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PETERSON: That special year when the Cromwell Cadets nearly won state

Published: Thursday, May 22, 2014 3:14 a.m. CST • Updated: Thursday, May 22, 2014 11:13 a.m. CST

At the Cromwell school all-alumni gathering Saturday night at Supertel Inn and Conference Center, at least one of the attendees has a unique tie to a a special time in Cadet sports history.

Dallas McLaughlin, 89, was a 15-year-old member of the Cromwell basketball team that placed third in boys state basketball tournament at Drake Fieldhouse in 1941. He and Clinton Claiser, now living in Montana, are the only surviving members of that squad.

McLaughlin, now residing in Knoxville, was a forward on that team along with Bernard Chapman. Rex Mullin was the center at 6-foot-2. Guards were Lyle Harrison and Bernard Moore.

Cromwell beat Clarinda, 27-26, in the state tournament opener at Drake Fieldhouse. That game remains a highlight for McLaughlin, because the Cardinals with 6-7 center Bob Hendron were considered the team capable of taking down title favorite Davenport in the one-class tournament.

“Lyle Harrison told me, when he (Hendron) gets that ball, get in there on the left side of him,” McLaughlin said. “He can’t go to the right. Our center (Mullin) stayed behind him with his hands up. He got one basket all night! And we beat them by one point.”

In the semifinals, Davenport was a different beast, and beat the Cadets 40-25. However, Cromwell regrouped and played perhaps its finest game of the year in taking down defending champion Mason City, 36-24.

Meanwhile, Davenport won as expected in the finals, 31-26 over Holstein.

Other than Davenport, the only other team to beat Cromwell that year was Lorimor. Three times that season Cromwell beat Diagonal, led by eventual University of Iowa standout Dick Ives.

It was a golden era in basketball for this region. Diagonal, coached by the legendary O.C. “Pop” Varner in nine state tournament appearances, beat Rolfe for the 1938 state title, 31-29.

A year later, Creston topped Diagonal in the title matchup, 25-20. It would be Creston’s only championship until the 1997 squad led by all-staters Kyle McCann and Ben Gerleman.

A year after Cromwell’s trip to state, Atlantic represented this district in the state field.

Coaching stint

After high school, McLaughlin enlisted and served in the Air Force as a tail gunner, flying World War II missions out of Italy. He came back and went to college and coached basketball back in Cromwell for four years before moving to Shelby.

In the mid-1950s his Shelby football teams were unbeaten for 3 1/2 seasons and his boys basketball team qualified for the state tournament in 1956 (second year at Veterans Memorial Auditorium) and 1957. The first year for eight teams in Class B and eight in Class A was 1956.

Tracy knocked out Shelby in the first round in 1956 and eventually finished runner-up to Iowa City St. Marys.

Bud Legg of the Iowa High School Athletic Association said the 1957 tournament format was two classes with the first five games of the state tournament played in satellite facilities to allow more people to attend.

St. Marys (now combined with Martensdale) defeated Shelby 61-60 in Atlantic. Legg, then 13 years old, attended that game with his brother as they were Cass County residents.

McLaughlin coached a total of 13 years, nine in Shelby.

He has a unique set of memories when the Cromwell alumni gather this weekend. According to IHSAA records, no other Cromwell team played in the boys state basketball tournament. That 1941 squad, with only three seniors on the team, made its mark in history.

Contact the writer:

Twitter: @larrypeterson

Email: lpeterson@crestonnews.com

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