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Medina's 'Masimen' made historic tournament run under strange circumstances

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    The 1929-30 Medina boys basketball team was one game from a state berth in the Class B tournament.

    PHOTO COURTESY MEDINA PUBLIC LIBRARY

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The main players were Herbert Carsten, Clarence Escott, Corwin Hoff, Junior Potts, Roy Williams, Jack Pate and Clayton Oberholtzer. The coach was Sam Masi. The jersey colors were green and white, but the nickname “Bees” hadn’t been thought of quite yet.

The Medina boys basketball team wasn’t expected to reach the round of 16 in the 1930 Class B tournament. In fact, the “Masimen” weren’t supposed to be in Class B at all.

No matter how bizarre the circumstances — prepare to be amazed — Medina pulled off the improbable and won two games on the same day at Kent State College to become the first team in Medina County history to advance to the final 16. Lodi, led by superstar center Bob Crum and hall of fame coach Frank Hurd, joined the Masimen exactly 1 hour later. No area team matched the feat for 51 years.

How was this possible? Winning twice over a 6-hour span? Two county schools in back-to-back games? What in the world was going on?

First off, let’s get this out of the way: With a population of 4,071 and a 67-student senior class, Medina was supposed to be bumped up and make its debut in Class A, the larger of the two divisions. But an Ohio High School Athletic Association official erroneously left Medina out of the Akron Class A and Wooster Class B sectional draws.

The OHSAA made two unfathomable decisions in response to the massive conundrum. No. 1, Medina was to remain in Class B. No. 2, the Masimen were permitted to bypass the sectional level, where they would have had to win no fewer than two games. There is no documentation explaining why the OHSAA placed Medina among the final 56, comparable to the district semifinals today.

What would have happened if Medina was placed in Class A? Evidence came from bitter rival Wadsworth, which split one-possession games with the Masimen in the regular season but lost its sectional opener to eventual state semifinalist Canton McKinley 45-20.

The opportunity was unprecedented and will never be duplicated.

The 14 other teams at the Kent State District had every right to be livid. From the inception of the tourney in 1923 until the late 1950s, most Class B schools had to place in the top two or three of their county tournament to even qualify for sectionals.

Sectionals were no joke because the OHSAA had more than 1,500 members — 799 play basketball today — but the format to advance was not entirely single-elimination until 1943. Similar to the modern individual tennis tournament, Northeast and Northwest Ohio teams that reached the final game unscathed automatically moved on and the winner received a higher seed in the next round.

What we consider regionals were, in essence, the district semifinals and state quarterfinals in 1930.

Eight teams from six districts went to Fairgrounds Coliseum in Columbus, with the Northwest and Northeast getting two qualifiers apiece. The OHSAA lists Austintown Fitch, Carrollton, Lancaster St. Mary’s, Midland, Rawson, Rome, Brush and Tiffin Junior Home as 1930 state participants.

Medina nearly joined them after going 7-4 and taking third place in the Northern League behind New London and Amherst during the regular season. The team prepped for districts by absorbing a 49-19 beating in a scrimmage against the College of Wooster freshmen.

In an era when there was a jump ball after every basket, coaches could only talk to players during timeouts and substitutions were permanent, low-scoring games were the norm. The Masimen averaged a mere 23.9 points, and six of their 11 regular-season games were decided by three or fewer.

Pate was the leading scorer at left forward. Williams was the “fast, shifty” right forward, while Carsten was the center. Returning starting guards Hoff (left) and Escott (right) were considered the top all-around player and defender, respectively, and Potts (F) and Oberholtzer (G) were subs. Masi was in his first season after being lured from Spencer, where he won back-to-back Medina County League championships.

Medina opened the Kent State District on Friday, March 15, at 2 p.m. against Stark County League champion Beach City, a school one-fifth its size. The Masimen trailed 12-6 at halftime, but Pate (game-high 12 points) caught fire and Medina forced overtime to emerge 24-19.

At 7:50 that evening, Medina went to war with Trumbull County’s Brookfield, which had knocked off Wooster Sectional winner Rittman. Pate again led the way with eight points as the Masimen made eight free throws to Brookfield’s four in a 24-20 triumph. Lodi crushed Mayfield 31-19 in the next game.

That set up a Saturday afternoon date with battle-hardened Brush, which had allowed 11, 16, 22, 13 and 12 points in the tournament. Brush’s zone defense, a new concept, was stifling and forward Paul Boyle pumped in nine points in an 18-8 victory.

“The powerful Brush quintet, unbeaten by a Class B foe this season, again flashed a staunch defense and, for the second time this tournament, held its opponent to only two field goals (Pate, Williams),” The Plain Dealer wrote. “Medina was baffled by the tight, five-man defense presented by the South Euclid team and never threatened to take the lead.”

A third-place game was held that evening, assumedly to name a state alternate in case Fitch or Brush was ruled ineligible for reasons ranging from 20-year-old players to coaches who weren’t teachers at their school. Defending Class B champion Akron St. Mary’s was barred because of the latter.

Lodi was Medina’s opponent after losing 14-13 to Fitch. Williams scored a season-high nine points, but the Tigers countered with 10 from Richie (first name unknown) and nine from future Western Reserve University starter Crum in a 26-25 decision that gave Lodi a still-county-record 25 victories.

Technically, Lodi tied for ninth in the state and Medina tied for 11th because of the two districts that sent two teams apiece to state. Remember: There were 1,500-plus schools split among two classes.

Life simply moved on for the Masimen.

  • Masi was forced by superintendent Howard Claggett to resign as basketball coach in the middle of the winless 1935-36 season but coached the football team to a school-record 74 wins and three Northern League titles from 1929-44. He accepted an assistant position at powerhouse Barberton in 1945, yet lived in Medina until dying of a heart attack while watching the Ohio State-Michigan football game on Nov. 21, 1981.
  • Pate served in the legendary 101st Airborne Division in World War II, reaching the rank of corporal. He worked for Firestone Tire & Rubber Company before running a painting business. He died in 1959.
  • Carsten moved to Akron’s Ellet neighborhood in 1952 and owned Northgate and Eastgate bowling alleys. The latter is still in business. He also worked as a Realtor and died in 1983.
  • Escott moved to California and was employed by the Iron Workers of America. He died in 1984.
  • Hoff was a co-owner of Rickard’s Super Market on the Medina Square. He died in 1974.
  • Potts moved to Medina from Pennsylvania when he was 12 and lived in town the rest of his life as a carpenter. He died in 1987.
  • Williams relocated to Zanesville and had a 40-year career with Standard Oil. He died in 1972.
  • Oberholtzer was a captain in World War II, seeing time in the China Burma India Theater. He founded the Medina-based law firm Oberholtzer & Filous in 1939, served on the Medina Board of Education for 10 years and was secretary of the Medina Chamber of Commerce for 31. He died in 1986.

By the time Wadsworth surpassed Medina and Lodi’s accomplishments by reaching the 1981 Class AAA state championship game, Pate, Williams and Hoff had passed away.

The world has changed greatly since the Masimen played home games on the auditorium stage of what is now the Medina County Administration Building. Medina built two replacement high schools over the next 45 years and made a Cinderella run to the 1983 Class AAA state semifinals. The city is currently home to more than 25,000.

Long known as the Bees, the school will make its seventh Sweet 16 appearance Thursday when it takes on Massillon Jackson in the University of Akron Division I Regional semifinals.

But there will always be the team that did it first — even if it was never intended to.

Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or agrindle@medina-gazette.com.

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