The 1966-67 Joplin Eagles, in dramatic fashion, presented coach Russ Kaminsky with his third state basketball championship.
Determined Joplin rallied from a 13-point deficit early in the third period to beat the Kansas City Central Blue Eagles 58-53 in overtime for the Class L title at St. Louis. The Eagles rallied from a 5-point deficit with less than three minutes left in regulation to force overtime at 51.
The Eagles scored the first five points in the extra session on Thorpe Weber’s field goal and free throw and Jim Rhea’s field goal. Rhea’s fielder with 45 seconds remaining had caught the Blue Eagles to force overtime.
Weber finished with 20 points, Rhea 16 and Mike Meador 12. Omar Hazley, Ernest Jennings and Herman Sykes combined for 41 Central Points. Also, Rhea and Weber combined 20 rebounds.
Records of the teams entering the semifinals in Kiel Auditorium on March 10: Kansas City Central (23-0), Joplin (23-1), St. Louis Beaumont (21-4) and St. Louis Lindbergh (25-2). Defending Class L champion Central, which beat Springfield Parkview for the 1966 crown, carried an overall winning streak of 32 games into Kiel.
Individual stars were plentiful. Examples: Central’s 6-foot-5 senior Hazley (Iowa), 5-11 senior Jennings (All-American receiver in football at Air Force) and 5-11 senior Sykes (Oklahoma, Middle Tennessee); Beaumont’s 6-0 senor James Irving (St. Louis U.) and 6-0 senior Lorenzo Brinkley (standout in football at Missouri), and Lindbergh’s 6-4 senior George Faerber (Purdue).
Those remarkable Eagles included 6-7 senior Weber (all-Southeastern Conference at Vanderbilt), 6-3 senior Rhea (Pittsburg State), 6-3 senior Steve Luebber (major league baseball pitcher) and 6-0 junior Marty Galbraith (football standout and Missouri Southern).
The Eagles were blessed with six more seniors — the 5-6 Meador, 5-10 Doug Owens, 5-10 Ronnie Robbins, 5-8 Dick Smith, 5-8 Steve Sohosky and 6-0 Arnold Terry. Joplin juniors in the MSHSAA souvenir program, in addition to Galbraith, were 6-2 Jim Carter and 6-0 John Walstad.
Applause, too, for the younger Eagles and trainer/manager types who supported the Eagles: Jim Moss, Larry Cowger, Steve Crockett, Hollis Spear, David Efird, David Glenn and Jack Leib. Kaminsky and Weber, individually, were members of the 2001 inaugural Joplin Area Sports Hall of Fame class. Luebber made it in 2003 and Galbraith in 2005.
Joplin lost only to Parkview during the regular season and shared the Ozark Conference title with the Vikings at 7-1.
The Eagles hurdled Parkview on its floor for a regional crown before ousting visiting Kansas City Rockhurst 69-58 and Jefferson City 69-46 in the playoffs. Lindbergh fell 58-51 to the Eagles before they tackled Jim Wilkinson’s Blue Eagles before an estimated 7,000 fans.
Bill Stipp assisted Kaminsky, whose previous state championships with the Eagles were in 1950 and 1955.
Weber, who transferred to JHS from Portsmouth (New Hampshire) after his sophomore year, was drafted by both Boston of the NBA and Memphis of the ABA.