Inductees March of 1950 Bradley and City College of New York, then an eastern power known around the land as CCNY, produced a bit of collegiate basketball history that can never be repeated.
The two played in the championship game of both the National Invitational and the NCAA Tournaments. CCNY won both times. But that Bradley team, coached by Forddy Anderson and posting a 32-5 record, was the thing that legends are woven around.
Almost 41 years ago on the Hilltop, Anderson was in his second year as coach and after a 27-8 debut, had wondrous talent on hand. All-American center Paul Unruh (Toulon) was in his senior season along with Mike Chianakas (Eureka) and Dave Humerickhouse (Paris).
Billy Mann (Chicago) and Gene "Squeaky" Melchiorre (Highland Park) were juniors along with 6-foot-7 Elmer Behnke (Marengo), the largest player on the team, Charles "Bud"
Grover (Dundee) and Aaron Preece (Canton). Sophomores Jim Kelly (Peoria) and Fred Schlictman (Centralia) rounded out the core of the team.
The Braves went 27-3 in the regular season, losing only to Purdue in the dedication game of Robertson Fieldhouse, to Kentucky in the title game of the Sugar Bowl tournament and at Detroit in a Missouri Valley Conference game.
Very loyal to the NIT after playing in the first two in 1938 and 1939, Bradley first accepted an invitation from what had started out as the nation's No. 1 post-season tournament. Noting this, the NCAA selection committee somehow decided to pass up the Braves despite their glittering record. The resulting uproar changed minds, though, and Bradley, along with CCNY, ended up in both tournaments.
The NIT came first. After whipping Syracuse and St. John's of New York, Bradley fell 69-61 to CCNY in the championship game. Then came the NCAA. Facing huge Clyde Lovellette and Kansas in its first game, Bradley edged out a 59-57 win, then blitzed UCLA 73-59 and, in the semi-finals, edged Baylor 68-66.
In the rematch, CCNY won 71-68 but only after a controversial ending when Melchiorre was apparently fouled as he drove for the basket with BU trailing only 69-68 in the final seconds. Peoria movie houses showed the game and bitter finish and the "none-call" became infamous throughout the country.
Others who played on the team that historic season were Dino Melchiorre (Highland Park), Dick Mize (Wheaton), Clarence Christe (Peoria Manual), Don Alford (Peoria Woodruff), Don Schnake (Centralia), Jack Hills (Joliet) and former Bradley basketball coach Joe Stowell (Peoria Central).
March of 1950 Bradley and City College of New York, then an eastern power known around the land as CCNY, produced a bit of collegiate basketball history that can never be repeated.
Tom Lowery, long-time Peoria Youth Sports figure, has been named co-winner of the 1991 Neve Harms Meritorious Service to Sports Award. He has a Masters Degree from Sangamon State University and works as a Management Analyst.