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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Fenton HOF to honor 1946 boys basketball team

Tigers advanced to the state title contest

The beginning of what was and still is Fenton’s greatest varsity basketball team didn’t start on a basketball court.

Rather, the team’s greatness started in a barn.

“We began playing in the fifth grade at the Howes’ barn,” said 1946 Fenton varsity basketball player Vince Harrison. “(Teammates George and Jim Howe’s) grandfather cleared the barn, put up two baskets and we used to live up there. It drew guys from all over. We had some great games there. It was great competition, but it was great camaraderie. We were brothers.”

Those indoor barn games developed those middle-schoolers into the Fenton Tigers’ only varsity boys basketball team  to ever make it to a state championship game. That barn was the making of Fenton’s 1946 squad.

 And, now the team will earn the ultimate honor — induction into the Fenton Area Public Schools Educational Foundation Athletic Foundation Hall of Fame. They will join Bob Bruder, Bill Hajec, Ken Wegener Sr., Scott Pushman and Julie Roberts Decker, along with veteran inductee Don Herman. Jim Pushman, Karen Pushman and Mike Pushman are also being honored as honorary members, for their involvement with Cobra wrestling.

That barn proved to be Fenton’s feeder program in an era when feeder programs didn’t exist.

“Did you ever hear of kids at that time having feeder programs,” Harrison said. “(Fenton coach and fellow Hall of Famer) Ivan (Williams) was brilliant. He saw the potential of this team as early as the sixth-grade and by the seventh- and eighth-grade had us playing at halftime of the varsity games.”

They made up a strong team immediately, but by their junior season they were making waves around the state. The team went 17-0 before losing in the Class B state quarterfinals to St. Stanisalus. Before that contest the Tigers had scored 808 points in their 17 contests. But that season only created anticipation for the 1945-46 season.

And, the team began that season with a boom, defeating Swartz Creek 102-17, marking the first time in Fenton history and in the Flint area a team scored more than 100 points.

Led by All-State honorable mention players forward Harrison, center Bob Torrey and guard Howe, the Tigers usually dominated their foes, averaging twice the number of points of their foes. If there was a team that challenged Fenton, it seemed to be Davison. Davison lost to Fenton twice during the season. The first time came by a 35-32 margin during the regular season, putting Fenton in first place by themselves in the Genesee County Class B League for good. The Tigers ended a perfect 14-0 regular season, defeating Lansing Tech 36-24.

In state tourney action, Fenton faced Davison in the district finals one more time, edging the Cardinals 33-30 in the district final. In that game, Harrison scored 11 points, while Bob Torrey had 10.

The Tigers won their second straight regional title by defeating Birmingham Groves 39-29. Torrey paced Fenton with 12 points. Then, in the quarterfinals, they defeated Roseville 56-30, with John Howe netting a game-high 17 points.

The semifinal against Alma was a 26-25 thriller. Fenton trailed 18-12 at the half but a Howe bucket late in the game put the Tigers up. Alma had one more chance, but missed the shot and Fenton rebounded, killing the rest of the clock.

In the state championship game against St. Joseph, the Tigers led 16-13 at the half, but were outscored 20-10 in the second half. The Tigers suffered through a 10-minute period without scoring.

“We did so well,” said Harrison, who also is a member of the Hall of Fame as an individual.

“We went 20-0 and the prior year went 17-0 until we got beat. I have nothing I regret. I am so thankful for everything we got. It was such a bunch of wonderful guys. It was just a great time.”

And now the team has at least one more great time to celebrate — being added to Fenton’s Athletic Hall of Fame.

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