Tri-City boys basketball, 1952-53

The Illinois State Journal took notice of the Tornadoes’ success in January 1953. There are two errors in the photo caption. The player fourth from left, back row, is Jack Moomey; the tall player next to Moomey is Don (not Ron) Morris. (Courtesy State Journal-Register)

The Tri-City Tornadoes were kings of Sangamon County basketball in the 1952-53 season.

Tri-City Community High School, located in Buffalo, was the first consolidated high school district in Illinois. The merger of formerly separate high schools in Buffalo, Dawson and Mechanicsburg took effect in September 1937.

Each of the small farming communities had had their own high schools since in the late 19th century. The schools were normally three-year high schools, meaning they did not enroll senior classes. Students graduated after their junior years, although some enrolled at nearby four-year schools for a complete high school degree.

Residents of the three main villages, plus the hamlets of Buffalo Hart and Lanesville, approved the consolidation overwhelmingly – the vote was 254-24 – in 1937.

The schools all converted to four-year institutions in the 1937-38 school year, although classes were still held in the old buildings. The consolidated high school building in Buffalo opened in September 1938.

Enrollments of the schools in the 1936-37 school year were Buffalo 47, Dawson 34, and Mechanicsburg 31. Enrollment in September 1937 was 120, while the number jumped to 145 in the new building.

Boys’ sports – basketball, track and field and baseball – were part of the curriculum, and basketball was king. (At the time, girls’ sports were limited to intramural competition. The Illinois High School Athletic Association had decreed in 1908 that interscholastic sports were out of bounds for girls. That rule would remain unchanged until the federal Title IX law, requiring gender equality in education, went into effect in 1973.)

The Tri-City boys won their first county basketball tournament in the World War II year of 1945, with a 58-39 win over New Berlin. The coach was Bill Coddington.

1952-53 champions

Stan Martin, not long out of college, arrived to coach all sports at Tri-City in September 1950. He would continue to coach and teach at the school until 1956, and under his leadership, winning ways became common at Tri-City. The basketball highlight was the 1952-53 season.

The starting lineup was exactly the same in both 1951-52 and ’52-’53; forward Harvey Houston, center Don Morris and guard Wayne Byerline were seniors in ’52-’53, and forward Jack Moomey and guard Chuck Sexton were juniors. Two stars emerged in 1953: Moomey (16.7 points per game) and Morris (22.4 ppg). And the front line had height, with Morris at 6 feet, 6 inches tall, Houston 6-4 and Moomey 6-1.

The season, which started Nov. 18, featured some close games and some major blowouts. Riverton lost to Tri-City three times by more than 20 points each time. Illiopolis gave the Tornadoes the most trouble: Tri-City won that first game in overtime, 54-51, and then edged Illiopolis by a single point later in the season. But the Tornadoes beat Illiopolis by 19 in the county tournament.

The scoring highlight was Tri-City’s 106-46 drubbing of Pleasant Plains. Sexton suffered an injury to his left hip in that game, causing him to be admitted to the hospital. But he was back in the starting lineup three days later.

Coach Stan Martin

The team’s hallmarks were fast breaks, quick shooting, a full-court press, and strong rebounding. Martin stressed conditioning, and sprints were a regular part of his practices. But the Tornadoes were disciplined enough that they could play a slow-down game or even go into a stall if necessary. Excellent passing by Byerline and Sexton contributed to the front line’s ability to score from both close and long range.

The ’52-’53 Tornadoes won the Williamsville Invitational Tournament, the Sangamon County Tournament and the Sangamo Conference championship..

Houston was out of the lineup for seven games beginning a couple of weeks before Christmas, having suffered a fractured right hand in Tri-City’s 72-70 win over Mount Pulaski. Jim Davis, usually the first substitute off the bench, held the fifth spot in the lineup until Houston’s return in January.

In late January, the Tornadoes swept through the Sangamon County Tournament in four games, with no team coming closer than 18 points. They won their 20th straight Jan. 30, defeating Pawnee 69-51 in the county championship.

The team generated lots of excitement in eastern Sangamon County. Overflow crowds were normal on game nights, when streets and homes would be virtually empty. Sexton recalled that local residents Helen and Byron Turley hosted team members quite often for meals during the season. Byron played on the first Tri-City basketball team of 1937-38.

The regional tournament

Statewide, Tri-City, 27-0, was one of three undefeated teams going into the one-class post-season playoffs. (Kankakee and LaGrange Lyons were the other two, and LaGrange ultimately beat Peoria Central for the state championship.)

The Tornadoes won their first game in the Lincoln Regional March 3, with a 61-58 win over the Atlanta Redwings (one of eight high schools that eventually merged to become Stanford Olympia). Byerline’s season-high 18 points, with eight free throws, led the team.

