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Ashland County HS Sports Teams, Ohio
1921 - 1963
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Nova Trojans 1939 State Tournament Team picture

Nova 1939 State tournament Team

Back Row L-R:  Harvey Graham (coach), Maurice Bowerize (mgr), Robert Phillips, Virgil Raver (superintendent). 
Middle Row L-R:  Thurman Moody (soph), Gerald Boss (soph), Bill Frazier (jr), Dane Crumrine (jr), Harold Foster (jr). 
Kneeling L-R (first team varsity):  William "Red" Rock (fr), Andrew Lacy (sr), Carl Bursley (sr), George Noden (sr), Ellsworth Samples (jr)

Seventy Years ago a shinning star arose in northern Ashland County, and it was the 1939 Nova Trojans basketball team. They were the first Class B team in the county to advance to the OHSAA State basketball tournament. The only previous county team to rise toward Columbus was the 1928 Polk quintet, which reached the State Semi-finals at the Akron Goodyear Gym, but still five games from the State crown among the final 32 teams, The Orange and Black Trojans climbed to the Sweet Sixteen at the OSU Gym in Columbus.

Coach H.W. Graham’s squad began that season as the defending league and county tournament champions. They were led by senior Capt. Andrew Lacey (5’11 guard), who had made the all-tournament team the past three years. The other returning starters were: George Noden (6’1 center), Carl Bursley (5’11 forward), and sophomore William “Red” Rock (6’1 forward), whose career would end up all-county all four years.

Nova’s chief nemesis was their neighboring school the Sullivan Bobcats. Johnny Ringler, who was the number two scorer in the ACL, led them. The diminutive left-hander was known for his driving lay ups. Jack Farnsworth was their all-county center, and True Archer always drew the defensive assignment on Red Rock. Ironically, their coach Bob Lenz was the star center for Nova in 1923, when they were the runner-up to Sullivan in the county tournament at Ashland College.

Bill McKee, T-G sport editor, predicted a photo finish as undefeated Sullivan was pursued by Nova after a midseason one-point home setback to the Bobcats. After winning their first ever Homecoming game with Ruggles the high scoring Trojans (43.8 ppg) headed four-miles East on Route 224 for the league showdown at Sullivan to redeem their 26-25 loss. The cracker box gym seated only 200 but an estimated 300 filled up even the balcony. The center jump circle crossed inside the free throw ring.

The ACL finale was another classic. The score was tied six times and the lead changed hands seven times. When Capt. Andy Lacy fouled out with his fourth foul at the beginning of the third period, Red Rock (15 pts) and Carl Bursley (10 pts) led Nova to a 33-32 victory. The two teams ended the season as co-champs with identical 10-1 records.
In those days the Class B tournament trail was a grueling four-week campaign through the County, the Sectional, and the District at Kent to reach the State. The exempted villages like Loudonville, New London, and Rittman skipped the first round, so consequently smaller, county school like Nova would end up playing nine games by the time they were in the competition at State.

The County tourney was held at Ashland College and the co-champs marched to their third meeting of the year. Nova beat Perrysville and Jeromesville, and Sullivan whipped Hayesville and Polk. In the rubber match Sullivan prevailed 36-26, when Nova’s all-county players Andy Lacy and Red Rock fouled out. The Bobcats were led by their all-county players: Johnny Ringler (14 pts) and Jack Farnsworth (13 pts). Nevertheless, both teams advanced to the Sectional tournament, also, at Ashland College.

Again in the Sectional tourney the top two teams would advance to the District at Kent. Sullivan fell to Smithville and finished 18-3 on the season. But, the Trojans faced a formidable foe in undefeated Fredericksburg (21-0) of Wayne County. The Ashland County crew had better size and upset the Freddies 37-34 with a balanced offense of Lacy (10), Rock (10), Bursley (9) and Noden (8). In the title game once-beaten Rittman won every quarter and the game easily 48-26. Andy Lacy was 1st team All-Sectional and Red Rock was recognized on the 2nd team. However, Nova still moved on to the District.

In the District tournament at Kent State there were no second chances and 15-teams drew into three brackets with each winner advancing to the State tourney. Coach Graham drew the team with the poorest record McDonald (14-14). However the Trojans would have to play three straight nights on the biggest gym floor of the season and the largest crowd (3,000) of their high school careers. Plus they would have to face Hartville with the best record in northeastern Ohio (23-1), who had eliminated Canal Fulton, the defending State champions.

