For those who came in late, the green and white of Beck Collegiate was, in it’s day, a leading producer of some of the most outstanding high school athletic talent in the city. Perhaps none finer than the 1957 senior boy’s basketball team.
The east end school closed its doors almost three decades ago but the ’57 Spartans left a legacy that still ranks with all the great London secondary school sports achievements. While provincial titles in other sports have been recorded by local schools, this team holds the distinction of being the only senior boy’s basketball squad from London to win an Ontario championship — a benchmark accomplishment that’s stood the test of time for 51 years.
Coached by Roger Macaulay, the team went into the All-Ontario final carrying the standard of the London Conference, the forerunner of the Thames Valley District Athletic Association. Members of the team were Brian Laird, captain, Barry Howson, Gerry Witherden, Gary Boug, Tom Timbrell, Bill Woloshyn, Walter Turek, Larry Fazakas, Ken Earthy, Dave McLeod, John McNaughton and Jack Wistow. Howson went on to play for Canada in the 1964 Olympics and is a member of the Canadian Basketball and Sarnia-Lambton Sports halls of fame.
After winning the London Conference title it was on to WOSSA where epic confrontations between London and Windsor schools were commonplace in basketball, football, track and field and soccer. This time it was the Spartans who ruled the court as they downed Patterson Collegiate to gain a place in the All-Ontario tournament played in Toronto.
First up was the Irish of Welland Notre Dame who fell to Beck 51–50. Then came the big test as Beck drew the Sudbury Tech Blue Devils , the scourge of the north, led by big John McKibbon — later a Canadian Olympian — in the semi-finals.
“The Toronto papers were full of how big and strong Sudbury was,” recalled Timbrell. “but we couldn’t let that influence us. We had to go out and play our game.”
The result was a 57-45 decision for the Spartans boosting them into the championship where they would defeat East York Collegiate, the Toronto and District champion, 57-35 for the Golden Ball Trophy.
Howson put up 26 points for a three-game total of 58 while Laird scored 23 for a total of 53.
The 1957 Spartans set the city abuzz with their gutsy performance. Oldtimers still talk about them with an air of reverence. The London Sports Hall of Fame is proud to weclome them into the team category for 2008.