Jerry Summers: Ides Of March

  • Friday, March 17, 2023
Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers

The following article is not about the ill-fated day of March 15, 44 A.D. when Emperor Julius Caesar’s alleged buddies in the Roman Senate decided to oust him from his dictatorship with the use of knives hidden in their togas.

The 1958 event took place in the Vanderbilt University basketball arena that yearly held the “Sweet Sixteen” tournament that included only caucasian players from the champions and runner up in 8 regions across the state from Bristol to Memphis.

Region 3 was represented by Lenoir City (LC) and Chattanooga Central (CC) who had met in their regional final with LC winning by a score of 61-54 in Cleveland, Tennessee.

Both teams advanced through their first three games with Central pulling an upset in the semi-finals over the tournament favorite. Kingsport Dobyns Bennet, a perennial sports power in the state.

The Central team was a group of over-achievers who surprised everyone including their coach and themselves.

With the tallest player Eddie Test standing at a height of only 6’2” the team coached by Gordon Smith relied on quickness and teamwork to achieve a final record of 33-4 with two of those losses to Lenor City, one to Maryville Everett, and a defeat in the Scottsboro, Alabama Christmas tournament to the New Hope, Alabama squad.

Three forwards all standing 6’1” and the two starting guards at 5’9” and 5’8” played the majority of the time. Test was the only full time starter returning from the talented 1957 squad that had gotten upset in the opening round in Nashville the year before by Summertown.

Sixty-five years have passed since March 15, 1958, and only four of the 10 original players, plus two managers and Coach Smith are still alive to remember the season game that ended when the 5’9” guard’s shot hit the front rim and bounced off as the horn sounded ending the game with LC winning by a score of 34-33.

Although the loss was disappointing, eight of the 10 CC players graduated from college and the other two served honorably in the military of our country.

The players that pursued a further education had successful careers in a variety of professions that included finance, charitable organizations, art, law, journalism, business, and medical supplies. Each has made significant contributions to their communities.

After 65 years, the lifetime accomplishments of the Central High School Purple Pounders state runner-up basketball team still outshines the pain of their loss on March 15, 1958.

The outstanding record of Coach Smtih from 1952-1974 and the history, scores, and results of the 1957-1958 season is written in “One Shot Short” in 192 pages and preserved in an attached CD of the March 15 final game in Nashville.

Both can be obtained with a charitable donation of $20 to Orange Grove Center, 615 Derby Street, Chattanooga, Tennessee 37404, (423) 629-1451, development@orangegrove.org.

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You can reach Jerry Summers at jsummers@summersfirm.com



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