Ashland’s Alumni Gymnasium worthy of ‘Glory Road’ honor

Ashland’s rich basketball heritage was born in Alumni Gymnasium, the home to all four Tomcats’ state championship teams.

The 1928 Tomcats were one of only two undefeated state champions in Kentucky high school history and the 1961 Tomcats were 36-1 and regarded as one of the state’s greatest champions of all time after winning the Sweet Sixteen by an average margin of 18 points per game.

The Kentucky Basketball Hall of Fame has named Alumni one of its “Glory Road” sites with a ceremony to take place Feb. 15 with a heritage game between Ashland and West Carter, which was formerly known as Olive Hill, and the honoring at halftime of several players from the Alumni Gym era who will be in attendance.

Alumni Gym became a house of horrors for anyone who entered the doors not wearing a Tomcat jersey. Ashland compiled a 730-265-1 overall record from 1927 to 1962 for a 72.7 winning percentage during the Alumni gym era. Ashland won 13 regional championships during the Alumni Gym era (four prior to Alumni and 17 from Anderson gym). Alumni gym was the host for the regional tournament seven times with the Tomcats winning four of those.

In the last three years the Tomcats used the gym before moving to the Paul G. Blazer campus in the fall of 1962, they compiled a 50-1 home record.

This is the 60th season for the campus gym, which now carries the name of James A. Anderson, the wildly successful basketball and football coach for the Tomcats in the 1920s. It was Anderson who guided the 1928 team to a 37-0 record and the national championship in the first full season at Alumni Gym.

Ashland fell in love with the Tomcats in 1928 with more than 10,000 greeting the team at the train station after they defeated Canton, Ohio, 15-10 to win the national title in Chicago.

In the last two seasons at Alumni Gym, the Tomcats won the state title in 1961 and finished runner-up in 1962. The gym also was home to the school’s other state championship teams in 1928, 1933 and 1934. Ashland was the state runner-up in 1940 and 1926 (the year prior to Alumni opening).

Ashland’s girls’ basketball teams won five state titles in the 1920s but only the 1928 and 1929 teams came after Alumni was christened in 1927. The Kittens were also state champions in 1921, 1922 and 1924 during a dominating run under coach W.B. Jackson.

The first games in Alumni were from the district and regional tournaments in 1927. Ernie Chattin, who later in life left his imprint on Ashland sports through coaching and mentoring as the YMCA director, was captain of that team.

The Tomcats’ first game in the gym was against Catlettsburg on March 4, 1927, a 23-12 win in the district tournament. They followed that with wins over Grayson and Morehead. The regional, which was also played in Ashland, saw the Tomcats defeat Pikeville, Brooksville and Minerva to win the 6th Region and advance to the state tournament in Lexington.

The 95th anniversary of the first game ever played at Alumni will be March 4, 2022.

The Tomcats defeated Owensboro before falling to Covington Holmes 15-13 in the second round of the state tournament, but it set the stage for the undefeated season the following year.

It’s fitting that Ashland is playing West Carter on Tuesday night in the heritage game, complete with throwback uniforms, because the rivalry between the Tomcats and Comets was a good one during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Ashland was 49-9 all-time vs. Olive Hill and 23-2 in the old gym with losses coming in 1957 and 1959. Olive Hill’s legendary coach Jack Fultz loved matching wits with the Tomcats’ great coaches, including George Conley and Bob Wright.

Wilson Barrow, the first black player to wear a Tomcat uniform, scored a career-high 28 points against Olive Hill in Alumni gym in December 1961. It was a short-lived career for Barrow, who as a sophomore was dismissed from the team because of academics in January and never played again. He came to Ashland after being an outstanding player for Booker T. Washington School, Ashland’s black school that closed after the 1962 school year.

One of the most famous Ashland-Olive Hill games in the old gym came in February 1954 when Olive Hill held the ball on the fast-breaking Tomcats. Ashland avoided the freeze out and eventually won 25-19 in a low-scoring game.

CARROLL SINGES THE NETS

The most points a Tomcat ever scored in a game at Alumni came from sharpshooting George Carroll, who scored 40 vs. Ironton on Jan. 24, 1956. He scored 52, 39 and 35 that season as well but those games came in the Ashland Armory. Bill Gray scored 48 in 1954 but it was also on the road in the district tournament against Wurtland.

UNBEATEN AT HOME

Several years the Tomcats were undefeated on their home floor – 1928 (23-0), 1933 (15-0), 1960 (14-0) and 1961 (18-0).

SUSPENDED SEASON

The 1934-35 basketball season was suspended because the football team used an ineligible player in 1934. Even though Ashland couldn’t compete officially the Tomcats fielded a team and played independent teams in the area. Those records, however, aren’t included in the official statistics.

Ashland was coming off of a 30-2 state championship season.

1,000-POINT SCORERS AT ALUMNI

                                          Years        G     Points      Avg.                                 High game

Conley, Larry               1960-62    103       1473      14.3                              34-Olive Hill

Adkins, Earl                 1951-53      88       1386      15.8                                 36-Ironton

Carroll, George           1954-56      76       1225      16.1                            52-Carr Creek

Sargent, Harold          1960-61      71       1015      14.3                                 31-Smyrna

Eggleston, John           1950-52      69       1008      14.6                              31-Olive Hill

TOP SCORING AVERAGES AT ALUMNI

1956 George Carroll 706 24.3

1959 Larry Castle 700 23.3

1955 Bill Kazee 656 21.2

1954 Bill Gray 715 21.0

1953 Earl Adkins 668 20.9

1962 Larry Conley 766 20.7

1957 Howard Humphreys 543 20.1

1952 John Eggleston 620 20.0

TEAM’S LEADING SCORER YEAR-BY-YEAR

Year   Player                 Points     Avg

1927   Ernest Chattin        221       7.9

1928   Gene Strother        279       7.5

1929   Darrell Darby          312       9.5

1930   Jim Barney              143       5.7

1931   Jack Magann          221       7.1

1932   Rex Caudill              204       7.8

1933   Jim Riffe                  209       7.0

1934   Bob O’Mara            272       8.5

1935   On Suspension       —–       –.-

1936   Clyde Johnson        133       5.8

1937   Charles Pergrem    216       9.8

1938   Edgar Peters           179       7.4

1939   Ray Brumfield        172       6.6

1940   Bob Hilton              247       8.8

1941   Jack Sieweke          185       7.4

1942   Jim Rive                   237     10.3

1943   Bernard Pergrem   112       5.1

1944   Bernard Pergrem   305     11.7

1945   Randall Stevens      285     10.2

1946   George Weggener 309     10.7

1947   Fred Anson             335     15.2

1948   Eugene Clark          349     12.9

1949   Eugene Clark          386     12.5

1950   Bob Lowe                332     13.8

1951   John Eggleston       388     12.1

1952   John Eggleston       620     20.0

1953   Earl Adkins              668     20.9

1954   Bill Gray                  715     21.0

1955   Bill Kazee                656     21.2

1956   George Carroll        706     24.3

1957   Howard Humphreys 543  20.1

1958   David Patton          282     11.3

1959   Larry Castle             700     23.3

1960   David Sparks           545     16.0

1961   Bob Hilton              592     16.0

1962   Larry Conley           766     20.7

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