Jim Fennell's High School Hoopla: QCIBT celebrates its golden anniversary
The tournament celebrates its 50th anniversary later this month with an eight-team field that has the potential to be strong and competitive headlined by three city schools that all have legitimate designs on the Division I title.
And don't forget about defending Division I champion Merrimack. The Tomahawks will also be at Memorial High when the three-day tournament kicks off Wednesday, Dec. 26 with four games.
Exeter and Goffstown play the opening game at 3 p.m., followed by Merrimack against Bedford at 4:30, Trinity against Central at 6 and West against host Memorial at 7:30.
As good as any of the teams turn out to be at the end of the season, they will not be able to match the reputation carved out by the first team that won this tournament in 1963.
Few teams can.
As part of the 50th anniversary, tournament director Tom Irving has been working on inviting the members from the Bishop Bradley (now Trinity) team who won the first tournament. At least one member won't have to go far: Mark Telge, a star forward on that team, who is currently an assistant coach at Memorial.
The team will be recognized before the championship game, which is scheduled for that Friday at 7:30 p.m.
"I guess I have an appreciation for the tournament and thought we should do something special," said Irving, who attended West High and first remembers going to QCIBT games at St. Anselm with his father. "And that team was a special team for New Hampshire."
Bishop Bradley was the defending Class L champion and in the midst of a 58-game winning streak. The team would go on to win the title again in the spring of 1964 with a core of players that included Telge, Jeff Grenert and the late Dave Hardy, but not before winning the QCIBT.
City schools won the first six tournaments, starting with Bishop Bradley's 79-61 win over Nashua. Nashua lost in the championship game three of the first four years.
Nobody, as it turns out was beating Bishop Bradley in 1963.
The tournament, which was sponsored by the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, was an immediate hit and having a marquee team like Bishop Bradley didn't hurt.
"It was a wonderful time, being in high school and playing on a college court in front of a full house," said Peter DeCato, who was a junior on that Bradley team.
Dick Powers, who was attending Boston College at the time and was part of the Bradley's title run the year before, remembers going over to the ticket booth at St. Anselm during the afternoon games so he could get a ticket for that night's game.
When he returned, there was a line of people waiting to get in. Powers said he politely tried to work his way to the front, explaining that he already had a ticket. Someone not so politely let him know that so did everybody else in line. The game had been oversold.
Bo Cuchetti worked the first championship with Leo Muzeroll. He doesn't remember much about the game, but does remember Muzeroll being excited to be part of it.
"It was one of his first big go-rounds," Cuchetti said. "It was almost like a playoff game."
Irving said he is not sure exactly how many members of the '63 championship team will be on hand, but he knows Telge, DeCato and Dan Keistlinger are among the players who have said they will be there. He said he is still trying to track down other members of that team and also invited all-time QCIBT scoring leader Tyler Roche (Central, 2002-05), but he will be away.
"It's exciting, I hope I can see some of my former teammates," DeCato said. "I haven't seen Mark Telge in 50 years. That was a great time to be an athlete in Manchester. The city was energized."
Irving said anyone who was part of that '63 team and wants to take part in the festivities can email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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MANCHESTER'S OTHER TOURNAMENT: The Central Girls' Basketball Christmas Tournament has a full eight-team field this year. The three-day tournament gets under way Thursday, Dec. 27 with four games: West against Lebanon at 2:30 p.m., Memorial against Plymouth at 4, Trinity versus Hollis/Brookline at 5:30 and Central playing Coe-Brown of Northwood at 7.
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AND SPEAKING OF TOURNAMENTS: The 42nd annual Capital Area Holiday Tournament will be held at NHTI's Goldie Crocker Wellness Center, Dec. 27-29.
The three-day event will include a boys' and girls' tournament. Concord, Merrimack Valley of Penacook, Bishop Brady of Concord, Pembroke Academy, Kearsarge Regional of North Sutton, Bow, John Stark of Weare and Hopkinton all have teams in both tournaments.
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Jim Fennell may be reached at email@example.com.