Ozarks tournament filled with pageantry, top players in 1961
Some people have better memories than others.
That point was emphasized in a note from a reader in Monessen who said: “Your recent reference to the Monessen Ozarks Athletic Association's annual basketball tournament in 1961 only touched the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Didn't they crown a basketball queen that night?”
The reader is correct.
In addition to a long-anticipated game between the Section 5-A All-Stars and some of the best players in the WPIAL, the culminating event of the Ozarks' tournament on Thursday, March 30, 1961 at the Monessen High School gym was highlighted by the crowning of Judy Colteryahn of Monongahela as Miss Mon Valley Basketball Queen.
Described as a “tall, willowy blonde,” Miss Colteryahn was chosen from a field of 10 contestants. The others, who comprised the queen's court, were Josephine McCorkle of West Newton, Suzanne Shipe of Charleroi, Norma Coyle of Bentleyville, Joyce Fiorek of Uniontown, Gloria Jean Pasquinelli of Rostraver, Margie Harger of Bellmar, JoAnn Bodoia of Monessen, Nancy Nemish of Donora and Bernadine Schiavon of California.
Miss Colteryahn, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Clyde Colteryahn, was a senior a Monongahela High School, where she was a majorette and secretary of the Class of 1961.
Mayor Hugo J. Parente of Monessen and radio personality Linda Dial (Charlotte Regula) of WESA crowned Miss Colteryahn during the traditional ceremonies. Also extending congratulations to the new queen were Linda Leech of Uniontown, who wore the crown in 1960, and Pat Minyon of Rostraver Township, the first Mon Valley Basketball Queen in 1957, when she represented Rostraver High School.
Judges for the 1961 contest were Dr. Michael Duda, president of California State College; Mrs. Isabelle Hurley, women's editor of The Valley Independent; Frank Buscanics, Mon Valley insurance executive and sportscaster, and James Bonafed of LaRose Beauty Salon, who also acted as beauty consultant.
Buscanics served as master of ceremonies for the pageant, while the Clan Grant Pipe Band of Donora was the official tournament musical group.
Miss Colteryahn received a commemorative jeweled watch from the Ozarks and a variety of gifts from Monessen merchants. The other contestants also received gifts.
Post-tournament coverage of the festivities also lauded John Yonek and Mike Romey for their excellent work as coordinators of the Basketball Queen contest.
As for basketball that night 53 years ago, the Ozarks had another crowning touch to end its annual tournament by arranging a game between the Section 5 All-Stars and the WPIAL All-Stars. Abe Everhart of Uniontown coached the Section 5 team and Dick Black of Mt. Lebanon guided the WPIAL club.
Comprising the Section 5 team were Daryle Ruby of Bellmar; John Unice, Rich Curry and Don Yates of Uniontown; Willie Ross of Rostraver; Joe Russell of Donora; John Cassin of California; Bill Ducoeur and John Verkleeren of Charleroi, and Ben Jones and Tony Romasco of Monessen
Selected as the WPIAL's best were Denny Ferguson of Springdale, George Suder and Eugene Vallicorsa of Aliquippa, Joe Kruzewski of Har-Brack, Jules “Buddy” Quertinmont of Albert Gallatin, Fred Mazurek of Redstone. Jerry Holder of Fort Cherry; Ron Allen of Wampum. Larry Hathaway and Bob Bennett of Mount Lebanon and Carey Moore of Bentleyville. Allen broke his ankle only a few days before the game and was replaced by Frank Miniotas of McKeesport.
Hathaway and Bennett were two of the standouts who led Mount Lebanon to the WPIAL Class A championship that season, Black's first year at the helm of the Lebos.
“We practiced at the Uniontown High gym, where Coach Everhart divided us into two teams and watched us play with no directions from him,” Ruby recalled of the Section 5 aggregation. “He stopped play after a half-hour and then instructed us in his half-court press defense. As for offensive strategy, he said, ‘Just freelance.'”
Everhart's strategy worked as the Mon Valley crew defeated the WPIAL's best 69-64 before some 1,000 fans. Ruby led all scorers with 15 points, while Ross and Russell added nine each. Ross paced the rebounding efforts with 13. Bennett and Mazurek topped the losers with 10 points apiece.
