[Posted 8/5/08]

The Varsity basketball team continued on its hot streak with three wins, bringing its record to 18-4. In a 64-52 triumph over Watchung Hills, Willie Wilson and Tony Zackery each had 20; in a 102-73 annihilation of Columbia (South Orange), two short of the school record set two years earlier, Zackery had 19, Wilson 18 and Bob Kimbrough 14; and then the Hilltoppers bested Verona, 62-60, as the starting five did all the scoring but two as Johnny Foushee led the way with 15, Zackery and George Gross had 12 apiece, Wilson had 11 and Kimbrough 10. Summit thus wrapped up its Suburban Conference campaign with a 3rd straight crown at 13-1…40-2 over Coach Ed Lyons’ three-year run at the helm.

At this point, Willie Wilson had 1,068 points, increasing his record, but it was also noted then that Wilson had the all-time Summit record for career points in football, 401, and was entering his senior year on the baseball diamond with a .444 career batting average, also an all-time Summit best.

But recall, having been eliminated in a first round Union County Tourney game, Summit basketball was pinning its hopes on a state sectional title. First up, Caldwell, which Summit whipped 77-49 as Wilson had 18 points, 14 rebounds, 5 steals and 3 blocks…not bad, not bad at all. Zackery chipped in with 13, Gross 12, Ernie Gwathney 10 and Dave Poole 8. For Wilson, it was his final home game.

The Hilltoppers then faced Springfield and beat them, though the Herald had no account of the contest, and then Summit defeated West Orange, 50-31. Wilson only had four points as he was in foul trouble throughout, but he still contributed 14 rebounds. George Gross led the scoring with 17 and Bob Kimbrough had 14. Summit was now 21-4, having taken 18 of its last 19 after a 3-3 start, due in no small part to Summit’s run on the gridiron where it ended up being ranked number one in the entire state.

Alas, it all came to an end in the section 2, Group 3 title game as Summit lost to Hanover Park (25-2), 61-56. Zackery had 20, Wilson 16 and Gross 10 as Summit finished 21-5 and was now 66-9 under Ed Lyons during the Wilson era. Summit was to graduate four key seniors, however, and the following year was a rough one. But we’ll get to that in about a year.

So what else was happening in the world of Summit sports? The boys swim team completed its best year ever, 12-1 in dual meets and was now 46-7-1 in the last four years under coach Tom Stokes. Super soph Billy Specht came through again in the Union County Championships by winning both the 100 fly and the 100 backstroke as Summit finished a strong 3rd to perennial champion Westfield (18 straight for them) and Pingry.

The wrestling team ended its year at 4-8, but Bob Gregory finished 3rd in the regionals at 158 lbs.

The Herald was previewing the prospects for the boys track team and noted that this was Ernie Gwathney’s year to shine. Gwathney had won 5 of 7 100-yard dashes in dual meets in ’73, with teammate Dennis Holman winning the other two, but with Holman graduated the spotlight was all Ernie’s.

I mean to tell you, as a junior Ernie ran a 10.1, just 0.2 off his brother Jim’s school record of 9.9 set in 1970. [I have to admit…I knew both Ernie and Jim were fast, but I had forgotten just how fast!] Coach Rich Thomasey noted that with regards to Ernie, he got called for a lot of false starts because no one could believe how quick off the blocks he was at his size.

Meanwhile, back to “Wonderful Willie”, he was quoted in the Herald as saying of his decision to accept a scholarship to play football at Maryland, “The enthusiasm and friendliness of the players was something” when he visited the campus. When asked about baseball, however, and the money that might be available later in the spring, Willie replied, “Even if there’s a big money offer, I want to first go to college.” Things would change three months later.

Elsewhere in town, there was a nasty strike at Ciba-Geigy by the electrical workers union that resulted in a few scuffles; the Herald ran an editorial calling the robin a “fraud” because it could hardly be a harbinger of spring when it lives here all year round; John Wayne was starring at The Strand in “McQ”, and for some of us it was Band Candy Drive time. Party nuts went for $1.25 and Kady Dids (chocolate covered almonds) sold for $2.

Next installment, Sept. 9. WW’s senior baseball season begins.



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