ASHLAND, Ky. – The second game of the Tomcat Shoot between 1950s era All-Stars was supposed to be played at Ashland High School but it was moved to the Ashland Armory to accommodate more fans.
The only problem: The Rattling Brothers Circus was in town the day before and the elephants, uh, left their signature behind. The court was a mess, including some sticky spots from where sno-cones had been split and not cleaned up.
The All-Stars came in for the shootaround and found the mess.
“What the heck is this?” shouted 1950-54 Coach George Conley. “My team can’t play in this pig sty!”
“Uh, Mr. Conley, sir, uh, we’re going to be cleaning it up,” said one of the workers at the Armory.
“You’ll clean it up or I’ll use your head as a mop!” Conley shot back.
It was only two hours before tipoff and one side of the court still needed a lot of work. All 20 players – each of the 10-man rosters – had a shootaround on one side of the court. The 50-54 players noticed that George Carroll never seemed to miss.
“What’s with this guy?” asked Brother Adkins.
Carroll had one of the best games ever at the Armory in 1956 when he scored 52 points in a win over Carr Creek. Larry Castle, an All-Star teammate, remembered watching the game with his father. When Carroll’s long bombs would scorch the net, it would flip up and get caught on the rim. Coach Bob Lavoy, who was also the 1955-59 All-Star coach, went out onto the court and fixed it every time. He was 6-foot-9.
The net was flipping up again every time Carroll put up a patented bomb.
“We better watch this guy,” Adkins said. “I never thought anybody could shoot like that.”
“Except you,” said teammate Jerry Henderson.
The stage was being set for another shootout in the Tomcat Shootout. The 50-54 All-Stars had won the opener 116-109 the previous night. A standing-room-only crowd watched the action from start to finish and they were already lined up to get inside.
Most of them had their money on the 1950-54 All-Stars to finish the sweep.
Three more bombs from Carroll found the bottom of the net. It was hard to believe.
“We’ll see once the game begins,” said Jim Meeks, a 50-54 All-Star. “If he shoots like that during the game, Coach Conley will have all our (butts).”
The game started with a rush as both teams hurried it up and down the floor. Adkins pulled up and buried an 18-footer to put the 50-54 Tomcats in front, 19-10. But by quarter’s end, the 55-59 Tomcats had recovered and led 28-27.
“We were teetering there in the first quarter,” Lavoy said. “George and Larry kept us in the game right there.”
Carroll knocked down a 3-pointer from about 25 feet out to put the 55-59 Tomcats in front for the first time at 21-19.
The 50-54 All-Stars went on a rampage in the second quarter, outscoring the 55-59 All-Stars 29-17 to hold a decisive 56-45 lead. Much like the first game in the series, they had taken control.
Carroll was doing his part, scoring 14, but it only kept the 55-59 Tomcats close. But something happened in the third quarter and it had everything to do with Carroll. He caught fire, scoring 21 points in the quarter with some textbook shooting. No matter who they tried guarding him, he scored. Carroll was automatic and there was nothing anybody could do about it.
“He was hotter than a pistol,” Conley said. “I stopped being mad about it and just watched him. But, by gawd, he wasn’t going to do it to us in the fourth quarter.”
Carroll wasn’t effective in the fourth quarter but still finished with a game-high 37 points in an incredible performance. The 50-54 Tomcats essentially double-teamed him but Castle picked up the slack, scoring 10 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter.
“When you have two shooters like those guys, it’s hard to lose,” Lavoy said. “I hadn’t seen Carroll shoot like that since that ’56 game here against Carr Creek. It was a similar kind of game, too.”
Carroll put the 55-59 Tomcats ahead for the first time in the second half at 74-73. The game was tight the rest of the way. Adkins missed about five minutes of the fourth quarter after slipping on the sticky spot where the sno-cone spilled. It seemed the janitors cleaned up the elephant mess, but not the mess from the kids.
“I was able to come back in and play, but it’s bothering me now,” Adkins said.
After the 50-54 Tomcats regained the lead at 104-103 on Bob Emrick’s jumper off the baseline, Dale Griffith came up with the play of the game. He rebounded a miss from Carroll with one hand, gathered it in and did a drop-step dunk to put the 55-59 Tomcats in front 105-104. Howard Humphreys stole the inbounds pass and flipped to David Patton for another basket and a 107-104 advantage with 42 seconds remaining. Castle finished it off with a free throw after another turnover for a 108-104 victory.
“Two turnovers inside the last minute,” fumed Conley. “That’s not winning basketball.”
Humphreys collected 15 points and eight rebounds and Bill Kazee had 10 points and 13 assists.
Five players were in double figures for the 50-54 Tomcats, led by Adkins with 25 points and 12 rebounds.
The 50-54 Tomcats were 0-for-8 on 3-pointers while the 55-59 Tomcats shot 3-for-16 from behind the arc.
Game 3 in the series will be Wednesday.
1950-54 ASHLAND (104) – Henderson 4-9 6-6 14, Gray 5-14 3-4 13, Eggleston 4-14 3-4 11, Adkins 11-20 3-3 25, Emrick 9-23 0-2 18, Kouns 3-5 0-0 6, Lowe 2-11 2-2 6, Jennings 2-5 0-0 4, Jones 1-3 1-2 3. FG: 43-107. FT: 18-23. 3FG: 0-8 (Henderson 0-3, Adkins 0-4, Lowe 0-1). Rebounds: 54 (Henderson 12, Gray 2, Eggleston 8, Adkins 6, Emrick 3, Kouns 13, Lowe 6, Jennings 2, Rice 2). Assists: 24 (Henderson 8, Gray 4, Eggleston 4, Emrick 3, Kouns 1, Lowe 1, Jennings 2, Jones 1). PF: 15. Turnovers: 20.
1955-59 ASHLAND (108) – Humphreys 5-12 5-6 15, Carroll 15-30 4-4 37, Griffith 2-14 0-0 4, Kazee 4-16 2-2 10, Castle 8-20 4-8 20, Patton 4-11 0-0 8, Wright 2-7 0-0 4, Meeks 2-4 2-2 6, Campbell 1-1 0-0 2, Church 1-3 0-0 2. FG: 44-118. FT: 7-22. 3FG: 3-16 (Humphreys 0-4, Carroll 3-11, Wright 0-1). Rebounds: 73 (Humphreys 8, Carroll 4, Griffith 9, Kazee 13, Castle 1, Patton 1, Wright 1, Church 1). PF: 18. Turnovers: 24.
1950-54 ASHLAND 27 29 17 31 – 104
1950-59 ASHLAND 28 17 33 30 – 108