The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio


March 24, 2011

A Don McCormack column: Ancient Mariners

In the winter of 1923, Harbor High School’s boys basketball team proved to be one of the best squads in the Buckeye State, but...

Starting today at Value City Arena in Columbus, the 89th Ohio state boys basketball tournament will be contested.

It’s been long believed in these parts that Bob Ball’s 1946-47 Ashtabula Panthers and Bruno Mallone’s 1949-50 Geneva Eagles are the only Ashtabula County basketball teams to qualify for Ohio’s state basketball tournament.

Turns out, though, that while those squads coached by Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation Hall of Famers — teams that also featured ACBF Hall of Fame players — are still the only two teams to actually play in the state tournament, they actually have some company.

Our research has shown that while those Panthers and those Eagles are still the only teams to play in the Buckeye State’s big basketball dance, they were not the first county team to actually qualify for the state tournament.

For more than a quarter of a century before those 1946-47 Ashtabula Panthers, the 1922-23 Harbor Mariners produced an AC/DC season — an electrifying run on the hardwood, but a fizzle at the finish.

A different era

At that time, the “state tournaments” in Ohio were the equivalents to a pair of regional tournaments by modern standards.

Sixteen teams in the size classifications of that era — Class A and Class B — qualified from sectional and then district tournaments to what was called the “state tournament.”

And the first of the then-state tournaments were held in, you guessed it, in the 1922-23 season.

The first state tournaments were played at the Columbus Fairgrounds Coliseum. Ironically, the state finals moved back to that facility in, you guessed it, the 1946-47 season when Ashtabula battled its way to the state finals in the capitol city.

Tourney trail

The Northern Ohio Tournament, from which one Class A and one Class B team would qualify for the state tournament, was held  the first week of March, 1923 at Western Reserve University.

Class B was for schools with an enrollment of 150 or fewer students, with any school with 151 or more students being classified as a Class A school

In that first season for statewide postseason play, only four county squads entered the Northern Ohio Tournament — the Ashtabula Panthers and Conneaut Trojans in Class A and the Geneva Eagles and Harbor Mariners in Class B — with a total of 44 teams in the region participating.

Coach Kelly McBride’s Panthers defeated Cleveland YMCA Day School in an opening-round game, but were then eliminated by Shaw in the next round.

Coach Lawrence Kennon’s Trojans were bounced in the opening round by St. Ignatius.

Coach H.H. Geiger’s Eagles bested the Fairport Skippers in a first-round Class B matchup, but were ousted in a second-round clash by South Euclid.

That left it to coach Lowell Drake’s Harbor Mariners to carry the flag for the county.

In their first contest, the Mariners whipped Kipston High School, 37-5, on Friday, March 1. In newspaper accounts of the day, only last names were printed, so first names are difficult to come by.

Charles Koski, listed as a right forward, led the Mariners with eight points, while left forward John Hassett (6 points), center Frank Lacksonen (4 points) — who was listed as a “7-foot pivot man” (though that height appears to be a bit of a... stretch) during the season — and left guard William Humphrey (3 free throws) also scored. Captain Carl Hakala, listed as a right guard, was the only other Mariner to play in the contest. Also listed as playing during the regular season were McLaren and Quance.

Hassett, by the way, was the grandfather of twin brothers, Mike and Tony Hassett.

“My grandfather died when we were 6 or 7,” Tony, the varsity football coach at his alma mater, Geneva said. “Unfortunately, I don’t remember much about him.”

John Hassett did post a season-high in points for the Mariners during the 1922-23 season, firing in 24 points in a 66-18 rout of visiting Jefferson on Friday, Feb. 24, 1923.

Back at Western Reserve University, following the romp against Kipston, Harbor matched up against Berea in a semifinal matchup and the locals prevailed in a low-scoring dogfight, 13-9. Captain Hakala led the way with five points, while Koski had four and Lacksonen and Humphrey had three apiece. Hassett and teammates Martin Snelus, Ray Kotila and Martin Kinnunen also played in the win.

That set up a championship encounter against Wadsworth, played later that same day.

The Mariners trailed the Grizzlies, 10-7, after two quarters of play when Drake make a strategic change that the Star Beacon account said made the difference — he switched from playing zone defense to man-to-man, and it paid huge dividends.

The Harbor pressure limited Wadsworth to but one second-half field goal, while the Mariners registered 11 points of their own to lay claim to an 18-15 triumph and a berth in the state tournament.

Text Only
  • Maruna headed for Mount

    LeeAnn Maruna never really expected to play collegiate golf. She was so taken aback when the opportunity presented itself, she didn’t know how to respond. After all, the Grand Valley graduate had only been playing the game for a few years.

    July 23, 2014

  • Crate Late Models featured

    The Evergreen Lake Park Campground Crate Late Models, the premier class at Raceway 7, will be featured Friday night as they race for $1,000 to win.

    July 23, 2014

  • Norm He’s the Norm

    In the early part of the 20th century, as golf was taking off in popularity, it was not uncommon for boys to take up the game after becoming caddies.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Don A Don McCormack column: The journey is what’s most important

    Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past couple of weeks, you’ve heard over and over and over how it’s been a half-century since one of Cleveland’s big three professional sports teams have won a championship.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Murdick wins as Big Block Modifieds return

    The BRP Big Block Modifed Tour returned to Raceway 7 with 21 of the region’s fastest Modifieds turning out for the scheduled 35-lap event, the first for the Modifieds at the northeast Ohio speedplant since 2005, an event won by Todd Burley.

    July 21, 2014

  • Dale Outdoors Insider, with Dale Sunderlin: Chances for controlled waterfowl hunting

    Waterfowl hunters are invited to participate in special drawings for controlled hunting opportunities, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Division of Wildlife. The drawing dates and times are as follows:

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Kingsville gets it done

    In a rematch of a previous softball clash between the Kingsville 9-10-year-olds and those from Conneaut, Kingsville had settled thing quickly and decisively in a mercy-rule triumph.

    July 20, 2014

  • TD Club golf A Chris Larick column: TD Club hopes to score

    Though its life was never seriously threatened, the Ashtabula County Touchdown Club has suffered in recent years.

    July 20, 2014 2 Photos

  • Don A Don McCormack column: A heartfelt plea to curb violence

    Like everyone who loves soccer — and the rest of us whose interest level rises dramatically every four years when the World Cup comes around — Kevin Meier was appalled at the recent attack of soccer referee John Bieniewicz in Michigan by a player that resulted in Bieniewicz tragically dying.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • valor A valiant effort

    Paralympians from all over the United States experienced three days of competition, education and fun during the Valor Games Gold Medal Camp at Spire this weekend.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

Little League All-Stars July 1 to 12
AP NASCAR Lastest News
AP NASCAR Sprint Cup Schedule
AP NASCAR Sprint Cup Standings
AP Auto Racing Photos
West Side Shootout 2014
Ashtabula County at State Track Meet
Jefferson vs Akron St. Vincent St. Mary Regional Softball
District Track 2014
Jefferson District Softball Tournament
Bob Walters 50 Years
Geneva vs Perry Division II District Semifinal
Sports Week in Review May 12 to May 17
Sports Week in Review May 5 to May 10 2014
Sports Week in Review April 28 to May 3
Sports Video Archive
House Ads
AP Video