Filiger, Fairview’s top player today, greets members of the
SWC champs of 50 years ago. (Photo by Larry Bennet)
50 years after championship season
By Kevin Kelley
Published Feb. 14, 2007
Spencer recalls that he and his teammates from the 1956-57 Fairview
High School boys basketball team loved the game so much they played
pick-up games every morning on the old tennis courts every morning
That love of the game paid off, as the team went undefeated
in league play to win the Southwest Conference championship.
Five members of the team — Bob Kovach, Dale Phillip,
Joe Lufkin, Dave Finlin, and Spencer, reunited in the Fairview High
School gymnasium Friday night to be honored by the school and the
community for their achievements half a century ago.
At one point during the season, the '56-57 Warriors
won 16 consecutive games. They won the Berea Holiday Tournament
by defeating archrivals Rocky River, Bay Village, Medina, Olmsted
Falls and North Olmsted. The team claimed the Southwest Conference
Title by defeating rival Westlake, who they had already defeated
twice that year.
Spencer, whose family was among the original settlers
of Fairview, said the key to the team’s success was its coach, the
late Robert Rudes.
“He was a good teacher,” said Spencer, who was the
team’s starting center.
Kovach agreed, saying that Rudes, who himself played
for Baldwin-Wallace College, was very knowledgeable about basketball.
Kovach said he knew going into the '56-57 season that
the team would be good.
“We had a powerhouse,” Kovach said.
A second factor which led to the team’s success was
its bench strength, Kovach said.
“It wasn’t just five guys,” said Kovach. “The next
five guys were pushing the first five for their jobs.
“There was no star,” Kovach said. “The points were
pretty much spread around.”
Kovach, who played guard, didn’t start but was known
as “the sixth man,” he said. He was also specialized in breaking
the other’s team full-court press.
“If the team was pressing us in the beginning of the
game, they’d inbound the ball to me and I’d dribble it up,” Kovach
said. Kovach was so good, the other team abandoned the press after
about five possessions, he said.
The team’s players have kept up with each other over
the years, Kovach said.
Also in attendance at Friday’s game was former Rocky
River Mayor William Knoble, a 1957 graduate of Fairview High School.
Knoble told West Life he remembers the excitement
the basketball team created among the student body.
“Every game the gym would be just packed and the noise
level was unbelievable,” he said.
The '56-57 Warrior team was also saluted by Superintendent
“You gentlemen set a level of excellence through your
commitment and dedication,” Deitsch told the five former players.
“I promise you that we see where we’ve been, and I promise you we
will return to the same level of excellence that you have demonstrated.”
Fairview Park Board of Education member Dennis Rehor
began organizing the team reunion in October as part of his efforts
to reconnect with the district’s alumni.
“I used to play sports when I was younger at (St.)
Ignatius and (Baldwin-Wallace College), and both of them have strong
alumni relations,” Rehor said. “And one of the things they do is
honor past sports teams.”
Look for more championship teams to be honored in
coming years, Rehor said. 2008 is the 20th anniversary of the girls
volleyball team’s state championship as well as the 55th anniversary
of the undefeated Southwest Conference championship football team.
“This will be a regular habit,” Rehor said of alumni