DECATUR — It’s Wednesday, March 18, 1953. We’re in Huff Gym on the University of Illinois campus. The 16-team one-class state high school basketball tournament is going on.
Decatur St. Teresa is playing Canton. This is St. Teresa”s first trip to Champaign, a team of destiny, the conqueror of mighty Decatur High, the three-time state champion, and Coach Gay Kintner.
During the regular season St. Teresa defeated Decatur High 67-61 in Kintner Gym. Then St. Teresa beat Decatur High 74-60 in the championship game of the Lakeview Regional tournament It smashed Decatur’s 53-game regional winning streak.
St. Teresa is trailing Canton 50-44 in the fourth quarter. Time for a rally. Yes, St. Teresa’s 6 foot 4 Sid Tucker makes three free throws to put St. Teresa up 51-50. A Canton free throw ties the score.
Now Dan Collins, the St. Teresa point guard, has the ball. With two seconds to go, he shoots. St. Teresa wins, 54-52.
It sends St. Teresa into a Friday quarterfinal game with undefeated LaGrange, the tournament favorite led by Ted Caiazza, 6 feet 7, 230 pounds, a scoring machine.
St. Teresa can’t stop Caiazza. He scores all of LaGrange’s points in the first quarter for a 21-10 lead. Caiazza goes on to total 38 points, a tournament record, and St. Teresa is swamped 75-43. LaGrange goes on to win the tournament by defeating Pinckneyville and Peoria Central. .
Those days of joy and ultimate gloom will be remembered Friday night as the St. Teresa Gym is dedicated to the late Joe Venturi, the 1952-53 coach.
The ceremony will be between games while St. Teresa plays Warrensburg-Latham. After a 6 p.m. reception for team members and Venturi family members, here’s the program:
Jack and Barbara McCoy, whose financial contributions are making the gym dedications a reality, will be introduced.
Rick Venturi, Joe’s eldest son, will speak for the Venturi family and introduce them, including Norma Venturi, Joe’s widow. Joe Venturi left St. Teresa after the 1959-60 season, coached successfully at Rockford Auburn and Pekin and died in 2001 at age 79.
Sid Tucker, the team’s top scorer, will introduce members of the 1953 team, including regulars Dlck Overhuel, 6 feet 6, and Jerry Hise and John Fitzgerald, the sixth man. Danny Collins is a Jesuit priest in Japan. Larry Warren was the other regular. Dave Harrison, a sophomore member of the tournament 10, is deceased.
Tucker averaged 18.9 points that season as St. Teresa won the first 18 games and finished with a 28-4 record. Tucker’s three-year total was a school record 1,305 points. He went on to play at Quincy College on a national tournament team and coached in St. Louis for 26 years, coached in Houston, Texas, for 14 years and coached at Eisenhower four years.