According to a number of area sportscasters, it wasn’t supposed to happen that way—the East Rochester Bombers beating the Lyons Lions, 58-57. While both basketball teams entered the game undefeated, Lyons was known as a powerhouse. By looking at the history of the two teams, however, perhaps March 24, 1962, was destined to be different. And what made the outcome of the contest all the more special was that it happened before a crowd estimated to be more than 10,000.
To put the victory in perspective, a bit of background is needed. In 1952, East Rochester and Lyons were in Class A. Both teams had each reached the finals (ER having beaten Dansville, then Bath). In the final game, Lyons beat ER, 53-49 in overtime. Two years later, both teams had advanced to the final game (ER having beaten Waterloo and Wellsville)—Lyons again beat ER, 45-43 in the final game. The games were played at the University of Rochester Palestra.
In 1961, East Rochester and Lyons were in Class AA. Lyons beat East Rochester, 39-35 in overtime in the quarterfinal game. In 1962, the Bombers entered the sectionals with a record of 18-0, having the first undefeated season in the school’s history. The semifinals and finals were played at the War Memorial. To reach the finals, the Bombers beat East High, 52-44 in the quarterfinal, and Madison, 61-49 in the semifinal.
Then, on Saturday evening at 9:15 pm the stage was set for the final match-up with Lyons. The crowd was recorded as being 9,871, but estimates put it over 10,000 with standing room only. About 800 people were turned away. The crowd was so large because many people who had watched games earlier in the day stayed to see the final game. Hundreds of other ER fans were listening to the play by play on the radio. (We have here at Local History an audio recording of the game). For the first half of the game, it appeared Lyons would win easily—at the quarter mark Lyons was ahead, 13-2; at the half, the Lions were ahead, 25-13. Then things started to change. At the end of the third quarter, Lyons was ahead, 34-28; and at the end of the fourth quarter the score was tied, 45-45. By the end of the first overtime, the score was 51-51. At the end of the second overtime, ER was the victor with a score of 58-57. The player who had scored the most points in the game was Lyons’ Senior, Jim Boeheim, with 18 points. After the game a celebration with about 3,000 fans converged on Commercial Street to meet the team bus.
The pride, determination, and tradition which had begun in 1940 with biddy basketball at the CYA had culminated in a memorable, hard-fought victory. In 2011, the 1961-62 Bombers basketball team was inducted into the East Rochester Athletic Wall of Fame, along with the 1962-63 team which also won all of its games, including the sectionals (beating Edison Tech and Brighton, and then East High, 42-40 in the final game).