Welcome to "Keep Sporting, Keep Fit"
Before I close the chapter on prep basketball for the time being, let me add a few notes of interest on the 1953 Morris Community High School Redskins cage team.
As I mentioned in an earlier article, the 'Skins won the prestigious Pontiac High School Holiday Tournament. The Joe Laughary-coached squad beat Delavan in game one, then overwhelmed West Aurora 62-46. Phil Bromberg, a 6-foot-6 center, tallied 33 points to pace Morris.
The next game was to be a giant challenge for the Redskins: Peoria Central. Peoria was rated eighth in the state rankings and was paced by All-Everything 6-foot-4 Hiles Stout. Stout would later play basketball at the University of Illinois.
Morris led 17-16 after one quarter of play and 33-29 at intermission. Peoria outscored Morris 19-13 in the third quarter and took back the lead 48-46. Coach Laughary had some strategy up his sleeve. He alternated Frank ( Shockie) Cheshareck and Paul Fruland in front of the muscular Stout while big Bromberg loomed over the back of the Peoria all stater.
It worked like a charm. Morris outscored Peoria 16-8 in the final quarter and advanced to the championship game against Depue. Peoria would later go on to place second in the IHSA state finals, losing to La Grange.
In the game against Peoria Central, Bromberg and Fruland each scored 18 points. Eddie Best chipped in with 10 markers, Leon (Sony) Gant scored 6 points and Cheshareck and Elton Monson each added 5 markers. Stout would end up with 28 points. What a great win for Morris. The 'Skins won the battle 62-56.
Morris beat DePue in the title game 61-47 to capture the Pontiac Holiday Tournament that started in 1926 and was played every year, with the exception of the years during World War II from 1942 through 1947.
In the DePue game, Morris led 19-13 after one quarter and 42-29 at halftime. The Redskins were paced by Bromberg with 16 points, followed by Monson with 13 counters, Gant chipped with 11 points. The rest of the scoring had Fruland with 8, Cheshareck with 7, and Best with 6 points.
I sure hope that the trophy is in a prominent spot in the MCHS trophy case. Other than the 1919 Morris team that went to state, this is the highest-regarded piece of hardware in the boys basketball history.
Fruland a standout on this Redskins team told me recently, "When you are 17 , you don't really realize what you have accomplished until years later. I do remember how happy we were when we won the championship."
Fruland added, "At the time we won the Pontiac title game, this tournament was the biggest holiday tourney in the state."
When reflecting on the season, Paul said,"We ended up 25-5 for the year and were rated eighth in state, and I believe at season's end, we were rated 13th."
Ottawa, which beat Morris twice that year (in the championship of the Morris holiday tourney and in the regional finals), went on to state and was eventually eliminated in tourney play. The Pirates were rated as high as fourth in the state ratings during the 1952-53 cage season.
Morris lost to Princeton, West Chicago, Ottawa( twice) and DePue. When Morris played at DePue during the regular season, five starters fouled out in the cracker box-sized gym of the Little Giants. Morris had a 12-point lead going into the fourth quarter, only to be outscored 33-12 to lose the game. But remember, five starters fouled out of this game. Morris got revenge during the Pontiac tournament.
Fruland and Jack Enger both played as Freshman at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. Enger was a valuable member of the Morris team and was a great shooter. Jack played as a sophomore on the 'Skins varsity, but broke his ankle and set back his playing time for the future. Fruland's grandson, Zach Hillesland, was a regular on the Notre Dame basketball team. He was 6-foot-9, and his mother, Diane, was a cheerleader at MCHS.
I know that I will always remember this team as one of the best teams to ever play for the Morris Redskins.It is also on top of my favorite high-school teams because they were my classmates and they deserved to be recognized as one of the top three teams in MCHS basketball history.