NEW BOSTON – By the end of the year 1960, Chubby Checker had released his famous hit “Twist”, “The Andy Griffith Show” had just finished its first season, and Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” became arguably the most popular film of the year.
1960 also happened to be the last time the New Boston Tigers boys’ basketball team won a district title. In that same season, the Tigers not only won a district title, they made the Class A state semifinals before falling to Salem Local, 67-59.
On that day 59 years ago, the Tigers were led by Leroy Frazier who scored a game high 30 points. Frazier would graduate from New Boston and go on to attend Ohio State where, as a member of the Buckeyes for three seasons, would be teammates with two-time All-American and eight time NBA champion John Havlichek.
Jon Wickline, another Jon this story requires, is a 1954 graduate of New Boston Glenwood High School and has been the “Voice of the Tigers” for nearly fifty years.
In that time, Wickline has seen nearly all, if not all, of New Boston’s basketball games, the good and the bad ones.
Yet, even Wickline, since taking over the “Voice of the Tigers” post, has not seen what the 2018-19 Tigers can accomplish this Thursday in Athens at the Convocation Center on the campus of Ohio University.
“It’s indescribable,” said Wickline, “I’m not sure these kids realize how big they can be in the eyes of the public, to do something like this. Since 1985, no other New Boston Glenwood High School team has been this far. One more step, and there’s very few teams that have made it this far before.”
To be exact, if the Tigers win Thursday, they become one of seven teams in school history to achieve a district title, and the first in 59 years.
According to Wickline, this New Boston team compares strongly to teams of the 50s and 60s which produced four district title winners from 1956-1960, teams coached by Homer Pellegrinon, the namesake of New Boston’s current gym.
“They’ve got a little bit of height, they’ve got speed, they can pass, they can run, they can shoot, and they can play defense,” said Wickline. “And they seem to enjoy playing together. Their character speaks volumes of who’s coaching them. They respond to our coaches, it’s just an enjoyment to watch them.”
Before Sunday, the last time New Boston won a district semifinal game was 1985, a team coached by Steve Jenkins who was also a member of the 1960 district title team along with Frazier. Before Sunday’s win, New Boston had never won a game at the Convo since Division IV began playing their district tournaments in Athens.
“They were good,” said Wickline when asked of how this team compares to 1985’s group of Tigers, “They weren’t as fast as this team. They played a different style than what this group plays. They were more disciplined, they were physically strong. Just a different group than what we have now.”
Wickline not only believes this group of Tigers is one of the best he’s seen, he believes this is the best team many New Boston fans have ever seen.
“Most of the fans, this is the best New Boston team they’ve ever seen. They didn’t see the 50s and 60s teams. There’s not many around as old as I am, and this is the best New Boston team they’ve seen.”
With Thursday’s district title game looming for the Tigers, and an opportunity to add a “2019” next to “1960” on the district title banner that hangs in Homer Pellegrinon gymnasium, New Boston fans from Glenwood Avenue to Lakeview Avenue and everywhere in between know the sky’s the limit with this group of Tigers.
“I don’t think they realize what they are in the eyes of the community,” said Wickline. “They can do and be anything they want to be now. We haven’t witnessed this for a long time. They’re on the horizon, all they have to do is reach out and grab it.”
New Boston tips off their date with history Thursday in Athens at the Convo against Glouster Trimble at 6:15 p.m.
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT