I come from a much different era – a long, long ago era – so I don’t expect many people to understand where I’m coming from on this.
And that’s OK. I know those who are from my era will get it, and that’s all that matters.
I’m talking about the Green High School boys basketball team, but not about the Bulldogs’ fast start necessarily, although that’s certainly an eye-catcher. Longtime head coach Mark Kinsley, one of the real nice guys in the sport and someone who doesn’t get his just due for what he’s done with the program over the last two decades, really has the Bulldogs rolling.
No, what I’m focusing on are three of the victories Green has recorded – 76-70 over Barberton, 70-66 over Canton McKinley and 61-49 Cleveland East Tech.
I can’t believe I just wrote that.
Let me repeat: the Bulldogs defeated the Barberton Magics by six points, the McKinley Bulldogs by four and the East Tech Scarabs by 12.
I can’t even begin to tell you how jaw-dropping, how really, truly cool. that is.
Four decades ago when I was in my first stint with the Suburbanite, there was no way that I could fathom in my lifetime that I would see Green – or any of our other local teams – defeat any of those three schools. It just wasn’t going to happen.
Two of the teams in the same season?
Are you kidding? That would have been even more unbelievable, inconceivable, incredible.
And all three? The hat trick, as it were?
I would have bet everything I owned that it wasn’t going to take place.
Now, let me be clear on this is saying that’s not a shot at Green. The same could have been said for any school in the entire region back them, and I do mean any school.
In the 1970s, especially, and even into the 1980s, McKinley, Barberton and East Tech, along with Akron Central-Hower, which no longer exists, were among the elite boys basketball teams not just in Northeast Ohio, but in the state as well.
In 1971, both East Tech and Central-Hower made it to the state tournament in Class AAA (big-schools division).
In 1972, East Tech and Central-Hower advanced to state again, with the Scarabs winning the state title.
In 1973, Central-Hower made it to the state championship game.
In 1974, McKinley got to the state title game.
In 1975, McKinley made it to the state tournament.
In 1976, Barberton won the state championship.
In 1977, Barberton got to the state title contest.
In 1978, Central-Hower qualified for the state championship game.
In 1979, Central-Hower got to the state tourney.
In 1980, Central-Hower captured the state championship.
In 1982, Barberton advanced to the state title game.
In 1983, Central-Hower played for the state championship.
In 1984, McKinley won the state title.
In 1986, Central-Hower was the state champion.
In 1987, McKinley played in the state title game.
In 1990, McKinley got to the state tournament.
In 1992, McKinley qualified for the state tourney.
But long before any of that happened, McKinley and East Tech were state powers.
McKinley is the country’s all-time winningest high school boys basketball program. Starting all the way back in 1924, the Bulldogs have been to the state tournament an impressive total of 28 times.
In the six-year period from 1958-63, East Tech made it to the state tourney every time, won state titles in 1958 and ’59 and played for the state championship in 1960 and ’62.
The Scarabs got to the state title game in 1967.
And so it goes.
Playing McKinley, East Tech, Barberton and Central-Hower was an intimidating experience for just about anyone. Opponents would be defeated before the games even started, and the final scores were, most times, not even close.
For years and years way back when, Green was in the Canton Sectional-District Tournament with McKinley at the Civic Center, and several times had the unenviable task of playing the Bulldogs. One time, a pretty good Green team, one that had done well in the Suburban League, lost 80-44 to McKinley in a sectional opener – and actually performed admirably in the estimation of then head coach K.C. Dorland. And he was justified in feeling that way. I covered the game and would agree. It’s just that the Bulldogs were outmatched.
Dorland had come to Green from the former Canton Lehman, which faced McKinley year in and year out. As such, he knew all about the Bulldogs and just how outstanding try were.
Since then, things have changed quite a bit. McKinley has remained a strong program, Barberton is good more often than not and East Tech has fallen off. And along with that, Green has become a lot bigger and, now that it is in the Federal League with McKinley, it no longer fears the Bulldogs but certainly respects them.
Dorland has long since retired but, the last I heard, was still living in the Canton area. If you talked to him, he would tell you what I’m telling you, that what the Green Bulldogs have done already this season is, for those with a little – or a lot of – gray in their hair, something of which, especially from a historical perspective, they should be very, very, very proud.