Big Five Doubleheader at the Palestra – Connecting Present and Past

Temple La Salle Saint Joseph’s and Penn Play on the Same Court the Same Night

November 30, 2022 –

It is a good way to end November. A Big Five Doubleheader at the Palestra. This time each end of the double bill features a city series game. Here is a chance for the basketball fans of the teams and the sport itself to come out and support the game in an historic venue. The night also gives a chance for people such as myself to reflect on the Big Five.

I have been coming to the Palestra and Big Five games since December of 1961. Long time. That night I witnessed Penn with John Wideman and Sid Amira beating Duquesne who had Willie Somerset. Google them. In the second game, the championship of the Quaker City Christmas Tournament Championship. Villanova behind the play of Wali Jones and Hubie White took down Iowa. The best player for the Hawkeyes was Don Nelson. I never forgot it.

My first Big Five game was Temple and Villanova, the same team that beat Iowa. But not that night. Bruce Drysdale and the Owls won that Big Five matchup. I still feel the intensity in the building. I still hear the bands and the cheerleaders. And how the game meant something to all who were there. I was coming back, and have done so for the past 61 years.

Little did I know it, I was connecting to the history of basketball in the city. Now, that connection is visible to those who are familiar with the Big Five. That opportunity exists this evening.

A Big Five doubleheader at the Palestra was a staple in this city for many years. Usually a Big Five game was preceded by a non city game. Then, as the second game approached the rooting sections of the Philly schools began cheering for their teams who had yet to take the court. What was the first game opponent thinking? And the rollouts themselves became a competition.

But it is not often the two games at the Palestra had four Big Five teams playing. It has happened seven time since the Big Five started in 1955-56. Three times in the 21st Century. The connections still exists. This game meant as much to Damian Dunn as it did to Bruce Drysdale; to Jordan Dingle as John Wideman; to Lynn Greer II as Lynn Greer III.

“We wanted to win it for them (their coaches),” said Dunn.

The coaches use the Big Five as a teaching point. In this double header there are at least 11 on the four staffs that played or coached a Big Five game.

The most recognizable is La Salle coach Fran Dunphy . His present tenure is his third Big Five team. He also played at La Salle. On his staff there is Joe Mihalic and Donnie Carr, both familiar names at 20th and Olney. The Explorers met the Temple Owls, who Dunphy coached previously and was interim Athletic Director. The Owls bench is under the guidance of Aaron McKie, a player and coach on North Broad Street. On his staff are former players; Chris Clark, Marc Macon, and Jason Ivey. And is former Saint Joseph’s assistant Monte Ross.

In game two Saint Joseph’s played the University of Pennsylvania. Steve Donahue and Rob Sullivan carry on the Big Five connection.

“I’ve been coming here since 1974, and I love this place,” said Donahue. “The best thing is it is so intimate. You can hear everyone’s voice and see everyone’s face. They’re literally part of the game.”

They are the conduit between past and present from this perspective.

“Anytime you can play at this place, it’s pretty special,” Dunphy said. “It’s fun to be here. The competition? You live for that.”

“Regardless of the outcome it is one of the honors and privileges of playing basketball in the city of Philadelphia,” said Saint Joseph’ coach Billy Lange.

The connection is there to be seen just walking the halls as the luminaries who took to this court are on display.

“We talk a lot about the great players who played here, and how much of a blessing it is to play in this gym” said Greer III.

Yes, it is different now. Things have changed, but hasn’t everything in college athletics? For those who cherish the link, it will always be strong. As long as the games are played, that is what really matters.

“The landscape of college basketball completely changed,” McKie said. “I think we have a unique brand here. It was good to play here. My guys had a chance to play here.”

What needs to be seen is who will continue on as coaches and administrators. And be the connection for a ten-year old seeing their first game tonight at the Cathedral of College Basketball.

Game Wraps

Temple 67 La Salle 51

The Explorers had the lead for nearly 25 minutes. Temple for just under 13 minutes. When the Owls took the lead in the second half, they did not give it up. Temple made nearly 60% of their shots (16 of 27) in the latter 20 minutes. La Salle made just 9 of 34 (26.5%). The Owls won the second half 46 – 22.

Owls guard Damian Dunn scored 17 points and handed out a career-high 6 assists. Khalif Battle led the team with 20 points with 4 made three-pointers.

Khalil Brantley led the Explorers in points with 14 and rebounds grabbing 9.

Saint Joseph’s 85 Penn 80 (OT)

Back and forth down the stretch. The Hawks took the lead on a free throw by Greer III with 16.3 seconds to play in regulation. Just under 10 seconds later Jordan Dingle tied the game with a jumper to send the game to overtime. No difference in the extra five minutes. Dingle gave Penn an 80 – 78 lead with just over a minute left, but the Red and Blue did not score again. Erik Reynolds II tied the game at 80 as just under a minute showed. The Hawks could not quite put the game away at the free throw line. They did get enough, but the Quakers had one last shot. A Clark Slajchert three-pointer was off the mark with 6.9 seconds remaining. Greer III clinched it at the line a few seconds later.

Reynolds led Saint Joe’s with 27 points. Kacper Klaczek set a career-high in scoring with 19 points. He grabbed 9 rebounds and handed out 6 assists. Greer contributed 16 points.

Dingle scored a game-high 28 points for the Red and Blue. Lucas Monroe took down 12 rebounds. Setting season-high’s for both players.

Written By: Glenn Papazian


1 Comment

  1. Great story and reminder of the early 70’s in High School attending the doubleheaders. When I resumed going to the Palestra for women’s BB in the mid 2000’s I thought the arena was much brighter than I remembered and attributed it to better lighting. It was a few years later that I was a picture that reminded me that it was dark because of all of the cigar and cigarette smoke back then. Started at the ceiling at the first game half time, got worse between games and descended to the lower level by the second half time, making it tough to see clearly from the nose bleed seats. Good Times? Thanks for the memories.

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