Standing: left to right: Coach Mark Melendy, Tom McGuire, jr.; Dave Oswald, soph.; A. J. Mayo, jr.; John Murray, sr. [author]; Mike Walsh, jr.; Randy Teach, jr.; Mark Carlson, soph.; Manager John Theilen. Kneeling: Ed Norton, sr.; Gene Albonico, sr.; Bill Goodwin, jr.; Larry Sample, jr.; Tom Hash, soph.; Gary Hibler, sr.; Mike Daly, soph. (not shown: Jack Nash, jr.). Photos courtesy the author, via the Humboldt Historian.

Sixty years ago, the 1960-61 sports scene at Eureka High School had gotten off to a slow start. The football team had finished with a 2-5-1 record that included two losses to arch rival Arcata by a combined total of 6-76.

Basketball season was about to commence, but times were different then. There was no McKinleyville High School. There was a Big 4 conference consisting of Arcata, Del Norte, Eureka, and Fortuna, and a Little 4 conference made up of Ferndale, Hoopa, St. Bernards, and South Fork. Conference play would consist of playing everyone in their own conference twice and the teams in the other conference once. This was the first year with this new format. In years past, each team played all the other schools twice. On the court there was a jump ball at the start of each quarter, there was no shot clock, and no three point shot.

In addition to the rules and scheduling changes, each school fielded a “lightweight” and “heavyweight” squad. There were no varsity and junior varsity squads based on age. A point system was assigned to an individual based on age, height, and weight, and if their total was under a certain amount, they could be a lightweight even if they were a senior.

With basketball season starting, Eureka was the pre-season favorite. We had finished second the last two years behind Fortuna. Our record against them in that two-year span was 1-3 but we had broken their twenty-five game win streak with our sole victory over them. We always had problems with Arcata and our record for the previous two years against them was 1-7. We had dominated everyone else in the Big 4 and Little 4. We were probably favored because of my presence at center at 6‘8” and having led the league in scoring and been a unanimous All-League selection the previous year.

However, there was more to it than me. This year there was a team chemistry that had been lacking in the 1959-60 season and the other players were pretty good in their own right. One of the pictures shows and lists the team members. I want to mention the other starters, all juniors. Our point guard was Bill Goodwin, an excellent ball handler and a deadly shooter, especially at free throws. The other guard was Larry Sample, probably the best athlete on the team, a good shooter and ball handler who would occasionally do the most unexpected things, usually for the better.

The forwards were Randy Teach and Tom McGuire, who were steady rebounders, defenders, and scorers. A sixth person, Mike Walsh, had transfered over from St. Bernards and as he got familiar with our system, he was like an extra starter.

In addition to the team members was our coach Mark Melendy. Mark was a star quarterback at Eureka as well as Humboldt State. In between the two, he was a belly gunner on a B-17 bomber in WWII. His philosophy was demonstrated when I first made the team as a sophomore and he gathered us for our first team meeting. He told us we were there to have fun. As I was digesting that he followed up with, “If any of you think losing is fun, you can leave right now!” The season started remarkably with wins over Willits, 61-33; and Ashland, 59-38; and then we headed off to Weed. Weed was a perennial powerhouse in their area and would give us a good test. As the air is thinner in Weed at 5,000 feet, the altitude posed a problem for those of us used to living at sea level.

Our Friday night game with them was nip and tuck and at the end of the regulation game, we were tied and went into overtime. We were told a few hours after the game that at that point the official scorer, a Weed supporter, had made an error and that Weed had actually won by one point, but since it was their error we went to overtime and prevailed 56-52.

In the Saturday night game I picked up an early foul and it wasn’t too long until I picked up a second foul. I averaged about one foul a game and it became apparent that they were running plays designed to get me to foul out of the game, which I did with about two minutes left in the fourth quarter. At that time Weed had a slight lead and held on to win 51-56.

We went back to the coast to prepare for the preseason Big 4 tourney. We played Fortuna on Friday at Arcata, and host Arcata would play Del Norte the same evening, and the losers and winners would play each other on Saturday. Our game against Fortuna started as usual. During warm ups, their center, Don Jacobsen, and I would chat at mid court. We had played each other so many times we were friends. He always grouched that as the second tallest player in the league at 6‘4”, he hated our match-ups often called the “Battle of the Titans” as he wasn’t close enough to my height. For the first time, we had a fairly easy win. The next night we played Arcata. It was a difficult game with the Arcata defense playing defense loosely on my teammates in order to sag into the key and help defend against me. This ploy did not work in the third quarter because with the extra room my teammates took and made all ten shots. The Arcata jinx was buried as we went on to win, 58-39.

We played one more pre-season game against Arcata. It was a pre-lim to a Harlem Clowns game. It was a very hard fought game that we won by only two points. At this point I was averaging just under twenty-two points per game and just over two fouls.

