1964 NJSIAA Group 3 State Championship

Continuing a look back at the 1963-64 South Plainfield Boys Basketball team’s historic season, GMC Hoops focuses on the 1964 NJSIAA Group 3 State Championship between those Tigers and the Summit Hilltoppers.

1964 NJSIAA Group 3 State Championship–The Particulars

South Plainfield (23-1) vs. Summit (21-2)
Where: Atlantic City Convention Hall–Atlantic City, NJ
Capacity: 12,000 seat gym
When: Friday, March 20, 1964
Time: 9:00 PM
South Plainfield Head Coach: Anthony Cotoia
Summit Head Coach: Joseph Coleman

1963-64 South Plainfield Tigers–Team Roster

Player Name Position Height
Laney McLaughlin Center 6’7″
Greg Cisson Forward 6’4 1/2″
Richie Steele Guard 5’11”
Roger Catarino Guard 5’10”
Wally Cirafesi Guard 6’1 1/2″
Louis Calderone Guard 5’9″
Ward Spisso Guard/Forward 6’2″
Bob Fulton Guard 5’11”
Greg Burgoyne Guard 6’0″
Artie Bierns Guard 6’0″
Richie DeVito Guard 5’9″
Bobby Yackanin Guard 6’0″
Billy Piotrowski Forward/Center 6’5″

1963-64 Summit Hilltoppers–Team Roster

Player Name Position Height
Brent Cromwell Guard 5’11”
John Mallory Guard 6’0″
Sid Rhines Guard 5’11”
Jim Royer Forward 6’3″
Jeff Hartlaub Forward 6’3″
Paul Prather Guard 5’10”
Bob Smith Center 6’5″
Larry Webb Forward 6’2″
Hugh Moore Guard 5’9″
Mike Bloomstein Guard 6’0″
Rick Wilkerson Guard 5’9″

How They Got Here–1963-64 Summit Hilltoppers

Finishing the regular season at 17-2 by defeataing Madison (76-41), Summit clinched the Suburban Conference Championship. The Hilltoppers were one of two favorites besides Newark South Side to win the North Jersey Section 2 Group 3 Championship.

Date Round Opponent Location Result
March 6, 1964 North Jersey Section 2 Group 3 Quarterfinals Irvington Tech Upsala College Won 89-56
March 10, 1964 North Jersey Section 2 Group 3 Semifinals Newark West Side Upsala College Won 56-49
March 14, 1964 North Jersey Section 2 Group 3 Championship Governor Livingston Seton Hall University Won 53-50
March 17, 1964 Group 3 State Semifinal Dumont Upsala College Won 75-66

How They Got Here–1963-64 South Plainfield Tigers

Before being upset by Dunellen (63-59) at Dunellen High School on February 22, 1964, South Plainfield won its first 18 games. Following the defeat, the Tigers rebounded to finish the regular season with victories over Watchung Hills (57-34) and Middlesex (67-43) for a record of 20-1. Ranked 14th in the Star-Ledger Top 20 at the start of the season, the Tigers were ranked as high as 4th in the state before falling to the Destroyers.

Date Round Opponent Location Result
March 9, 1964 Central Jersey Group 3 Semifinals Sayreville Rutgers University Won 75-56
March 12, 1964 Central Jersey Group 3 Championship Piscataway Rutgers University Won 68-48
March 16, 1964 Group 3 State Semifinal Burlington Rutgers University Won 75-69

Did You Know?

One of the key factors that helped shape this Group 3 State Final match-up came about during the course of the 1964 North Jersey Section 2 Group 3 State Tournament.

After rolling past Chatham (68-40) in the opening round of the tourney on March 2nd, Governor Livingston of Berkeley Heights, upset the section’s tourney favorite, Newark South Side in the Quarterfinals (50-45) on March 7th. Surprisingly, the Highlanders had actually lost twice to South Plainfield and ultimately three times to Summit during the 1963-64 season.

How Good Was Newark South Side?

Finishing the season at 20-4 overall, Newark South Side, recently was crowned Essex County Tournament Champion. South Side appeared the heavy favorite not only to win North Jersey Section 2 Group 3 title, but also the Group 3 state title. South Side had defeated top ranked Newark Central in the Essex County Tourney Final.

Ranked number one in the state according to the Star-Ledger at the time, Central had won 41 games entering the contest against Newark South Side. Recovering from the ECT Championship defeat, Central would go on to win the Group 4 Championship over Hillside. Newark South Side would also rebound and win the Group 3 State Championship over South Plainfield (86-48) in 1965.

1964 NJSIAA Group 3 State Championship–The Game

According to an article written by Tom Gannon for the South Plainfield Suburban Review from March 26, 1964, the Tigers got off to a good start as Richie Steele knocked down the first two buckets of the game while teammate Roger “The Cat” Catarino chipped in with 7 points in the opening period.

Taking advantage of Summit’s early struggles, South Plainfield continued its fast start into the early portion of the second period to build a double-digit lead at 30-15. Responding with a 12-2 spurt to end the second quarter, Summit only trailed 32-27 at the half. The 2nd quarter rally included a pair of free throws from Jeff Hartlaub, Sid Rhines, and Jim Royer while John Mallory added a field goal and Brent Cromwell connected for two baskets.

Continuing to climb back into the contest, Summit put together a 20-15 run over the first 10 minutes of the second half to tie the game at 47-47. According to Jim Ellowitch for The Summit Herald, Summit had closed the gap to three at the end of the 3rd as Cromwell scored 7 points in the frame.

Tigers Pull Away in Fourth Quarter

South Plainfield then opened up fourth by building the lead back to nine before Summit rallied to tie the game. The game went back and forth for a bit before the Tigers broke away from a 53-53 tie with 4 minutes remaining with a 14-1 tear to end the contest.

Sparking the decisive rally was the departure of Summit’s big three players of Cromwell, Mallory, and Rhines in just a span of 90 seconds. Laney McLaughlin, who led the Tigers with a team high double-double of 16 points and 16 rebounds, and Greg Cisson, who chipped in with a double-double of his own of 14 points and 12 boards, had 6 and 4 points respectively in the pivotal run.

Leading the way in defeat for Summit, Cromwell had a game high 17 points along with 10 rebounds for a double-double of his own while Mallory chipped in with 11 points and 7 rebounds. South Plainfield, which went 21 of 29 from the foul line in the contest, had four players score in double figures as Catarino chipped in with 14 while sophomore sensation, Wally Cirafesi added 13 points and 5 boards.

Team Stats

Category South Plainfield Summit
Field Goals Made 23 22
Field Goals Attempted 49 60
FG % 46.9 36.7
Free Throws Made 21 12
Free Throws Attempted 30 17
FT % 70.0 70.6
Total Rebounds 44 31
Score 67 54
Number of Players Scored 6 8
Number of Players Scoring in Double Figures 4 2
Number of Players with Double Digit Rebounds 2 1
Number of Players with Double-Doubles 2 1

South Plainfield Box Score--1964 NJSIAA Group 3 State Championship South Plainfield Box Score

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Summit Box Score--1964 NJSIAA Group 3 State ChampionshipSummit Box Score

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