By BOB FALLSTROM
H&R Community News Editor
March 18, 1953, Huff Gym, Champaign. The Decatur St. Teresa basketball team and Canton are tied 52-52 in the Illinois State High School Basketball Tournament.
Dan Collins has the ball. Two seconds to go. Collins shoots from the free throw circle. Perfect. St. Teresa wins.
March 20, 1953, Huff Gym Champaign. Too much Caiazza. The 6-foot-7, 230-pound all-stater scores the first 23 LaGrange points and St. Teresa is flattened 75-43 in tournament quarterfinals. Caiazza sets a single game record with 38 points. LaGrange goes on to win the championship and climax an undefeated season.
“Caiazza was too much,” remembers Collins, a Jesuit priest in Japan, during a recent Decatur visit with his brother, Jack. “He was big and he could handle the ball. I snuck up on him a couple of times, and he ran me over.”
This was St. Teresa’s first state tournament team. It was a single class tournament at the University of Illinois in those days and St. Teresa always had been overshadowed by Coach Gay Kintner’s Decatur High Reds.
Joe Venturi, the St. Teresa coach, found the answer with a 74-60 victory over Decatur High in the Lakeview Regional Tournament final. It was the first time Decatur High lost in 18 years of regional games. Decatur had won 53 straight regional games, beginning in 1936. St. Teresa also defeated Decatur High 67-61 in a regular season game in January in Kintner Gym.