The first week-end of league play saw victories over Arcata and Ferndale. This led to two things of note: On the following Monday the physics class was celebrating because our instructor had told us that if I scored fifty points over the weekend, he would cancel the test on Monday. I had 15 and 35 thus the test was canceled. But it also caused another issue to surface.

At that time Eureka had two newspapers, The Humboldt Times, distributed in the morning, and the Humboldt Standard, distributed in the late afternoon. They had two different sports editors. The Times had Al Tostado, a part time St. Bernards coach and ardent supporter of St. Bernards. The Standard had Don Terbush, who was the uncle and father figure to his two nephews who were my neighbors.

Mr. Tostado wrote an inflammatory article indicating that my teammates were under instructions to feed me the ball in the fourth quarter. He compared that to a Del Norte player who was such a gentleman that after scoring 26 points, he asked to be taken out of the game. The article is in my scrapbook with my mother’s hand-written notes on it pointing out I only played one minute in the 4th quarter and other disclaimers. We had a team meeting where I proclaimed I liked scoring points and we kept playing our game.

Coach Melendy usually took the first string out if we had a 20 point lead. If that occurred in the first half we would start the second half and if we started to pull further ahead he would pull us again. The only time that he did not follow this script was against Hoopa. On the way to the game he pulled me aside and said that Hoopa was playing in a new gym and people were coming from up and down the valley to see me play. He told me to give them a show. At half time I had 20 points and in the third quarter another 20, including a half court shot at the buzzer. He then took me out.

In league play, there were two games of note. The first was against South Fork. I learned some background information on this game when I gave rides home from Stanford on different breaks to Jack Monschke, a starting guard for South Fork. I will use the information that I gained a year after we played to set the stage.

Leading up to our game, I was averaging close to 30 points a game and 0.8 fouls. The South Fork team was averaging about 28 points per game. The South Fork coach wasn’t happy with those stats and decided that I was not to score a lot of points, and instituted a game plan that consisted of two large people following me all over the court when they were on defense and when they were on offense they would not try to score but just stall to use as much time as possible in order to keep the ball out of our hands. Remember, at that time, unlike now, there was no shot clock that mandated you shoot the ball and at least hit the rim within thirty-five seconds of gaining possession of the ball.

When we won the opening tip, I went to my corner of the court and even though I did not have the ball there were two fellows pinning me in the corner with their arms raised to deny me the ball. The other three were in a zone against my remaining four teammates. This took us by surprise, to say the least, and we did not score initially. When South Fork came down, they went into their stall. At the end of the first quarter they were ahead 4-1. More of the same occurred in the second quarter but we ended up ahead 6-5 at the half.

Coach Melendy wasn’t pleased at the half, not with us, but with the other coach and said, “OK, if they want to play that way let’s go out there, get the opening tip, score a basket and we will stall the second half.” What I learned later was South Fork had intended to play a regular second half. The second half started, we got the opening tip but rather than take the ball down and work it in for a close shot like the coach instructed, Sample dribbled down and threw up a fifteen foot jump shot and made it. We held them and went into our stall.

They did not contest our stall, and for a few minutes Goodwin was actually sitting on the ball while the defenders stayed away from him. By the end of the third quarter, we were up 17-9. In the fourth quarter they closed the gap and we were ahead by one with a minute or so to go and Goodwin and Sample were dribbling out the clock when Goodwin was fouled. He calmly sank two free throws putting us up three, and South Fork was allowed to dribble the length of the court and make a lay-in to end the game in our favor, 20-19. They achieved their goal of keeping it close and holding me in check as I only had 4 points and no fouls.

The other game of interest was against Del Norte at their gym. The first half was a hard fought contest that ended up with us ahead 30-28. Coach Melendy, called the third quarter “the best basketball” he had seen. It wasn’t so much of a team effort, but Larry Sample just took over and made unbelievable shots. The most memorable incident had to be explained to me during the quarter break.

Del Norte had stolen the ball, and as they were taking it to their end, they lost it to us, and because of that I was ahead of the rest of the team getting back on offense. As I got to the free throw line, I turned and saw all my team mates still on the other end of the court but I didn’t see the ball. Then I heard a bam/swish noise as the ball hit the backboard and went through the net. The ref held up two fingers for a basket and though I didn’t know what had happened, I trotted down to defense.

What had happened was that Sample had the ball and glanced up at the clock as he neared half court and saw that there were only two seconds left, so he let go with his half court shot that he made. When the buzzer didn’t go off he realized that there had been 1:02 left on the clock. That shot put us up 16 points and the Del Norte coach, Maciel, wandered over to our bench and asked Melendy what the heck was going on? We won by 23.

Our last game was against Fortuna, which we won to end up 10-0 in league play and 16-1 over all. We had planned to make our standard trip to Yreka for a post-season tournament, as Eureka had done for the last eight years or so. At this point Don Terbush came forth and told Coach Melendy that he knew some people in the Bay Area, and he thought he could get us an invite to the prestigious Tournament of Champions.