Two days later, they beat Mount Pulaski to advance to the regional championship. State Journal sportswriter L. B. Shroyer described the game:

“Tri-City’s unbeaten cagers continued their torrid pace by defeating Mt. Pulaski in a ding dong dandy 63-49,” Illinois State Journal sports reporter L.B. Shroyer wrote. “Harvey Houston’s five goals from beyond the free throw line kept the Sangamon County champs out in front throughout the second half.”

Leading 48-41 as the fourth quarter bega,n the Tornadoes went into a semi-stall, keeping the ball out of Mount Pulaski’s reach and forcing the Logan County squad to commit fouls. Tri-City responded by making free throws. That was win number 29 … and the Tornadoes’ last.

The regional final March 6 pitted the Tornadoes against the Lincoln Railsplitters, the tournament’s host team. Lincoln (enrollment 606 to Tri-City’s 142) had knocked off Springfield Lanphier in the other semi-final.

“Lincoln’s smothering defense, which effectively blocked out Tri-City rebounders, and plenty of shooting skill, told the story,” Shroyer wrote in his story about the regional championship.

T-C led just once, on Houston’s basket in the first minute of the first quarter, as the Tornadoes’ season ended with a 69-49 loss. … Coach Martin said “the boys did the best they could, but they lost to a better team. They could be proud of their accomplishments this year.” It was a quiet ride home that night.

The basketball season was over, but that wasn’t the end of the story, as the Journal reported in May 1953.

Student strike

Toward the end of the 1952-53 school year, teacher-coach Martin asked for an increase in his annual salary from $3,600 to $4400. The school district offered a lesser amount. Martin threatened to resign if he didn’t get the raise.

Tri-City’s students heard of the stalemate and went on strike on Friday, May 8, to persuade the school board to retain the coach. Newspaper accounts differ as to the number of students missing class, but the total was right at 75 percent of the 142 enrolled at Tri-City. The striking students indicated they would stay away from classes again on Monday, May 11.

“Everybody wants him back,” Louis Oder, superintendent of schools, said. “The only question is how much we can pay him.” At an open meeting on the night of May 11, Martin agreed to accept a new contract of $4,200 per year.

Martin stayed for three more years, resigning at the end of the 1955-56 school year.

“One of the area’s most successful basketball coaches is on the move,” Journal sports editor Bob Drysdale wrote June 9, 1956. “Stan Martin, who has done a fine job at Tri-City High, is leaving for a larger school. Reports have him headed for another central Illinois spot, although it’s not exactly in the Springfield sector.”

Martin moved to Dieterich in Effingham County, near his hometown, to teach and coach. He went later to Elgin Larkin High School, where he coached basketball until 1971. Martin’s last Larkin team made it to the Sweet Sixteen of the state tournament.

Contributor: Phil Shadid, writer with illinoishighschoolglorydays.com

Team profiles

Stanley E. Martin, coach (1927-2016). Born in Watson, Effingham County. Graduate of Eastern Illinois State College (now Eastern Illinois University). Wife Patricia Turley of Dawson, children Susan, Kyle and Kelly. Taught science and physical education at Tri-City from 1950 to 1956 and coached all sports. His six-year basketball record was 95-54.
Martin went on to teach and coach all sports at Dieterich High School, from 1957 to 1963. He taught and coached at Elgin Larkin High School from 1964 to 1983, including as head basketball coach from 1967 to 1971. He remained at Larkin as a teacher only until he retired in 1981.
The Martins later returned to the Springfield area. Martin subbed at Tri-City until 1999.
Stan Martin is buried at Camp Butler National Cemetery. The epitaph reads: “Husband and Dad… Teacher… Coach”

1952-53 Starters

Byerline

Wayne A. Byerline (1935-2001), senior. Wife Barbara, children Kevin, Todd, Dale, John and Joleen. Later career: maintenance superintendent of Freeman United Coal Company, self-employed heavy equipment mechanic. Sons all played sports at Williamsville High School; John was all-state in football and played at Monmouth College; Joleen played softball and basketball at Grayson County (Ky.) High School and softball at Bethel College. Buried at Claggett Cemetery, Leitchfield, Ky.
Nicknamed “Weezee” because he would try to get out of sprints at practice by saying he would get short of breath.

Houston

Harvey W. Houston (1935-1993), senior. Wife Joan, children Cary, Mark, Wayne, Angela and Marcella. Later career: Springfield firefighter. Past state commissioner of American Amateur Baseball Congress. Buried at Camp Butler National Cemetery.

