My recent hunt for Princeton Sports Firsts, published here last week, has grown to a list of 34 significant accomplishments by Princeton athletes.
I limited the list to what seemed to be the best of the best, as reported in the Princeton Republic, Princeton Times and Princeton Times-Republic. At some point I hope to take a closer look at other athletes and teams that excelled but were not “the first,” as well as other interesting moments in Princeton High School sports history.
Near the top of the list will be:
- First Princeton High School team to score 100 points in a basketball game:
1970-71 boys varsity, 103-61, Jan. 22, 1971, vs. Cambria, Steve Swed *
Note the asterisk.
Princeton was enjoying arguably the best season in school history in January 1971, but the Tigers were coming off a tough loss to conference leader and nemesis Pardeeville when they played host to a solid Cambria team.
The PHS roster included nine seniors; most of them had played at least three years on varsity. They were led by Doug Wick, who led the conference in scoring for two years and went on to play at UW-Platteville and UW-Oshkosh, Tom Sosinsky, Joe Reiser, Dennis Mlodzik and Dennis Nighbor.
As usual, Wick and Reiser dominated the paint against Cambria and paced Princeton to a 21-12 lead after the first quarter. Coach Wayne Belke then really turned up the pressure.
“The second quarter showed unbelievable defensive tactics in the form of a zone press which forced the Hilltoppers into 25 turnovers before the final buzzer sounded,” the High-Times reporter noted. “The offensive drive was the best of the year for the Tigers, as shown by the 45-23 halftime score.”
(That is High-Times, the school newspaper report published in the Princeton Times-Republic, not to be confused with High Times, the marijuana magazine popular in the 1970s.)
Princeton led 69-42 going into the final quarter. Even as the starters headed to the bench, the backups kept scoring and finished a 34-point fourth quarter.
Reserve point guard Steve Swed had the ball in his hands in the closing minutes and was well aware that his teammates and the crowd were waiting to erupt as the Tigers crept closer to the century mark. His only field goal of the game brought the score to 99-57.
On the next possession, Swed was fouled putting up a rebound. He stepped to the line knowing he could lift Princeton to 100.
But he and at least one other person, his coach, also knew it wouldn’t be the first time.
Remember the asterisk?
Like the 1970-71 Tigers, the 1963-64 Tigers were a special, deep group of athletes who had some of the school’s most successful seasons in years in multiple sports.
They were led by junior Jerry Lese, one of Princeton’s all-time best athletes and the first player to score over 1,000 points in his high school career, along with Kent Kautzer, Tom Sullivan, Jess Ladwig and Jim England.
The newspaper reported that Princeton’s fans went wild as Kautzer threw a pass the length of the court to Sullivan, who promptly laid it up to break the 100-point barrier late in a game at Montello in January 1964.
The final score was Princeton 103, Montello 69, but it was recorded as 99-69.
Princeton Times-Republic, Jan. 30, 1964 – “Princeton High School Coach Wayne Belke was up in arms this week over the decision at Montello to record Princeton’s score at 99 points in last week’s meeting between the two schools. Princeton’s scorekeeper had 103 points recorded, as did the scoreboard, and the PHS fans shook the small Montello gym with noise as the 100-point barrier was passed. But when it was all over, the Montello scorekeeper, who in this case was the official scorer, said he could only account for 99 points. It was thought that possibly he overlooked two baskets that went through the hoop without touching the net, since one strand of the net was missing from Princeton’s basket in the second half.”
Lese scored a school-record 46 points and took the conference scoring lead, which he held for two years. Kautzer, Sullivan and England were also in double figures with 19, 13 and 10, respectively.
“Jon Gruenwald, the Tigers’ sixth man, went in for Ladwig early in the second half when he fouled out,” the newspaper reported. “Goony, as the boys call him, came through almost spectacularly as he scored 12 points in the remaining portion of the game.”
Ladwig had the team’s other three points amid game-long foul trouble.
Eleven-year-old Steve Swed was among the Princeton fans watching Coach Belke’s squad that night.
“I was there,” Steve recalled for me in a phone call this week. “I saw it.”
So, Steve knew it would not be the first time Princeton scored 100 points when he went to the line that evening seven years later. He was, however, aware that it would be the first time Princeton scored 100 points on its home court, and he wanted to be the one to put the Tigers into triple digits.
Steve told me that he had recently changed his free-throw shooting style and that this would be the first time he would use it in a game, so he was nervous as he went into his routine: “I took a couple of dribbles. I released it toward the hoop. It took a couple of bounces on the rim and it drops through. The second one I’m more relaxed and it swishes.”
The hometown crowd, of course, went crazy and the Tigers went on to post a 103-61 victory – the first time PHS “officially” reached 100.
But now we all know better.
Wick finished the game with 33 points. Reiser, Nighbor and Sosinsky joined him in double figures with 23, 15 and 10, respectively. Mlodzik and Steve Murphy each added seven points. Swed and Nolan Sommerfeldt each finished with four points.
My research only extends to about 1990 at this point and there are gaps in the newspaper’s sports coverage, so if there is another 100-plus game that I missed, please let me know.
Thank you for caring and reading about local history.