At this time there was no North Coast Sectional tournament or state championships. The Tournament of Champions was held at Harmon Gymnasium, the home court of the U.C. Berkeley Bears and consisted of the champions from seven central California leagues and one at-large team. It was recognized as the northern California championship tourney. Coach asked us if we wanted to go, and we certainly did. Mr. Terbush worked his magic and we were offered the at-large bid. We accepted and then sat on the information so that Mr. Terbush could break the story in the Standard. Mr. Tostado got wind of what was going on, but could only print rumors as no one would confirm the story. Yreka was mad that Eureka was backing out and we were never invited to their tournament again.

The tournament line-up was set with other teams being: McClymonds (Oakland), Livermore, Monterey, Redwoods (Marin), Sacred Heart (San Francisco), Vallejo and Richmond. As we were the number eight-seeded team we had the honor of playing the number one seed, the Richmond Oilers, who were 24-0 and known for their full court press where they defend you closely all over the court rather than just down on their defensive end.

We had two weeks to prepare for our game We had practiced against the press before and usually it did not bother us. To better ourselves, Melendy asked his brother-in-law, Ernie Cunningham if he would reassemble his St. Bernards squad and press us. I recall them using extra people to harass us even more than normal.

We didn’t know what to expect as we set off on what was then a two-day trip to the Bay Area. We were told that most Bay Area people thought we may not play in shoes, and another pre-season story about Richmond surfaced: “If they can keep their center out of jail, they will do well!”

Harmon Gymnasium was different than we were used to. It seated 8,000 and the seats were at a very steep angle. The McClymonds team was playing before us and they rolled out a cart with a bunch of head phones and a microphone so the coach could talk to them over the very noisy cheering section. It was, to say the least, different.

The account of the game, which we won 48-42, is aptly described in Don Terbush’s article from the Humboldt Standard, which follows.

Loggers Beat ACAL Champs 48-42, Play Vallejo High Tonight by Don Terbush Standard Sport Editor

BERKELEY—Eureka, in its greatest showing of the year, provided California cage prepdom with its most stunning upset as the underdog Loggers rose to undreamed of heights in securing a 48-42 Tournament of champions win over the previously invincible Richmond Oilers Thursday night.

Nearly 6500 onlookers converted Harmon Gymnasium in sheer pandemonium, as the Oilers’ 24-game skein snapped.

The Loggers, led by the brilliant, ball-hawking play of Bill Goodwin took a 5-4 lead with 3:50 remaining in the first quarter and pulled steadily away to record what must rank as the upset of 1961 in high school cage circles.

…Goodwin, a 5-11 junior guard, enjoyed his finest 32 minutes of high school basketball. He pulled in nine of Eureka’s 32 rebounds, tallied an equal number of points, including five-for-five at the free throw line, set up countless scoring plays with precision passing and ball-handling, and thwarted Richmond’s full-court press on numerous pressure-packed occasions.

A majority of teammate Larry Sample’s 13 points came as a result of Goodwin’s feed passes. Center John Murray, one of the TofC’s most publicized players, topped rebounding with 11 and contributed 12 points. Most of the 6-8 senior’s brightest moments came in the second half. …Eureka jumped ahead with 3:50 remaining, and then two layins by Goodwin and Sample added up to a 10-5 first quarter lead. During the first period the Oilers went six minutes without scoring a point.

We then proceeded to lose our next two games, but we had left our mark as our win over Richmond was called the biggest upset in tournament history. After the championship game that McClymonds won both Goodwin and I were named to the ten-man all tourney team. Along with McClymonds we were the only teams with two people selected. Other post season honors saw me selected to the All Northern California first team. In our own league I was a unanimous first team selection plus Goodwin and Sample were placed on the second team. Teach and McGuire were honorable mention.

Some fifty years later our team was selected as the second team to be inducted into the Eureka High School Hall of Fame. In 2011, that honor was also bestowed upon me as an individual player. As part of my “Poster,” I selected a picture of me being guarded by Don Jacobsen of Fortuna so that he could tell his friends he was in the Eureka High Hall of Fame.

After graduation, two of our team, Albonico and Norton, were killed within three months in separate auto accidents. Four of us attended Stanford as undergraduates; myself, Goodwin, Walsh, and Oswald. Another, Teach, received a Ph.D from Stanford. Hibler would go on to earn a Ph.D from Oregon State University.


The story above was originally printed in the Spring 2021 issue of the Humboldt Historian, a journal of the Humboldt County Historical Society. It is reprinted here with permission. The Humboldt County Historical Society is a nonprofit organization devoted to archiving, preserving and sharing Humboldt County’s rich history. You can become a member and receive a year’s worth of new issues of The Humboldt Historian at this link.