Editor’s Note – The following story was submitted to The Times-Gazette by Bob Patton one day before his June 24 death. It details the exploits of the 1926-27 and 1927-28 Marshall High School basketball teams. The latter team was inducted into The Times-Gazette Highland County Athletic Hall of Fame on June 22 and Patton was going to accept the award on the team’s behalf, but was not able to attend the ceremony. Patton graduated from Marshall High School in 1952.
Snag Emery, of Hillsboro, was employed as basketball coach at Marshall in 1927. Emery was not a teacher, but, very few of the small rural schools in those days had coaches who were teachers. He was the most distinguished athlete in the area, in all sports and had played two years in the St. Louis Cardinals minor league system in baseball.
Emery soon put together an outstanding team, led by Kenneth Dick and Edgar Post, but including Shorty Vanzant, Hubert McCoy, and Lowell Smith, the Red Flashes rang up a record of 15 and 3 during the regular season, rolled through the Highland County tournament, swept the 36 team district tournament at Athens, earning the right to participate in their first Ohio State Basketball Tournament.
There were no regional tournaments, in those days. A team had to win five games to get through the district.
Eight teams in class A and eight in class B went to the state tournament in those days. The boys from the little Marshall High School impressed the Columbus area fans by advancing to the semi-final round before being sidelined by only two points, by the heralded Kent State team, which went on to win the state championship. Marshall’s star player, Edgar Post, was named first team “All State” after the tournament. Post, a junior, was reputed to be the best (class B) high school player in southern Ohio.
Post, unfortunately, was ruled “ineligible” for his senior year due to a dispute about his age. This was a severe blow to the 1928 team. But, the team had vowed to come back for another shot at the state championship.
The local boys did struggle in some of their early games. But, as the season wore on, the group began to come together as a team. With lanky center Lowell Smith, sharpshooting forward Olin “Snipe” Brooks, and little Joe Vanzant leading the way, the Flashes hit their stride and began to roll over tough competition with relative ease.
The team regrouped and fought their way to the championship of the 36 team Athens district tournament for a second straight year. The stage was set for another trip to the Fairgrounds Coliseum in quest of the big silver trophy which would signify the very best team in the state of Ohio.
All the sportswriters had tabbed the Marysville Monarchs as the team to beat in the state tournament. The Monarchs were big and powerful. They had not had a single close game on the way to the state tournament. Marysville is near Columbus, and the Monarchs drew huge and enthusiastic crowds.
Marshall opened with Castalia Margaretta, hanging on to win by an unimpressive five points. Meanwhile, Marysville smashed their first round opponent before a huge crowd of Monarch fans, thus qualifying to meet the little team from Marshall.
Few people gave the Red Flashes any chance at all against the tall and talented Marysville team. Indeed, when the big game got underway, the local boys got off to a slow start, and trailed throughout the first half. On a couple of occasions, they got behind by a considerable margin. It can be dangerous to fall too far behind a good team, and, Marysville was a good team.
But, the Red Flashes put on a good spurt of their own. With a combination of tenacious defense and rugged rebounding, the Marshall team fought back to close the gap to only two points at halftime.
Whatever coach Snag Emery said to his boys at halftime has been lost to posterity. Perhaps it is just as well. Whatever it was, it was certainly effective, for the Red Flashes came out roaring in the second half. When the second half began, the Marshall boys were attacking the Monarchs like a swarm of hornets. Their lightning like defense and all around aggressive play too all the wind out of the Monarch’s sails.
Several hundred devoted (and horrified) Marysville fans looked on in stunned disbelief, as the fired up Marshall squad held the tourney favorites to a grand total of only two points in the entire second half, while coasting to a convincing win. Following the game, a disappointed Monarch coach joked with the press. “Were there only five of them out there? At times it seemed as if there were seven or eight.”
Outside the Marshall locker room, coach Emery explained the winning strategy. “No team can play at our pace for an entire game. We use most of the first half to feel a team out. A little before halftime, we put it in gear. In the second half, we show ‘em the best we’ve got.”
With Marysville gone, the Marshall boys became the sentimental favorites of the Columbus area. Every time they walked onto the court, or even entered the court to watch another game, they were met with thunderous applause. They went on to sweep the rest of the field, defeating Manchester in the championship game, to become the only high school team in this part of the state to bring home a state championship in basketball.
When the Red Flashes brought home the state title, in 1928, there were more than 1000 small schools in Ohio. In order to win a state championship back then, you had to prove yourself to be the best of more than 1000.
During the 1928 season and tournaments, the Flashes won a total of 25 out of 29 games. Along the way, they administered the first loss to six previously unbeaten teams. In tournament play they defeated consecutively nine county champions.
At the Athens district tournament, the top scorer and the runner-up were both Marshall players. The Marshall senior class, in 1928 had three All-Ohio players. The total enrollment of the school contained only 31 boys.
The 1929 Marshall team won the county tournament and lost to Pomeroy by one point in the championship game of the Athens district tournament. So, they missed going to the state three consecutive years by one point.