Durham boys earned first state tournament berth in 1951

The boys of Durham first participated in the state tournament in 1951.

The team was coached by Loren Burch and the roster included Gus Hamm, Junior Unruh, Jim Donahue, Dwaine Klassen, Donald Schlehuber, Ron Unruh, Harold Nely, Harlan Unruh, Glenn Boelke, Don Garrett, Dagmar Schlehuber, Gene Duke, Richard Klassen, Ken Klein and Delmer Klein.

At the time, Durham was a member of the North Marion County League, which included teams from Lehigh, Tampa, Lost Springs, Goessel, Ramona, Lincolnville and Durham.

The Hornets opened the season by easily dispatching Elmdale, 46-38. Durham played well in the early going and was victorious in its first six games.

After the Christmas festivities, the Hornets returned to action and lost to Lehigh, 41-36. They followed that loss with another setback, this time to Roxbury, 50-49. Both games followed a similar pattern: Dur?ham led for almost the entire game but let the lead slip through its fingers in the waning moments.

Close games would become the norm for the team the rest of the season. In January, the members of the North Marion County League gathered for the midseason tournament.

The games were played in Durham and the Hornets were expected to make some real noise in the tourney. No noise here, as Durham watched another lead evaporate and fell in the first round to Ramona, 52-49.

Back to the regular season, Durham lost another tight affair, this time in overtime to Goessel, 38-35. Sooner or later, surmised the Durham faithful, this team would benefit from all of these close defeats.

That sentiment proved to be true as the Hornets won the final six games of the regular season. In four of the games, the margin of victory was no greater than four points. In their one blowout, the Hornets ?buzzed? Kipp, 80-53. In that game Gus Hamm tossed in 37 points.

Durham ended league play with a trip to Tampa. True to form, the Tampa game required overtime, as was described in the Hillsboro Star: ?In the last seconds the boys of Durham made a free throw which put the Hornets up two. Tampa then raced up the court and made a long shot, which tied the game up and tied up all of the fans? nerves too. The three minute overtime period was a battle and even the cheerleaders worked up to the very last. The crowd was wild until the Hornets finally claimed the win and sent the Durham rooters home a happy bunch.?

With the 49-45 win over Tampa, Durham tied Lehigh for first place in the NMC League.

With a regular season record of 14-5, the Hornets entered the Canton District Tournament along with Walton, Tampa, Lehigh, Galva, Goessel, Roxbury and Canton. The tight games continued as the Hornets nipped Galva (54-52) and next defeated Canton (59-58) in overtime. In the title game Durham slipped past Lehigh, 49-48, to take the district crown. Three wins by the barest of margins, yet the Hornets lived to fly another day.

The Canton game was high drama, indeed. In addition to winning the game in overtime, the heroics were supplied in the final seconds by a basket from Gus Hamm. The junior sharpshooter had a spectacular game and finished with 39 points. Hamm?s performance is quite likely tied for the top single-game point total in the school?s history. His 39 points was later matched by Vernon Frantz, who on Jan. 24, 1961, tossed in 39 against Woodbine.

Durham moved on into the Junction City Regional and joined teams from Bennington, Milford, Randolph, St. George, Hope, Wakefield, Ramona, Tescott and Miltonvale. The narrow victories continued as Durham first edged Tescott (56-53) and then had a ?breather? of sorts in beating St. George, 58-43.

The title game was another barn-burner as the Hornets defeated the Hope Lions in overtime, 37-35. In the Hope game, Durham benefited greatly from the foul line. The Lions committed 24 fouls during the contest and the Hornets turned those fouls into 15 points.

Now Durham was off to Hutchinson and the Class B State Tournament. Joining the Hornets were teams from Sedgwick, Horton, Overbrook, Menlo, Oxford, Leoti, Formoso, Ashland, Sylvia, Carbondale, Clyde, Stockton, Spring Hill, Cedar Vale and Arma. Early favorites included Carbondale, Overbrook and Formoso.

The Falcons of Formoso (located in Jewell County) were an impressive team with a record of 27-0. Their star player was 6-foot-5 Marvin Andrews, who was averaging 33 points a game. His best effort had been a 52-point performance earlier in the year.

Durham drew Sylvia (Reno County) in the first round. The Mustangs were champions of the ultra-competitive Reno County League and were a seasoned crew. In the end, Sylvia was too seasoned and defeated Durham, 61-42. Hamm led the Hornets with 17 points, but he ran out of heroics in this game. In the end Carbondale defeated Sedgwick for the title while Formoso grabbed third.

According to the school yearbook, the Hornets ended the year with a mark of 20-6. But Durham was not through attending the state tournament. In 1962 the Hornets returned to state but lost in the first round of the Class BB Tournament. Back again in state in 1963, they grabbed the title with a perfect 26-0 season. That accomplishment landed the 1963 Hornets and their coach, Dennis Brunner, an honored place in the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

But any conversation of state teams from Durham begins with the boys of 1951. Next, we travel to Burns.

? 2011 by Steven Michael Farney. All rights reserved. Ideas, comments or questions: contact smf2guard@yahoo.com.

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