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Cage history fascinates

April 13, 2012
By Dennis Grall - Sports Editor ( , Daily Press

ESCANABA - Checking statistics is an invigorating part of sports, as a fan or a reporter, but the annual duty became more intriguing while updating this season's basketball figures.

In a 1961 boys basketball folder, a yellowed clipping somehow jumped out while rifling through information for Escanaba Holy Name. It was written by legendary Jim Trethewey, the "Peninsula Rambler" for the Marquette Mining Journal and was about Ed Burling.

Most U.P. fans probably never heard of him, unless you are a long-time fan or one who puts this stuff deep in the memory bank and can call it up in trivia contests.

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Dennis Grall

In 1911, Burling scored an unbelievable 97 points as Crystal Falls hammered Iron River 107-27. That is still the state single-game scoring record.

While I was aware of that mark, the old clipping had background I had never seen.

Former Crystal Falls football coach Dick Mettlach, doing work on his thesis about school sports history, came up with the details on Burling, who at the time was postmaster in Crystal Falls.

In days when U.P. writers seldom used quotes, Burling told Mettlach he couldn't miss that night and most of his shots were made from the pivot position in front of the Trojan basket.

The must stunning item was the fact Burling made all of his team's free throws that night, using a rule that allowed a team to send its best shooter to the charity stripe for every attempt.

Erwin Scholtz of Hermansville holds the runner-up spot, scoring 71 points against Channing in 1960. He made 32 field goals, far more than most teams can sink in today'a supposedly superior game. Scholtz had 714 points for a 39.66 average in 1960-61 and finished his career with 1,736 points.

Also in 1960, Jim Manning of Trout Creek had 69 points and Roger Roell had 67.

In 1967, Terry Conrad of Ewen had 66 points, and in 1970 Larry Laitala of Champion had 65. In 1956, "Marvelous" Mel Peterson of Stephenson scorched Manistique for 63, while Norbert Purol of Ironwood St. Ambrose (1952), Gary Fors of Trout Creek (1966) and Gary Lange of Houghton (1970) all scored 60 points.

That trip into the files provided some other tidbits worth passing along.

Two legendary U.P. coaches matched wits in the 1960-61 season opener when White Pine High School played its first varsity basketball game. Ed Helakoski, who directed Chassell to a state-record 65 straight wins and three consecutive Class D state titles, was the White Pine coach and principal while Bruce Warren was Trout Creek's coach. Both are members of the U.P. Sports Hall of Fame.



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