Glendale’s finest hour still sweet
District 6 boys basketball has a rich history with strong traditions all around us.
Altoona, Williamsburg and Northern Cambria have won or challenged for PIAA titles with great teams, yet little is known of a school in the far reaches of District 6 that made a storied run 40 years ago.
Located in the small town of Flinton, Glendale once had a great team. The season was 1972-73, and the team was coached by Joe Vesnesky and the late Tom Terza.
Success was modest in the previous years as Glendale was known primarily for its football program, coached by John Lloyd.
But in 1972, that changed. The basketball team was experienced as seniors Sam Tiesi, team captain Steve Dudurich, Tim Mihalko, Bill Andrews, Jim Dick and sixth man Jack Keith began the campaign.
“Tall and talented is what the press called us,” Tiesi, one of four starters over 6-foot, said.
The season began with great anticipation, but after three games, Glendale was 1-2 with losses to Class B power Marion Center and Purchase Line in a heartbreaker on a shot by 6-foot-8 George Gibson at the buzzer.
“I knew when we lost to Purchase Line, we were crying, and we wanted to make sure we didn’t feel like that again,” Dudurich said. “After that, we ran teams out of the gym.”
And run they did. Winning 17 out of 19 games by large margins was common. Glendale scored nearly 80 points per game while holding the opposition to an average of 57 points.
Only two bumps in the road occurred – Marion Center flexed its muscles, 114-75, and another last-second loss to Purchase Line.
Glendale went unbeaten in the Moshannon Valley League and finished 18-4 overall. Flinton or wherever the Vikings were playing became the place to be.
“A great atmosphere,” Tiesi said. “The community was behind us, and we never anticipated losing. Halfway through the season, it was game on.”
“Being away was like a home game,” Dudurich added.
Though Tiesi was among the state’s top scorers and drew headlines, Mihalko said, “Nobody cared who got the limelight, and we were confident in our abilities together. We were friends and hung out. We felt blessed to be part of the team.”
Jimmy Hollis and Frank Rafacz were student managers and also “played a huge roll in our success,” Dudurich said.
As the District 6 Class C playoffs began, Glendale rolled by Bucktail 84-60 as Tiesi scored 42 at the Johnstown War Memorial – the arena, a Clearfield reporter called “the place where teams come to die.”
Yet, Vesnesky emptied his bench again, not seeking to run up the score.
“We could have scored 100 points many times, but Coach never let us,” Tiesi said.
Next up was top-rated Ferndale and another devastating one-point loss after leading by 16 at the half and five with under a minute to go.
“We should have never lost,” Mihalko said.
“We made some bone-headed plays,” Tiesi said.
After handling Meyersdale 72-61 came Cambridge Springs and a win after trailing by 16 points at the half at the War Memorial.
Glendale had now reached the state quarterfinals – still the deepest penetration in Viking history – but fell to eventual state runner-up AC Valley, 75-62, the outcome in doubt until late.
“We felt we should have won, but they were just better that night,” Mihalko said. “We didn’t achieve our goal, but we had a lot of fun.”
Glendale finished 21-6. Tiesi was named first team all-state. It was a magical season that is talked about four decades later.
Vesnesky, who went on to broadcast St. Francis games for 20-plus years, still gets goose bumps.
“Tom Terza’s halftime talks…”?he said of his late assistant. “When he was done, I wanted to play!”
Curt Kutch was a sophomore junior varsity player on Glendale’s 1972-73 team. He graduated from Glendale in 1975.