The game was one of the most exciting scholastic affairs ever played at the Monessen High gym.
Trailing throughout most of the contest – they led only at the end of the first period, 16-14 – the Section 5 crew tied the score at 54-54 with 4:01 to go as Yates sank a free throw.
Verkleeren put the Valley stars ahead for good 56-54 with a pair of foul shots at the 3:48 mark. A few seconds later he connected on a long one-hander from the corner to make it 58-54. Cassin sank two more charity tosses for Section 5 with only 28 seconds left in the game to make it 68-62 and the area group was home free.
Everhart's team actually won the game at the foul line. Field goals were even at 25 apiece, but the Section players connected on 19 of 30 shots from the free throw line, compared to a 14 of 20 mark for their opponents.
The victory avenged a 65-58 loss to the WPIAL Stars in 1960.
Earl “Buzzy” Stevenson and George Kuvinka were the officials for the 1961 contest. Frank Buscanics handled the announcing chores, Nello Tineri and Larry Pfister were the scorekeepers, Lou Kichinko worked the clock, and Jim Frew operated the scoreboard.
Trophies were presented to the players and their coaches after the game.
They and Miss Colteryahn and her court were honored in a post-game banquet at the Park Casino supper club later that evening. Special guests at the gathering were Mayor Parente; Kuvinka, 25th District American Legion Baseball commissioner; Attorney Gilfert Mihalich of Monessen; Dr. Duda, and Jim Russell, the Fayette City native who enjoyed a long career in Major League Baseball and who was working as a scout for the Washington Senators at the time.
The Ozarks' eighth annual tournament concluded one night earlier – on Wednesday, March 29 – as the Ellsworth Pucks and the Jeannette Eagles won championships.
The Pucks grabbed the Junior Division title with a 61-50 victory over the Monessen Ozarks, and Jeannette added its name to the list of Senior Division champions by stopping Monessen Bar 20 71-61.
Fred Mazurek of Redstone High School and Eddie Attenberger of Jeannette were selected as Most Valuable Player award recipients in the Junior and Senior circuits, respectively.
Mazurek, who was honored for his outstanding “total play,” scored 14 points in the championship game, but teammate Buddy Quertimont paced the winners with 15. Ben Jones of Monessen also hit double digits with 10. Tony Romasco led all scorers with 16 for the Ozarks an teammate Ed Fiorill chipped in with 10.
Other members of the Ellsworth Pucks were Willie Ross of Rostraver, Daryle Ruby of Bellmar, and John Verkleeren, Jack Tedrow, Larry Hanchin, Bob Abbott and Ron Applbaum of Charleroi. Teammates of Romasco and Fiorill with the Ozarks were Bill Malinchak, Ken DeGiacomo, Eric Crabtree and Tony Caputo.
Attenberger led Jeannette with 22 points and had strong support from Tom Blahovec (16), Bob Covert (12) and Chuck Hursh (11). Bar 20's Frank Crisi matched Attenberger with 22 points and teammate Jim Chacko scored 15. Completing the Bar 20 lineup were John Stetsko, Sam Dominco, Sam Sergi, Art Artis, John Bogovich, Tony Crisi and Jim Bricker.
The 1961 tournament was just one of the many successful ventures of the Monessen Ozarks Athletic Association, one of the most sports-minded organizations in the region, during its long history.
As John Bunardzya, sports editor of The Valley Independent in 1961, emphasized, the Ozarks, led by Tony Mascetta, a well-known Monessen businessman and sports figure, had supported and sponsored youth activities for 15 years to that point time.
“They have lent a helping hand to sandlot baseball, American Legion baseball, Pony League, midget league, Police Athletic League, youth league and school recreation leagues,” Bunardzya wrote in his popular Sportraits column on March 30. “They also helped promote outstanding civic and sporting events in Monessen, at the same time providing a deterrent to juvenile delinquency through their active interest in sports.”
That legacy continued for many years and as it did on March 30, provided myriad nights to remember for people throughout the mid-Monongahela Valley and beyond.
(If you have memories to share or story ideas, contact Ron Paglia at firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o The Valley Independent, Eastgate 19, Monessen, PA 15062.)
Ron Paglia is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.