EMMITSBURG, Md. – Mount St. Mary's has won its share of championships through the years, but one ring rules them all. The Mount's men's basketball team won the 1961-62 National Championship and we kick off the 2011-12 Top-20 Moments Countdown at No. 20 with the year-long celebration of the 50th Anniversary of that national championship team.
The year-long celebration began at the Mount's home opener against Siena when fans in attendance were given a 50th Anniversary Commemorative Pin on Nov. 19. John O'Reilly, the squad's leading scorer from that national championship team and one of the best players to don a Mount uniform, had his jersey No. 51 retired in a halftime ceremony against longtime in-state rival Loyola on Dec. 10.
The celebration then culminated with the 50th Anniversary Celebration during the Mount's final home game against Monmouth on Feb. 21. At halftime, seven of the nine living players were honored, including Mike Callahan, Jack Campbell, Dave Maloney, Lou Martine, John O'Reilly, Ed Pfeifer and Dave Samuels. Dick Talley and Tom Wahl could not make it to the game on Saturday. The 1961-62 team had eight team managers and seven of them returned to Emmitsburg on that great night, including Dennis Barry, Damian DuFour, Tom Engler, John Hughes, Tom O'Hara and Thomas Rosa.
The Mount's also relived each game from the National Championship season in a series called "Un-raveling The Bowtie." Legendary head coach Jim Phelan and players Campbell, O'Reilly and Pfeifer shared their recollections for each game and that season. If you missed a minute of the Un-Raveling The Bowtie, make sure that you check it out HERE.
Also check out the photo gallery from the halftime ceremony against Monmouth.
Recap of the 1961-62 Season
After advancing to the NCAA Final Four in 1960-61, the Mount St. Mary's men's basketball team had lofty expectations for the 1961-62 season. The team was not going to be satisfied with its second-straight Mason Dixon Conference Tournament title or even a berth in the NCAA Tournament, but they wanted to make it back to the NCAA Tournament and the right to play for the NCAA Championship.
Led by legendary head coach Jim Phelan on the sidelines, who would be in his eighth of 49 seasons at Mount St. Mary's, the Mount opened the 1961-62 season on the road against Providence, the defending NIT Champions. The Mountaineers played the Friars tough and held the lead for the final two minutes, but Providence came away with a 65-59 win to open the season.
Mount St. Mary's would win the next six games against Shippensburg, Baltimore, Adelphi, Hampden-Sydney, Catholic and Moravian.
The trip up to Moravian provided one of the more funny stories from the 1961-62 team when the Mount's leading scorer John O'Reilly missed the bus to the game. Some of his teammates might have even been spotted waving to John as he tried to catch the bus leaving campus. John had to ask a friend to drive him to the game and he helped the Mount to an 81-62 win to conclude the first half of the season with 6-1 record.
Twenty-days after the Moravian contest, the Mount got back on the hardwood at Georgetown on Jan. 3 and the squad suffered its second loss of the season at the hands of the Hoyas.
However, Mount St. Mary's did not falter after the loss to Georgetown and won the next five games with victories against Roanoke, Western Maryland, Baltimore, Loyola and Rider to improve to 11-2 on the year.
The Mount would lose two games in a row for the first time that season after falling to Saint Joseph's at the Palestra and at New York. The squad then rolled off three-straight wins against Washington of Maryland, Catholic and Loyola.
After the win against Loyola, the Mount lost back-to-back games for the second time that season at American and at Randolph-Macon. On the way back from Ashland, Virginia, there was a team meeting on the bus, which proved to be the turning point of the season.
The Mount's record stood at 14-6 and Coach Phelan said that if the team wanted any chance at the National Championship then the team would have to finish the year 24-6, meaning the Mount would have to go 10-0 the rest of the way.
In addition, John O'Reilly thought the team needed some Irish Luck to help the team and in the final 10 games of the season sat on the bench a four-inch tall leprechaun named Clancy the Cobbler.
Inspired by that meeting and its new good-luck charm on the bench, Mount St. Mary's concluded the regular season with wins against Western Maryland and a thrilling triple-overtime win against American.
The team would roll through the Mason-Dixon Tournament against Roanoke, Hampden-Sydney and Randolph-Macon to give the Mount its second-straight conference title and a berth into the NCAA East Regional.
In the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Albright pushed the Mount to four overtimes before Mount St. Mary's came away with a 67-64 victory. Despite a four-overtime game, the squad would cruise to a 66-51 win the next day against Hofstra in a game that Coach Phelan said was the only time an opposing coach shook his hand before the game was over.
The Mount returned to the NCAA College Division Championships and faced a Wittenberg team that knocked them out of the Final Four in 1960-61. With no shot clock, Wittenberg played the same slow-down game that ended the Mount's season the year before, but this time the Mount came out on top with a 43-39 victory.
Mount St. Mary's was back in the Final Four and this time would face Southern Illinois. It was a closely-contested contest that Eddie Pfeifer won with a bank shot at the buzzer for a 58-57 victory and propelled the Mount into the NCAA Championship Game.
Playing on St. Patrick's Day and with the aid of Clancy, the Mount edged Sacramento State 58-57 in overtime. Sacramento State had a chance to tie or even take the lead in the final seconds of overtime. The Hornets were at the line for a 1 and 1, but missed and Jack Campbell came down with the rebound to secure the victory and Mount St. Mary's only National Championship title.
Remember that you can discuss the Top-20 Countdown with your fellow Mount fans at Facebook or Twitter pages. If you are not a fan or a follower, now is the time to start and get all the news on Mount Athletics from your favorite social media outlet.
In addition, if you would like to make a prediction of what moments will be on the list, submit them on Facebook or at firstname.lastname@example.org and you could win a prize. The person that guesses the most moments on the list will win a Mount Athletics prize. Entries are due by Wednesday, June 27 at 9 a.m. Anyone that enters the contest will receive a point for the No. 20 moment, which will be revealed on Monday.
Schedule Of Release For The 2011-12 Top-20 Moments Countdown
No. 20: One Ring Rules Them All - Men's Basketball Celebrates 50th Anniversary of 1961-62 National Championship
No. 19: Wednesday, June 27, 2012
No. 18: Friday, June 29, 2012
No. 17: Monday, July 2, 2012
No. 16: Friday, July 6, 2012
No. 15: Monday, July 9, 2012
No. 14: Wednesday, July 11, 2012
No. 13: Friday, July 13, 2012
No. 12: Monday, July 16, 2012
No. 11: Wednesday, July 18, 2012
No. 10: Friday, July 20, 2012
No. 9: Monday, July 23, 2012
No. 8: Wednesday, July 25, 2012
No. 7: Friday, July 27, 2012
No. 6: Monday, July 30, 2012
No. 5: Wednesday, August 1, 2012
No. 4: Friday, August 3, 2012
No. 3: Monday, August 6, 2012
No. 2: Wednesday, August 8, 2012
No. 1: Friday, August 10, 2012