Wilson and Maynard Ames.
The season started innocently enough with a three-point win over Chillicothe, 26-23, and a loss in the third game to Xenia Central, 20-19.
However, with “Too Tall” Telfair — he was 6-3 so not too tall for the game nowadays but back then he towered over others — leading the way, the Hurricane gained momentum.
Wins over Circleville, McClain, Washington and Hillsboro set up a showdown against Eaton in mid-January. The game was played at the Wilmington College gym. News Journal sports editor Kroger Babb noted in his game story, “Two youngsters who arrived a little late to secure choice seats, found the rafters which cross the court far above the playing floor, a most comfortable spot and perched themselves there for the two contests.”
Wilmington defeated Eaton 23-17 and a historic season was set in motion. Eight more foes came and went in front of the mighty Hurricane that season.
Wilmington dispatched Seven Mile 36-26 in the sectional tourney opener, then knocked off Manchester 32-13 with Telfair scoring 16, Otterbein Home 31-11 behind Telfair’s 22 and West Chester 30-18 to make it to the Elite Eight. Following the win over West Chester, the WNJ story says Wilmington wins the sectional title and goes on to the state tournament. Apparently, back then, the state tournament consisted of eight teams. Today, the state tournament is just the Final Four in each division.
The WHS season took a turn for the worse when Telfair, one of the most dominant Hurricane basketball players of all-time in his or her given era, had family issues. His father John took “critically ill” just three days before the tournament was to begin. John Telfair’s death was reported in the next edition of the News Journal. Also reported was Too Tall’s absence as the team traveled to the Columbus to face Oberlin.
With Telfair out of the lineup, Wilmington did not stand a chance. Though Dale Davis was named to the All-Ohio second team for his performance in the state tournament, WHS lost to Oberlin 22-9, an outcome that likely would have been different had Telfair been able to play.
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, or on Twitter @wnjsports.