The key to Joplin’s state basketball championship victory in 1955 came two days before the title game against Kansas City Northeast.
Joplin defeated St. Louis DeSoto, 66-45, in the opening round and advanced to a quarterfinal game against undefeated Beaumont High School of St. Louis. Beaumont had disposed of 26 straight opponents going into the Joplin game.
Beaumont opened a 7-point lead in the third quarter, but the Eagles pared the deficit to five points, 39-34, after three periods. Joplin kept creeping closer, three points, two points, and finally a tie at 47-all with 1:23 left in regulation.
Joplin stalled for one final shot but it missed and the game went into overtime. As was the rule in those days, the overtime period started with a jump ball. Joplin’s 6-foot-2 center Garry Smith got the tip and point guard Jimmy Dailey played keep away from the Beaumont guards. With the seconds ticking away, Dailey drove down the lane, pulling the defense to him. He then bounced a pass to Smoky Joe Ensley who banked home a short jumper to give Joplin a 49-47 victory.
Smith, who had 29 points in the first-round victory over DeSoto, paced the Eagles with 16. Ensley had 11 and Dailey and Ronnie Maupin scored nine a piece.
With the nail-biter behind them, the Eagles cruised past Rolla 62-46 in the semifinals as Smith scored 18 and Ensley 17. Joplin led all the way in this one, leading 16-12 at the quarter, 30-26 at halftime, and 45-35 at the end of three.
Dailey played a key role in the Eagle’s 47-44 victory over Northeast in the title game. He had 14 points to lead the Eagles and hit a pair of free throws during the final 1:05 to secure the victory. Smith added 12 points, Maupin 10, Ensley 6, and guard Mike Cusack five points. After trailing 14-10 at the quarter, Joplin led by seven at halftime and by five after three periods. The victory was Joplin’s 24th against only six defeats.
Smith, who scored 75 points in the state tourney, was named to the all-state first team. Ensley and Dailey were named to the second team.
The state title was the second in six years for head coach Russ Kaminksy who directed the 1950 Eagles to a first-place finish. Assistant coaches were Gordon Long and Floyd Belk.