Tampa won consolation title in first state appearance

The boys of Tampa High School first attended the state tournament in 1931. The team was coached by L.F. Fish and included Phil Bentz, Clarence Bentz, Anton Meyer, Gordon Kraus, Leland Grentz, Joe Donnelly, Herman Sphon, Ollie Duggan, Paul Stegeman, Dave Schwemmer and Alvin Novak.

The team?s first game against Roxbury had to be delayed due to an outbreak of what may have seemed to be nearly every disease imaginable. Area students were battling TB, whopping cough, chicken pox, scarlet fever and erysipelas (a skin disease). No doubt some ?good old flu? could also be thrown into the mix.

Finally, the season began and Tampa won its first four games before being derailed by Durham, 24-18. Durham in fact would be a sore spot for Tampa. The two area teams battled twice during the regular season and Tampa lost both games.

Despite the troubles with Durham, Tampa moved on and posted impressive wins over Roxbury, Lincolnville, Ramona and Hillsboro. Other victories piled up as well.

With a record of 10-2, the local boys entered the Marion County Tournament in Lost Springs. Tampa limped into the tourney. Earlier in the week Phil Bentz was injured in an automobile accident and would be lost for the next several games.

Despite his absence, Tampa breezed through the tournament with victories over Ramona and Lost Springs before finally defeating Durham, 42-31, for the title.

?There was really little to report on the game,? noted a Durham contributor to the Hillsboro Star. ?The boys from Tampa were hot from all the angles and that about sums up the game.?

With a county title in pocket, Tampa was still facing the possibility of another game with Durham. The two teams were assigned to the Tampa District Tournament. At the time, the Tampa gymnasium was the finest in the area and 14 teams attended the event: Hillsboro, Lost Springs, Hope, Florence, Tampa, Roxbury, Durham, Clements, Lehigh, Lincolnville, Galva, Delevan, Peabody and Ramona.

A rematch between the two rivals would not come to pass. Durham was derailed by Galva in the semifinals while Tampa waltzed through the district tournament with impressive wins over Roxbury and Hillsboro. In the finals, Tampa dispatched Galva, 28-15, to claim the title.

?Tampa walloped a strong Galva team,? reported the Hillsboro Star. ?The play of Anton Meyer (center) was outstanding while the Bentz brothers (Clarence and Phil) were hot and shot baskets from all over the court. With the dreadful snowy conditions, the crowds at the tourney were small given the impossibilities of the roads.?

Tampa advanced into the eight-team regional tournament at Memorial Hall in Salina. Joining Tampa were teams from Milford, Bunker Hill, Kipp, Bavaria, Minneapolis, St. John?s Military (Salina) and Solomon.

Tampa was clearly on a roll and easily dispatched Milford before encountering a real tussle against Bunker Hill.

The White Owls missed 10-consecutive free throws but still managed a 16-16 tie with just seconds remaining. Clarence Bentz netted a goal in the final moments and Tampa survived to play another day. The team had a much easier time in the finals and bested Bavaria, 23-17.

?Tampa was just too tall for Bavaria,? the Salina Journal reported. ?Meyer at center and the Bentz boys stood like telegraph poles above the clever passing crew from Bavaria. Tampa led from beginning to end.?

Now off to state, Tampa joined 15 other teams at the Sheridan Coliseum on the campus of Fort Hays State College (now university).

?The city of Hays has made most unusual plans for the tourney,? wrote the Topeka Capital-Journal. ?The Lamar Hotel has been leased for the entire tournament and all teams will be housed there. In addition, a special chef will be on duty at all hours to care for the eating needs of the teams. Even the governor?s suite will be turned over to the wives of the visiting coaches.?

Now, that is some special treatment, especially a personal chef. No doubt the boys kept him busy with their orders of food.

Tampa lost its first game against Menlo (Thomas County), but despite the loss was allowed to play in a consolation bracket. They won the consolation title with wins over Eudora, St. Mary?s Catholic Academy and finally Coats.

As best as can be determined, Tampa ended the stellar year with a mark of 22-3.

In coming years, the school continued to play good basketball and finally returned to state in 1943. That team lost the state title game to Mankato, 31-25.

Pack your bags, Galva: You are heading to state next.

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

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