A Look Back at Burroughs High Athletics - Part 1: Boys Basketball

A Look Back at Burroughs High Athletics - Part 1: Boys BasketballBy BRUCE AULD

News Review Correspondent

Last week, I was returning to Ridgecrest on the dreaded 395 and was intrigued to see a school bus heading south. I thought it must be on its way for some serious diesel engine maintenance in Hesperia. At a glance, it was a Sierra Sands bus. That, I thought, confirmed my maintenance assumption. I was wrong. It was the Burroughs cross county teams on their way to Hesperia for the first competition in almost a year, with very successful results! Although we all look forward to hearing the current and future highlights of the Valley’s talented athletes, all sports and all ages, these accounts will likely emerge slowly and in increments.

Absent the full slate of Burros athletics, here’s a look to the past. The following has been excerpted from “A” History of the Sierra Sands Unified School District. It has been deemed “A” history rather than “The” history, because much of the content comes from various anecdotal and difficult to substantiate accounts.

According to Wikipedia, Burroughs High School has accumulated seven California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) championships:

Boys Basketball (1958, Northern Group)

Boys Basketball (1982, Southern Section IIA)

Boys Swimming (1994, Southern Section Division III)

Boys Swimming (1995, Southern Section Division III)

Boys Swimming (1996, Southern Section Division III)

Girls Swimming (2003, Southern Section Division III)

Boys Football (2005, Southern Section Division VIII)

The 1958 Boys Basketball Team garnered the Burros’ first championship in any sport, coming fourteen years after Burroughs was established in 1944. Basketball was the school’s first competitive sport. Home court was the China Lake gymnasium, until the gymnasium was completed on the current Burroughs campus in 1962. The “A” (varsity) squad ran off a 21-3 record on their way to the section championship. In the four team Desert-Inyo League, Burroughs scored a perfect 12-0 over Palmdale, Victor Valley and Barstow. Center Jay Carty led the team and was the first athlete from the Indian Wells Valley to play at the professional level. The Burroughs defeated San Luis Obispo in the opening round 51-35 advancing to the semi-finals, beating St. Agnes 65-52. The Burros held off a strong Bell Gardens team to claim the championship 41-40. Jim Nau, in his only year coaching for Burroughs, was head coach. The team: Gary Maxwell, Stuart Young, Larry Fletcher, Joel Adams, Jay Carty, Bill Wilde, Ron Thimsen, John Dragovich, Dennis Henden, Doug Brewer, Gary Koehler, Ray Wilson, Rad Bushnell and Phil Donnell.

The anchor of the first Burroughs CIF championship team, was center Jay Carty. Jay played NCAA Division I collegiate basketball for Oregon State University (OSU). Selected in the sixth round of the 1963 NBA draft by the St. Louis Hawks, he elected to stay at OSU as a graduate assistant. Jay moved on to UCLA as a doctoral candidate, where again he served as an assistant coach, working with the freshman team and coaching Lew Alcinder (Kareem Abdul Jabbar). Jay made his NBA debut as a 27-year-old rookie for the Los Angeles Lakers during the 1968-69 season. Later, Jay founded “Yes! Ministries” and authored several books, some with UCLA’s legendary coach John Wooden. Jay deceased on May 4, 2017 of multiple myeloma at age 75.

The 1982 Boys’ Basketball Team under Head Coach Larry Bird, went 24-6 and 10-0 in league and claimed their fourth consecutive Golden League Championship. The Burros league streak would extend to 11 seasons (1978-1989), ranking third all-time in the CIF Southern Section, II A Division. Burroughs entered the post season ranked second in the polls and handily defeated Victor Valley, San Bernardino and Righetti to reach the semifinals at the Long Beach Sports Arena, defeating La Serna 62 to 56. An estimated 5,000 Ridgecrest fans, including this writer and young family, made the six - hour round trip to watch the Burros defeat Capistrano Valley 66-55 in the final. The team: Dalton Heyward, Daniel Means, David Wooten, Scott Fulton, Dale Killilea, Paul VanderWerf, Bobby Bruce, John Fry, Greg Peake, Paul La Marca, Jim Cleveland, Jim White and Tim Allen. Tim Allen has created a YouTube video of the championship game at the half-time point.

From 1978 to 1989 the Burros won or shared the Golden League title for 11 consecutive years. At the end of its run in 1989, the accomplishment placed them third on the all-time list behind Banning (17 titles), Bishop (12 titles) and tied with Pasadena (11 titles). Larry Bird was the head coach for the first seven seasons of the run, while Frank Mazer was at the helm for the final four championships.

In addition to Jay Carty, three Burros went on to play basketball for NCAA Division I teams. Allan Celestine (BHS 1986) followed in Jay Carty’s footsteps to Oregon State University and played in 75 games. Rory O’Neil (BHS 2001) played for four years at USC. He was selected to the PAC 12 All-Tournament Team in 2003. Gavin MacGregor, 2002 BHS MVP and first team CIF Southern Section Division III-A awardee “walked-on” to play at BYU for three seasons.

A “Honorable Mention” to Kurt Rambis who attended elementary and junior high school at China Lake, but moved to the Bay Area with his family, to follow his father’s teaching and coaching career opportunities. His father, Mike Rambis, taught math and coached multiple sports for the Burros for a decade. Kurt played and coached for the LA Lakers and was head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves. He was very generous in returning to the China Lake gymnasium to provide basketball clinics to the community’s youth.

Hundreds of Burroughs athletes have gone on to participate at the next level, be it collegiate or professional. Likewise, student athletes from other area schools have elevated their play. This writer welcomes the names, year of high school graduation and details as to the student’s next level of competition regardless of local school of attendance. Newspaper space is limited. Book space is not and writer wants the history to be as comprehensive as possible.

Pictured: Former Los Angeles Laker (1968-69) and BHS Basketball alumnus Jay Carter — Courtesy photo

Story First Published: 2021-03-19