In 1985, the Greater Catholic League had no divisions. Purcell Marian was picked to finish last and instead went 24-3 over the likes of Elder, Moeller and St. Xavier with a coach that was only about seven years older than his players.
“Luckily I’m still around to enjoy it,” Stoll said. “It was the smallest school in the GCL at the time and we were a little bit of the whipping boy. The only loss in the league was to Elder at The Pit by two points. To win the title speaks volumes of how hard those kids worked.”
Center Dave Minor scored 33 in the title game, one more than LeBron James ever scored in an Ohio high school championship. Stoll thinks the GCL coaches underestimated his team’s talent as many of the players went on to notable college careers.
Minor was on the 1987 Indiana Hoosier national championship team that featured Steve Alford and Keith Smart. He eventually transferred to Xavier. The only other returning starter was the aforementioned, ever-confident Hassel, who went on to Michigan and played in three Rose Bowls for Bo Schembechler as a defensive back. Another inside player, Jay Koch went to Ohio State as a defensive end/outside linebacker and forward Dorian Bledsoe played basketball for Miami University. Lee May Jr. followed in his father’s baseball footsteps and was a first-round draft choice of the New York Mets. At guard, Monte Mathis was able to walk on at Kansas and played for Larry Brown. After several collegiate coaching stops, he’s now an assistant with the NBA Dallas Mavericks.
Purcell Marian’s starting lineup was Hassel and Bledsoe at forward, Minor at center, and Mathis and Tommy O’Donnell at guard.
O’Donnell was the typical role player with high basketball IQ who had the respect of the team and was voted captain along with Hassel. Like several, he still works in Cincinnati and he recalls the attention to detail his young coach had.
“He was so organized; our practices were down to the minute,” O’Donnell said. “When that clock hit, we changed gears and went into the next thing. He had it all line-item on a piece of paper.”
Though not the most physically gifted of the Cavaliers, he was key in their defeat of Cleveland East in the ’85 state semifinal. East had a front-line of two 6-foot-8 players and a one that stood 6-foot-6. All Stoll had was Minor at 6-foot-6 and a crew of ragamuffins hovering around 6-foot on a good day.
Stoll remembers O’Donnell knocking down about 12 points from the outside in that game as Purcell Marian prevailed 59-50.
“Every time Coach Stoll talked about how everyone shouldn’t be shooting, I always thought he was talking about me,” O’Donnell said chuckling.
Defense wins championships
The key to the season was defense in O’Donnell’s opinion. The Cavaliers won their last 14 games and had the proverbial “knock-down, drag-out” practices. The coach even had to stop practice the day before they left for Columbus for fear his players would be injured.
“I don’t think anyone played defense like we did,” O’Donnell said. “We were full on man-to-man. I don’t know that we ever played zone. We just picked you up at half-court and gave you no space to breathe. Now, that’s about all you see. It was constant pressure.”
The work in the small gym paid off when Purcell Marian dispensed of Cleveland East, then Mansfield Senior in back-to-back sell-outs in front of 13, 118 fans.
“Outside of the birth of my (three) daughters, it’s probably the pinnacle of my life,” Stoll said. “That group just had great, great chemistry. They were extremely unselfish. They didn’t care who got the points and shared the ball unbelievably well.”
Purcell Marian’s 1985 road to Columbus
Hamilton Badin W 70-56
Norwood W 73-57
Elder W 77-67
St. Xavier W 56-49
Aiken W 69-49
Forest Park W 69-52
McNicholas L 75-61
Moeller W 73-59
La Salle W 79-63
Forest Park W 71-54
Roger Bacon W 74-40
Elder L 56-54
Fairfield L 69-67
St. Xavier W 67-58
Clermont Northeastern W 87-51
Moeller W 75-61
La Salle W 61-49
Roger Bacon W 62-50
Roger Bacon W 61-51
Milford W 66-39
Aiken W 65-60
Dayton Patterson W 63-51
Dayton Dunbar W 76-66
St. Xavier W 56-54
Cleveland East W 59-50
Mansfield Senior W 65-57
(Scoring: Bledsoe 2 0 4 Hassel 5 8 18 Minor 11 11 33 O’Donnell 2 2 6 Mathis 0 2 2 Kiley 0 2 2)
Click the video below to watch a re-run of the state championship game against Mansfield Senior.
To view the rest of the Cincinnati Enquirer article written by Scott Springer, click the link below;