Updated: Jun 29, 2021
By John Ring
Published May 20, 2021 in The Burg
Reading an article on the famous “stall game” of the 1957 basketball season recently brought back memories of that and other ones in the modern era of Silver Streak boys basketball.
By modern era, that is defined as 1956-- when John Thiel was hired.
Picking five was easy. I could have easily picked 10. But, in the interests of space and a word limit, I controlled it to just five. All of them were games played during the state tournament.
Some of then were wins, one was a brutally hard loss.
Many that you will recall some that are not mentioned: Joey Range's record setting scoring game in 1998 in Bloomington, the championship losses to Thornton and Proviso East, the five-overtime game against Morton, the Proviso East-Galesburg battle during the regular season in 1969, Grant Gibson's 50-point explosion his senior season, the game Eric Johnson passed Dale Kelley as the all-time leading scorer in GHS history and, of course, Kelley's epic explosion against Rock Island in 1966 in which he scored 52 points-- without the aid of a three-point basket.
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But here they are, in no specific order:
Stunning the undefeated, top ranked Knights in OT Peoria Richwoods blasted the Silver Streaks to conclude the 1975 basketball season with a resounding victory in the Regionals. The game wasn't even close. And to make matters worse, the Knights were returning the bulk of that team the next year.
True to form, Richwoods was undefeated during the regular season in 1976 and ranked first in the State. But the Regional Championship was in Galesburg though, at that time, it didn't seem to matter much.
Thiel Gym was packed to the gills that night for a classic basketball game. Four of the players went on to play Division I basketball. Seniors Mike Campbell and Scott Kelley led an upset win (85-79 in overtime) that shocked the State. The Streaks parlayed that into a trip to Champaign.
Quick comment: Jimmie Carr, who has watched Streak games for decades, told me last year it was the most exciting game he has seen at John Thiel Gym. That's good enough for me.
Thiel's genius game plan against the undefeated Rocks Coach John Thiel packed his five starters in a rented Buick for the trip up to Rock Island against the vaunted, Don Nelson-led Rock Island Rocks who were also top-ranked and undefeated in 1957. And on that 45 minute ride to Rocky, Thiel hatched his famous game plan. The Streaks, who had lost to the Rocks twice during the season, would hold the ball. Hold the ball. And hold the ball some more. With Jim Range jumping for the opening tip (and for the four quarters) it meant four possessions for the Streaks. They would make the most out of them.
The Streaks led 2-0 after the first quarter, But the Rocks were patient as well and clawed back into the game and then led 13-8 in the third quarter. Thiel had told his team that if Rocky took a six-point lead, The Stall would be called off. But Bobby Hoffman helped guide the Streaks back to a tie and a small lead. The Streaks held on for a 23-21 win.
Quick comment: This game is the best argument against a shot clock for high school
The magic of Dale Kelley in 1966
Silver Streak guard Dale Kelley's back to back games against Benton and Belleville-- in the quarterfinals and semi finals-- were incredible. He was a one-man gang and powered Galesburg to 73-70 and 65-64 wins over the two Southern Illinois basketball powers in the state tournament. Kelley scored 37 points in each game. And that was without the benefit of a three-point shot. In the title game against Thornton he struggled but back then if you were in the “lower” bracket, you played three games within 24 hours. The Streaks simply ran out of gas.
“After the first two games he had, I couldn't believe Dale played tonight,” said The Mentor himself.
Quick comment: Dale Kelley's performance at the 1966 Tournament makes him, in my book, the best Silver Streak of all time.
Running Effingham off the court in Streaks style
The Effingham Flaming Hearts were the top-ranked team in the State all season long in 1968.
Undefeated, they met the Thielmen in the quarterfinals and Galesburg obliterated them. Thanks to Chauncey “Last Chance” Kenney, Thiel got to scout Effingham as Kenney flew him to one of their games. Effingham was big, tall and slow. Thiel told his Streaks to run like hell. The Streaks blew them away 83-52 and sailed into the semi finals. “They ran like deer and were demons on the boards,” said the Flaming Hearts coach after the game.
Quick comment: Silver Streak basketball at it's best.
Everyone-- especially the experts-- picked Pekin to meet Galeburg in the championship game in the 1964 tournament. They were natural rivals and were regarded as the best teams in the State. But in the quarterfinals, a “trap” game doomed the Streaks when they met little-known Cobden. The Appleknockers had a tall front line and slowed the game down which hurt the Streaks. “When their starters were introduced,” said Rick Callahan, “an Appleknocker cheerleader would put an apple on the floor in front of them.” The final was a 60-57 loss for Galesburg and Cobden then won the semi final before losing to-- you guessed it-- Pekin the final. And of course, the Chinks won that game too.
Quick comment: I have spoken with several Streaks who played that game-- Callahan, Frank
Dexter, Bernie Cowan. This loss still hurts, decades later.
(Next week-- 5 of the biggest Silver Streak girls games)