Friday, February 14th, 2014
By Robb Hemmelgarn
Stahl recalls the night he set St. Henry's scoring record
Last Curtain Call
One way or another February 16, 1974, was going to be a special night for Rick Stahl.
The St. Henry senior had no way to measure how extraordinary of an evening it would be, but he understood during the pre-game warmups against Bradford that it was the final time he would loosen up on the floor he called home for the previous two seasons as a starter for Fran Guilbault's St. Henry Redskins.
"It was a Saturday night and I don't remember Bradford being real strong," said Stahl, who was St. Henry's first All-Midwest Athletic Conference first-teamer in 1974. "We moved the ball up and down the floor that season more than we had for the couple of years before that, so we grew accustomed to shooting the ball a lot which made our games pretty fun. Knowing it was our last game in front of the home crowd, we were looking to end the regular season on a high note. I just wasn't sure what was in store."
Stahl's night began modestly when he connected on just two of his eight shot attempts in the first period before unleashing a storm in the second quarter when he brewed up 18 points on a 9-for-11 spree before halftime. As the Redskins emerged from the locker room to tip off the second half, rumblings were bouncing their way through the crowd that Stahl already burned the nets for 22 points, but not many of the more than 1,000 fans on hand predicted what was on the horizon in the third and fourth quarters.
The two-time Mercer County League All-Star proceeded to launch shots and the more he drained, the more enthusiasm was generated as he inched closer to St. Henry's all-time record for points in a game - 42 set by Paul Stammen exactly two decades earlier. By the time the third quarter concluded, Stahl tallied 37 points. The screaming crowd grew more boisterous each time he scored, hoping Guilbault would allow the show to continue. With one quarter left, Guilbault, with a heavy dose of encouragement from his bench, kept Stahl in the game in order to shatter the school record.
"At the end of the third quarter, coach Guilbault told me to go out and get a drink, which I thought was pretty strange," commented Stahl. "When I was out of the gym, he pulled all of my teammates together and discussed keeping me in to see if I could get the record. I thought that was a pretty neat gesture for all of them to be on board."
Stammen's milestone was an afterthought early in the final stanza when Stahl drilled his 43rd point of the night - and just kept going. Shot after shot continued to fall and Stahl broke the 50-point barrier as the three-minute mark of the period approached. With 2:51 left in the game, he swished an eight-footer and less than 30 seconds later he hit a running jumper in the paint for points 56 and 57 in the contest. Shortly thereafter, Guilbault elected to sit Stahl down, and he was met with a roaring ovation as he strolled toward his teammates.
"What was really unusual was that Rick did almost all of his scoring in a little over two-and-a- half quarters," said Guilbault. "At the end of the third quarter, a fan told his teammates Gary Hart and Jim Schwieterman that Rick needed six points to break the record. I had just cleared the bench, but they talked me into leaving him in to go for it. The reserves then kept setting him up for good shots, and by that time Rick could have drop-kicked it from halfcourt and it would have went in. The starters then convinced me to let him go for 50 points. I sent in a sub when he hit 51, but by the time he got in Rick had scored six more points and they still wanted me to leave him in."
By the time the final horn sounded, the Redskins sent the Railroaders home with the 109-62 defeat, while Stahl's line score was remarkable - 25 field goals on 39 shots taken, along with seven free throws for 57 points, a record which still stands as the best in St. Henry and MAC history.
"My girlfriend's dad, Herbie Wehrkamp, who would later become my father-in-law, kept score at all of the basketball games for many years," said Stahl. "I went to his house after the game and he showed me his scorecard that had me for 57 points, which was really neat. I remember talking to Bob Shraluka from The Daily Standard and he was asking me about the night and I can remember being sort of embarrassed by scoring so many points. It went so fast and as the game was going on, I really didn't know where I was as far as my numbers. It was one of those nights where I was lucky to get the shots to fall and my teammates were outstanding about it the entire time."
Stahl, whose best outing prior to the Bradford encounter was a 34-point outburst earlier in the season against Parkway, ended the year averaging a team-high 21 points per game.
"When the season ended the next week, it was really hard to believe that my basketball career was finished," said Stahl. "It was a lot of fun to play for coach Guilbault and with all of my teammates. They were a great group of guys and we had a lot of fun together and got along very well."
The gymnasium which Stahl owned for 32 minutes that evening is now a parking lot. Fran Guilbault has been away from the game for almost 15 years, and all that remains from that event 40 years ago this week are weathered newspaper clippings and a spot at the pinnacle of the St. Henry record books, which no one has come even close to in the past four decades and likely never will.
"Today's game is completely different and so much more physical, but the kids are definitely better athletes overall," said Stahl. "It is so hard to believe it happened so long ago. Every few years someone asks me about the record and if I think anyone will ever pass it. Although teams don't shoot the ball 80 times a game like all of us did back then, you just never know. Records are meant to be broken."
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Mostly sunny, mild