In the Thursday night opener Nova won a two-point victory 33-31 over McDonald even though Andy Lacy fouled out in the third quarter. Red Rock (14 pts) and Carl Bursley (10 pts) shouldered the burden on offense to play again on Friday night. The Trojans semi-final opponent was Strongsville from Cuyahoga County, and the game was another two-point nail bitter with a furious fourth quarter finish. Bursley made three circus one-handers. and Andy Lacy had a 10-point game including the winning basket at the end. In the Finals the Trojans pulled off a shocking upset of the tourney favorite Hartville. Red Rock led the men of Troy with a brilliant 17-point evening. Regardless they battled from behind until a 25-25 tie with two minutes and 40 second to go. Then Andy Lacy, who had to sit out in the 3rd quarter with his re-occurring shoulder injury, broke the tie with a long shot. When Red Rock stole the next pass and dribbled in for a lay up, the Trojans ran off the last nine points of the game for a 34-25 victory.

Nova’s District championship made them the first Class B team in Ashland County to gain the State Finals. In the other Kent brackets Rittman (27-1) became the first Ashland Sectional champion to advance to the State Finals. The third bracket was won by North Canton, who would defeat Sandusky St. Mary’s for the Class B State championship.
Of the 32 teams that earned the Columbus trip Nova was the smallest with only 27 boys in a school of just under a hundred students. To further handicap the Trojans chances most of the players were farm boys with daily chores so they usually had only two practices a week until the tournament run. Furthermore their star player Andy Lacy was nagged by a late season shoulder injury that had been aggravated by a fall in the District finals. Then they drew Sandusky St. Mary’s (15-1), one of the tournament favorites, who had won the 1936 State championship.
The thrilling tournament run caused Superintendent V.L. Raver to dismiss the pupils at noon for the 7 PM game in Columbus. Most of the village of Nova and Troy Township in Bill McKee version “deserted” the community for the trip to the state basket ball tournament. Their first round opponent Sandusky St. Mary’s had one loss by a single point to Crestline and an offense with 39 ppg, while giving up just under 20 points per game. No one had scored over 28 points against them and Clyde had just nine points.

The Trojans started slow with one basket in the first quarter and trailed by 13-points at one point in the first half, but they battled back to take a 4-point lead into the 4th quarter. Carl Bursley and George Noden had strong inside games with 12 points each, and Andy Lacy added nine outside points. Red Rock was held to one point and fouled out in the fourth quarter, as did Noden, too. After Lacy tied the game 37-37 in the final seconds, the Irish guard Smith fired a desperation two-hander toward the basket. While the ball was in the air the timer’s gun went off and the ball swished through the net to end Nova’s hopes for a State championship. St. Mary’s Arthur Link scored the most points in tourney (16 against Nova) and was picked 1st team All-Ohio, but the Irish lost in the State final 24-23 on a free throw by North Canton.

In the basketball history of the Ashland County schools before consolidation only Coach John Kerekes’ Loudonville Red Birds made it to State in 1941. The Red Birds, also, reached the Final Four in Columbus in 2004 and 2005. However, none of the four teams won their first round game. Nonetheless, it will always be remembered that the Nova Trojans (19-5) made the first trip to Columbus by a Class B team.  As a side note Ashland High in Class A had four teams in the final 16 at Columbus between 1932-1941.

1938-39 Nova Trojans State Tournament Team


Nova 32, Greenwich 9


Nova 55, Ruggles 14


Nova 34, Polk 17


Nova 44, Savannah 7


Nova 64, Perrysville 20


Nova 56, Brighton 20


Sullivan 26, Nova 25


Nova 46, Hayesville 13


Nova 47, Savannah 19


Nova 36, Jeromesville 16


Nova 43, Greenwich 19


Nova 41, Polk 22


Butler 43, Nova 23


Nova 46, Ruggles 15


Nova 33, Sullivan 32


County Tournament


Nova 39, Perrysville 21


Nova 48, Jeromesville 28


Sullivan 36, Nova 26


Sectional Tournament


Nova 37, Fredericksburg 34


Rittman 48, Nova 26


District Tournament


Nova, 33, McDonald 31


Nova 29, Strongsville 27


Nova 34, Hartville 25

State Tournament

Sandusky St Mary’s 39, Nova 37




Ashland Co League Co-Champs 10-1


Kent District Champions


Final record 19-5

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