Erie Times-News

My Greatest Thrill

Panama Coach Cites Game Of Last March

(Note-Jim McElrath is now in his fifth season as head basketball coach at Panama High, during which time his teams have won two Sectional titles, the furthest a team can advance in New York State. He graduated from Mercer in 1953 after playing on two teams which reached the Western Pennsylvania finals, then was a sparkplug of Grove City College teams which won 25 and lost 11, 1955-1957.)

PANAMA, N.Y. – I had my greatest moment in sports last March in Buffalo Memorial Auditorium when we beat Forestville for the Sectional Six championship.

If I had to pin it down to a moment it would be when the kids carried me off the floor after the game, but the entire thing was something I’ll never forget. Forestville had beaten us twice during the regular season, both times by one point, but the way things worked here we wound up in the Sectional finals together.

It was a nip-and-tuck game all the way until the last minute when we pulled away and won 52-47. Erroll Swanson, Randy Otander, Paul Seekins, Claude Diemer, Bruce Manwaring, Lee Hitchcock, Bill Nordblum—great kids all of them.

This was even a bigger thrill than the title we won a couple of years ago--that team was sort of “handed down” to me but with this bunch we started from scratch.

Back at Mercer I’d say playing on the undefeated team of 1950-51 was my greatest thrill. There were four seniors and me in the starting five—we won 25 straight games, then lost to Avalon in the state semi-finals. We won 23 in the regular season, then beat Lawrence Park and Slippery Rock in playoffs before Avalon took us.

We’ve gone our separate ways off that team but we’ve kept in contact with each other. Tom Gustin and John Ammer are doctors now, Dick King is a dentist and Don Wilson owns his own tire company—successes in high school and successes afterwards.

I hope all the boys who won our sectional title last year do as well –they deserve it.

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