Moomey

John F. “Jack” Moomey (1936-2000), junior. Wife Carolyn, children Sheryl, Mike and Pat. Later career: Received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Eastern Illinois University and became principal, teacher, and coach at Tri-City; retired as executive director of the Illinois Principals Association. Buried at Mechanicsburg Cemetery.One of the greatest athletes in T-C history. Averaged 27.2 points per game his senior year in 1953-54. His mother, Opal Pope Moomey, kept a scrapbook of his achievements; When Jack came down with mumps in 1954, causing him to miss last five games, she wrote: “Jack gets the mumps, season over.”
Son Pat Moomey, baseball coach for 34 years at Chatham Glenwood High School, finished career with two state championships and third most wins (893) in Illinois high school history.

Morris

Donald J. Morris (1935-2020), senior. Wife Linda, children Brian, Becky, Diane and Pam. Went to Millikin University, where he was All-Conference in basketball. Later career: farmer, builder, contractor, and pilot. Buried at Mechanicsburg Cemetery.

Sexton

Charles L. “Chuck” Sexton, junior. Wife Dorothy, children Gitana and Glen, both of whom ran track for Tri-City. (Chuck also ran track and played baseball at T-C.) Later careers Worked at Weaver Manufacturing and with Illinois Secretary of State. Lives in area as of 2024.

Reserves

James A. Davis, senior, sixth man on the 1952-53 team. Retired from the Illinois State Police. Lives in eastern Illinois as of 2024.
Ronald E. DeLong (1935-2022), senior. Retired in 1994 after 26 years as a driver-engineer with the Springfield Fire Department. Interred at Oak Ridge Cemetery Mausoleum.
Merle L. Kirby (1935-2014), senior. Farmed in the Greenview area, employed 25 years with the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. Chairman of Menard County Board of Commissioners for 19 years. Buried at Elmwood Cemetery, Greenview.
Richard N. Lord (1937-2008), sophomore. Building service worker at the University of Illinois Springfield. Buried at Camp Butler National Cemetery.
Kenneth R. Metcalf, Sr., junior. Served as chief deputy for the Sangamon County Sheriff’s Department, retired with rank of major in the Illinois State Police, retired after 25 years of service. Lives in area as of 2024.
William P. Mulcahy, junior. Worked for FS Services. As of 2024, lives in Iowa, with winters in Arizona.
Wade Patton, sophomore. Worked In family construction business, developers of the Patton subdivision southwest of Mechanicsburg. Lives in the area as of 2024
Robert “Bob” Ross, junior (and president of the 1954 senior class). As of 2024, lives in North Carolina.

Others
Team managers: Tom Booker, Bob Purcell
Cheerleaders: Jane Armstrong, Carol Coe, Anna Corday, Diana Hopkins, Anita Kresse, Donna Semple.

Game by game
Regular season
Tri-City 54, Illiopolis 51 (overtime)
Tri-City 73, Springfield St. James 33
Tri-City 82, Edinburg 46
Tri-City 75, Riverton 50
Tri-City 72, Mt. Pulaski 70
Tri-City 66, Riverton 45
Tri-City 84, Mt. Auburn 54
Tri-City 81, New Berlin 55
Tri-City 78, Greenview 48
Tri-City 87, Easton 73
Tri-City 87, Virden 64
Tri-City 106, Pleasant Plains 46
Tri-City 75, Williamsville 59
Tri-City 76, Rochester 45
Tri-City 68, Ball Township 51
Tri-City 61, Illiopolis 60
Tri-City 91, Petersburg 60
Tri-City 81, Easton 64
Tri-City 85, Kincaid 77
Tri-City 78, Springfield St. James 34
Tournament games
Williamsville Invitational, Dec. 9-12;
Tri-City 69, Greenview 42
Tri-City 62, Jacksonville Routt 40
Tri-City 68, Riverton 43 (championship)
Sangamon County, Jan. 26-30
Tri-City 78, Rochester 36
Tri-City 74, Ball Township 53
Tri-City 65, Illiopolis 46
Tri-City 69, Pawnee 51 (championship)
Lincoln Regional Tournament, March 3-6
Tri-City 61, Atlanta 58
Tri-City 63, Mt. Pulaski 49
Lincoln 69, Tri-City 49 (championship)

Acknowledgements

Tri-City Community School District, Tri-City Register, 
Tri-City High School Reunion Book, The Tri-City High School Story by Helen Turley and Perry Hall, Illinois State Journal, Directory of Sangamon County Schools, Sangamon Valley Collection, Camp Butler National Cemetery, Todd Byerline, Brian Franklin, Patricia Martin, Kenneth Metcalf, Pat Moomey, Charles Sexton, Debbi & Mike Thompson.

Original content copyright Sangamon County Historical Society. You are free to republish this content as long as credit is given to the Society. Learn how to support the Society. 

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