Whale Branch basketball team looks to follow footsteps of 1945 Beaufort boys

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Whale Branch basketball team looks to follow footsteps of 1945 Beaufort boys

Published Thursday, February 28, 2013   |  953 Words  |  

Henry C. Chambers can still be found most days at his Beaufort Realty office on Boundary Street.

He was out showing properties earlier this week.

"I work every day," said Chambers, who will turn 85 in July. "I hope to do it until I drop. If you like what you're doing, that's what you ought to do."

Beaufort residents know him as the town's former mayor and for his work developing the waterfront park bearing his name. Chambers was also a starting guard on the 1945 Beaufort High School basketball team, which won the Class B state championship and is the only boys basketball team from Beaufort County on record as having won a S.C. High School League state championship.

Whale Branch Early College High School will try to join that short list Saturday when it faces Lewisville in Columbia for the Class 1-A title.

The Tidal Wave, as Beaufort High sports teams were known then, defeated Flat Creek, from Kershaw, 25-24, in the championship game. Six hundred fans filled the Beaufort High gymnasium, according to the account the following week in The Beaufort Gazette.

The starting five on that team were guards Chambers and Harry DeLoach, forwards Willie Scheper and John Rodgers and center Charlie Brown. Chambers, DeLoach, Scheper and Rodgers are still living.

DeLoach, now 86 and living in Columbia, played basketball and football four years at South Carolina and one season with the Green Bay Packers before joining the S.C. Army National Guard. He also led the Tidal Wave football team to the 1945 state championship that fall.

Rodgers, also a Columbia resident, attended Georgia Military College and worked as a salesman for Palmetto Wholesaler in Columbia.

Scheper is a former Beaufort mayor and banker who loaned author Pat Conroy the money to self-publish his first book. He was sick with the flu this week and unable to be reached.

Memories from the other participants in the championship game are murky.

DeLoach scored 12 points to lead Beaufort High, according to the Gazette article. Brown's defensive performance earned recognition.

Chambers remembers the low-scoring nature of the game, and that Flat Creek was a feared team.

"They were a good bunch of boys," he said. "And we respected them ... We played good defense. That's how we beat them."

Chief Petty Officer Jack Russell coached Beaufort High, and when the Tidal Wave trimmed their roster for postseason road trips, the seven players would pile into Russell's car.

"Great personality," Chambers said of Russell, who also coached the state champion football team in the fall. "Very patient with a bunch of young guys who had never done anything like this before."

Beaufort High defeated Allendale in the Lower State semifinal and Timmonsville in the Lower State final before meeting Flat Creek. The Tidal Wave finished 15-0, according to the championship game story. Flat Creek had won its past 19 games and almost came back in the championship.

Beaufort High led 11-0 after the first quarter before the Farmers fought back.

"They started hitting, but they didn't quite make it," Rodgers said.

The 85-year-old Rodgers underwent surgery in 2012 to remove cancer from his stomach and now deals with heart problems, he said. He and DeLoach remain close. The former teammates spoke on the phone this week.

"We keep in touch as much as we can," DeLoach said.

Beaufort High School Tidal Wave

Starting five from the 1945 Class B state champion boys basketball team:

G -- Henry Chambers

Boxed and ran track at Clemson before becoming Beaufort mayor and pushing for the development of the town's waterfront park, which became Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park

G -- Harry DeLoach

Played basketball and football at South Carolina and played one season for the Green Bay Packers before joining the S.C. National Guard

F -- Willie Scheper

Former Beaufort mayor and banker who loaned Pat Conroy the money to self-publish his first book, The Boo

F -- John Rodgers

Retired salesman for Palmetto Wholesaler, a Columbia hardware company, who stays in touch with fellow Columbia resident DeLoach

C-- Charlie Brown

From the account of the 1945 state championship game: "On defense ... played a brilliant game and many times snatched the ball on the rebound or intercepted Flat Creek passes to stop a drive by the visitors."

Coach -- Jack Russell

Chief petty officer at Parris Island Naval Hospital and an "outstanding coach," according to Chambers

Beaufort County basketball champions

Note: according to S.C. High School League records

1945 -- Beaufort High School boys

1971-72 -- Beaufort High girls

1995-96, 97-98 -- Battery Creek girls

Class 1-A boys basketball championship

Who: Whale Branch vs. Lewisville

Where: Colonial Life Arena, Columbia

When: 12:30 p.m. Saturday

Admission: $10 for all games, children 5-and-under are free

Details: Handheld signs, posters and noisemakers are not permitted.