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Gonzaga Bullpup Basketball 1940

Billy Frazier had just completed his first year as head coach for the Gonzaga High School football team. In December of 1939 he took on his second new job, coaching Bullpup basketball, replacing long time mentor, John “Puggy” Hunton.

Since their 1932 City League championship team, the Bullpups hadn’t had much success in basketball, finishing at or near the bottom of the league in most years. The previous season saw Gonzaga winless in league play.

Led by 6-5 captain Frank Laney, and Ed Whitford, the 1939-40 squad looked to turn things around. All the City League teams were confident they would put an end to the seven-year run of Squinty Hunter and Lewis and Clark. In non-league play all the teams sported winning records, save LC, who was 1-4 in an abbreviated schedule. Gonzaga was 8-3.

The Spokane City League only had four teams in 1939, which played each other four times during conference play.  As it turned out, LC saved its best for when it counted, winning the championship for the eighth straight time. The Tigers finished two games ahead of Gonzaga, beating the Pups narrowly in three of the four games.

Shortly after the end of league play, Gonzaga had one game left before the season ended.  Seattle Prep came to Spokane to play the Bullpups for the Catholic High School State Championship.

The game was played at Gonzaga University, and the Panthers came to town sporting an unblemished 20-0 record. Gonzaga was 15-8 for the season and a decided underdog.

It was a close contest. The game was tied at halftime at 17. In the third quarter, Whitford scored 7 of his game high 13 points as the Bullpups took the lead, outscoring the Panthers 15-6. Gonzaga pulled off the upset 37-30, to win its first trophy of any kind in basketball since 1932.




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Bill Pierce
Bill Pierce is a sports blogger who writes the weekly nwprepsnow prep sports almanac.





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