Taking a Look Back: Los Angeles Sentinel, March 11, 1976
HOT & HEAVY – The action in the all-city 4-A title game between Dorsey and Crenshaw High Friday night at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion was hot and heavy as this photo indicates. Crenshaw High’s Russell Jackson (32) is literally smothered as he tried to find someone to pass the ball to. Dorsey men around Russell are James Wilkes (32), Dan Ramsey (14) and Ron Baxter (23). Photo by Guy Crowder
It may be a year late coming, but Dorsey High School is mighty happy about being the 1976 Los Angeles City Section CIF high school basketball champions, anyway.
The Dons, whose run to the All-City Tournament title a year ago was derailed by Fremont in the semi-finals, made sure that they got the coveted team championship trophy last Friday night as they vanquished many-times finalist Crenshaw, 75-60, before 9,240 screaming onlookers at UCLA’s Pauley Pavillion, taking AAAA honors.
The victory climaxed another spectacular season for Dorsey’s coach, John Haydel, 24-1 overall and 20 consecutive wins after a 44-43 non-league loss to Santa Barbara in mid-December in the Cal Poly Pomona Tournament of Champions.
The next night, incidentally, the team slipped a 58-56 defeat to Verbum Dei, which is still battling for the CIF Southern Section 4-A diadem. Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Co. will honor the city champs from Dorsey April 8 at its home office.
The Los Angeles City AAA champions are Granada Hills’ Highlanders, whose 72-55 conquest of Banning’s Pilots in a prelude to the AAAA showdown was witnessed by a crowd of 7,945 spectators and gave them a 19-5 season mark.
Dorsey had never been in the City tourney finals before, much less won the jackpot, while coach Berry Dass was polishing off his finest season since Granada went undefeated in 1964.
One note of disappointment for the Dons, however, was the fact that they will not get to take part in the Tournament of Champions, starting today (Thursday) in Oakland, after all. It had been indicated that the Los Angeles City champions would be part of the prestigious eight-team field, but that has fizzled out for this year.
Otherwise, the last big plum to be realized will be in upcoming all-league and All-City selections, which are sure to be spearheaded by Dorsey’s spectacular three-year mainstays. 6-8 James Wilkes and 6-5 Ronald Baxter.
Wilkes was named “Most Valuable Player” in the tournament and led the victory over Crenshaw with 24 points (14 in the first half) and 10 rebounds, while Baxter contributed 15 points and 11 boards, also bagging all-tourney selection.
The balance of the all-tourney first team was George Schell, Granada Hills, whose 19 points topped the Banning triumph; Raymond Potlonge, leading scorer for both teams in the championship game with 26 points, and Darwin Cook, both from Crenshaw.
On second team all-tourney were Dwayne Allen, Fremont; Jose Marcano, Crenshaw; Phillip Hubbard, Banning; Dan Ramsey, Dorsey, and Dan Soller, Granada Hills.
Cook was tabbed “Most Inspirational Player;” Schell “Best Defensive Player,” and Potlonge, who had 85 points in four games, was “High Scorer.”
The climactic loss to Dorsey was, of course, a disappointment to Cougar coach Willie West and his players, especially because it was only the second loss of the season as they finished 24-2.
But they had barely missed in the finals last year against Fremont after winning back-to-back titles in 1973 and 1974.
Perhaps the biggest heartbreak for Crenshaw and heartburn for Dorsey came when the Cougars, who were down at the end of the first quarter, 21-10, and half, 45-29, put on a great flurry in the third quarter to close the count to 52-50, only to have the Dons take off again and outscore them 23-10 down the stretch.
Wilkes bucketed 7 of 8 field goal attempts and 10 of 16 free throws before he fouled out late in the fourth quarter. Baxter hit 7-for-14 from the floor, 1-for-2 at the line.
Curtis Williams registered 11 points (5-for-5 free throws) and Clyde Huntly canned 9 (9-for-10 freebies), with 6-8 Ramsey scoring 8 as he also fouled out. Dorsey shot 61.0 per cent (25-for-41) from the floor, 83.3 per cent (25-for-30) at the line.
Potlongo dropped in 8-for-13 field goal tries and 10 of 18 free throws, plus 13 rebounds to lead all hands on both sides, but his teammates were considerable less accurate as Crenshaw shot 32.8 per cent (19 of 58) and were also so-so at the line, 56.4 per cent (22 of 39).
Cook fouled out after caging 10 points and snagging 7 rebounds; 5-8 fireball Marcano had 8, and Treavor Shelton, who also fouled out, had 6.
To get to the finals, Dorsey had to overcome relentless Fremont, 54-52, and Crenshaw disposed of Westchester, 81-69, before a completely overflow turnout at Cal State Los Angeles, March 3 in the semi-finals.
The crowd was so large that the people were thronged on the stairways, behind the endlines, with the gymnasium capacity of 5,500 swelled beyond 6,000, not to mention hundreds more in the lobby whose ticket money had to be refunded, and lines of disappointed people outside!
Dorsey trailed in that one, 39-34, after three quarters and took the lead with 49 seconds to play, 53-52. Until then it looked as though coach Dave Yanal’s Pathfinders were on their way to another stunning upset. Baxter had 15 points and Wilkes 14 for the Dons, with Eric Gaines notching 9; Allen tallied 15 and Jimmy Holland 10 for Fremont.
It was the third- and hardest- win for Dorsey over Fremont this year.
Crenshaw took a 23-15 lead over hustling Westchester in the semi-finals, but coach Jim Thompson’s crew narrowed it to 35-32 at halftime.
Then the Cougars blew out their Western League “shadows” 25-10 in the third quarter. Potlongo led with 21 points, Cook had 18, Dave Jackson 16, and Marcano 14, while Westchester’s Sam Williams and Elvis Marshall each tallied 18, Keith Hunter and Tim Hovland 12 apiece.
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