A lot was going on in 1966
Lyndon Johnson was the President. The Dow Jones reached a high of 950. The cost of a gallon of gas was 32 cents. A postage stamp costs a nickel. The Boston Celtics won the NBA championship, and the Green Bay Packers won the NFL championship the year before the first Super Bowl. The Supreme Court issued the now famous Miranda warning. The top three television shows were Bonanza, The Andy Griffith Show, and I Love Lucy.
In the old Chippewa Conference, Brunswick, Cloverleaf, Orrville, Wadsworth, Millersburg West Holmes, and Wooster Triway were competing for a conference championship in high school basketball. Brunswick would take home the conference title that year.
Brunswick hadn’t won a conference title since……until Friday night
Kevin Simmons scored on a driving layup with .6 seconds remaining, and Brunswick guaranteed themselves at least a share of the Greater Cleveland Conference championship, defeating arch rival Strongsville 37-35 in a lock-down, grit your teeth, smash mouth type defensive struggle on Friday night in Strongsville. Brunswick can clinch the outright championship by defeating Shaker Heights at home on Friday.
You couldn’t have written a better script. For one, the Brunswick coaching staff. Head Coach Joe Mackey played at Strongsville, and had won a Pioneer Conference title on that very court. Assistant Coach Chris Cebula (my middle school teammate) played at Brunswick, and fell victim to Mackey’s teams at Strongsville his junior and senior years. His son Zach is a starter on this year’s Brunswick team. Strongsville Head Coach Darren Collins played at Strongsville as well, and was a senior when Mackey was a freshman there.
In any big rivalry game such as this one, the game itself usually turns out closer than it should be, and this game between Strongsville (11-10) and Brunswick (17-4) was just that kind of game. One might think with the score as low as it was, that both teams were turnover prone. That wasn’t the case at all. Brunswick committed just two turnovers for the game, while Strongsville had just five. The game, amazingly, stayed a one possession game for all but a minute the entire game. It wasn’t really the type of game you would tell your grandkids about. It was pure defense. Both teams shot under 33% for the game. There were enough bricks to build a whole condo complex. It wasn’t the free flowing, ball rotation, get the open shot type of game. It wasn’t a work of art by any means.
To Brunswick, it was a Picasso
Reminiscent of Brunswick’s teams of the past, it only seems fitting that the Blue Devils would win not only this game, but the conference championship by going back to their bread and butter: Stingy defense. Offense comes and goes during a game or a season. Defense is effort, so it can remain consistent throughout. Hit a few shots here and there, and you can win some games. In a quote to the Medina County Gazette, Strongsville Head Coach Darren Collins expressed those same feelings:
That is some quality basketball we saw tonight from both teams. Obviously, we wanted to come out with the win, but Brunswick is a very good team. Simmons and Cebula made some big shots, and they were the difference
The road to a conference title for Brunswick had been a long and frustrating one. The Wadsworth teams of the 70’s ruled the Chippewa Conference. When Brunswick moved to the Pioneer Conference in 1978, the late 70’s belonged to Cloverleaf. The Blue Devils ran into the Brecksville teams led by future NBA player Scott Roth in the early 80’s. The mid to late 80’s belonged to Strongsville and Berea. There always seemed to be a team that was just a bit better. After moving to the Northeast Ohio Conference in the late 90’s, the Blue Devils had to overcome the Dallas Lauderdale led Solon teams, and the always competitive Mentor teams. Throw in the talented teams of Garfield Heights, and a conference title seemed just out of reach.
I know the league title means a lot to our current players, alumni, administration and community members, and for that I am grateful to break through…..Joe Mackey
From a team that started the season without a true center, to a team that overcame the Mentor’s, Medina’s, Elyria’s, and other top ranked teams in the area on the way to a conference championship.
I am glad this group of kids will get some hardware. They really worked hard in the off season. It has been nice to see how our community has bought in as well. Their support of this group has been fun to watch. We still have some work to do….Joe Mackey
The work that is left is the tournament. Brunswick is the top seed in the Copley District. They will open play next week. The tournament can be unpredictable, so Brunswick be ready to play from game one.
Go see this team play!! It’s a team coached by a Strongsville graduate that is doing great things. It’s a team you can root for.
It’s a team that will have a new banner in the gym next winter