Derby History Quiz

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Derby's State Basketball Champs

First Row (L-R) Jack Kiley, Tom Luciano, Bill Duggan (Captain) Ronald "Mo" Karlins, Dick Kiley
Second Row: Nebi Hassan, Anthony Ranno, Paul Piscitelli, Frank Pascuzzo, George Binkowski, George Russo, John Cavagnuolo, Al Ippolito and Coach Edward Coss

Never before 1951 (and never since) had a Derby High School basketball team achieved so much. But in 1951, first year coach Ed Coss guided the Red Raiders to the State Class "B" state title with a 44-39 win over Sacred Heart of Waterbury in the title game played before more than 3,000 people at Yale's Payne Whitney Gym in New Haven.

Derby entered the tournament with a regular season record of 11-7 and had to beat Wilcox Tech in a playdown game to qualify for the round of 16. They then shocked everyone with a 45-42 win over top ranked Shelton - a team that had defeated them soundly during the regular season. (Shelton went on to win the State title the very next year!) A win over Stonington set the stage for the title game.

Sacred Heart had won the state title two years earlier, but Derby had knocked them out of the 1950 tourney. Derby got off to a quick start when Jack Kiley was fouled on a play set up for the opening tap and put Derby ahead - and they were to lead the whole way. Jack Kiley and Captain Bill Duggan sparked a strong first quarter as the Raiders jumped to a 17-4 lead on Duggan's buzzer-beater.

Just past the midpoint of the second quarter, Derby opened the lead to 29-9 with scoring coming from Ron Karlins, Tom Lucian and Frank Pascuzzo before Sacred Heart cut it to 31-14 at the half.

Bill Duggan's three points were all the Raiders could muster in the third quarter, and the Hearts cut the once 20 point lead to 2 at 34-32 heading into the deciding fourth quarter.

Sacred Heart cut the lead to one and missed a foul shot that would have tied it before sophomore Dick Kiley gave derby a lift with a basket and a couple of foul shots. Sacred heart wasn't dead yet, and they cut the lead to 40-39 with just under two minutes to go. At that point Jack Kiley scored his first points of the second half. He then produced the clinching shot with 40 seconds to go on a pass from brother Dick. Following a Heart miss, Derby got the ball back and used their "freeze' to run out the clock. Interestingly, under the rules of basketball in use at the time, if a team was fouled they had the option of waiving the foul shot and keeping the ball. Derby did that three times in the last 30 seconds (Great coaching since they only made 4 of 17 foul shots in the game!!) to clinch their first and only state title in basketball!

Bill Duggan was named the Tournament MVP. Most people probably know Bill better as the long time principal at Bradley School!

An interesting sidelight was the celebration that followed in town. The next day the High School was dismissed early following a victory celebration assembly and the students were given the next day off as well!

Box score from the Evening Sentinel.

Evening Sentinel cartoon by Dana Tinti.

  Correct answers from this quiz came from : Randy Ritter, Mary Lou Boroski, John M. Rak, Don Hayden, Pat Duggan, Peggy Duggan, Bill Lombardi, Henry Wajdowicz, Pat Dimon, Mayor Marc J. Garofalo, Carole Madgic, Jerry Gow, Bob Ahearn and Frank H. Coger.

To see our other earlier quizzes and learn more about Derby's unique history, click here.