The Salem Community High School basketball team that set scoring records in the state tournament and won the hearts of many of the fans at the 1943 state tournament, was the second team to gain induction into the Salem Sports Hall of Fame. The 1942-43 Wildcats basketball team that won third place in the tournament was only the second Salem team to make it to the state tournament.

That team, posting a 27-7 record while winning the third place honors, also won the North Egypt Conference title, the regional championship (50-40 over Centralia) and the sectional championship.

Coached by Quinn Constantz, in his first and only year at Salem, the team was composed of Roy Gatewood, Harry Carneal, Dean White, John McDougal, John Baker, Bob Roddy, Francis Meador, Don Wile, Jim Finks, Bob Laney and Jim Kneale. Unfortunately, five of those players are deceased-Carneal, Finks, Gatewood, Meador and White.

Gatewood’s exploits are well known-setting the single game scoring mark of 29 points against Elgin in the third place game, and a record-setting 96 points for the four games – but in the Champaign overtime victory, 49-46, McDougal, the usual play-maker on the team, brought the crowd to the edge of their seats with several bursts of speed to net 11 points.

Salem made a startling comeback in their opener to win on Gatewood’s last second shot, 49-47. Roddy started it with a 10 footer. After Canton scored, Salem rattled off 14 straight points to gain the victory. Gatewood got seven in succession. White banged in a rebound. Gatewood hit two more free throws and McDougal hit a free throw for a 47-47 tie to set the stage for Gatewood’s winning basket.

After losing the heart-breaker to Paris, 53-50 (a team they lost to in the second game of the season, 50-26), Salem won the third place trophy handily, 69-58 over Elgin. Paris went on to win the state championship.

Constantz, a native of Canton, Missouri, at 25 was the youngest coach in the state tournament. He had won 28 of 32 games at the Missouri school. Dr. Constantz retired from Western Carolina University at Cullowhee, North Carolina, and cinematographer for the WCU football team.

The 1942-43 Wildcats won the North Egypt championship with a 11-1 record and had to beat Mt. Carmel and Lawrenceville a third time to win the sectional tournament to gain the “sweet sixteen” berth.

Before the basketball season unfolded, the players formed a pretty formidable football team, opening with a 45-6 win over Lawrenceville and 27-0 victory over Bridgeport. After a 13-0 loss to Flora, that possibly cost them a NEC championship “double,” Salem rolled over Fairfield, 53-0, only to learn that their coach Steve Lenich, had been called to military service.

Being during the war years, games with Mt Carmel and Newton were canceled, both to be played in Salem, because of transportation problems, mainly due to gasoline shortages and rationing. In fact, the IHSA toured the state during the basketball season to determine if any member schools were considering canceling their season or any part of it.

That Salem was able to fulfill its scheduling commitments and travel to the state tournament was due in part to three Salem basketball devotees. With rationing and transportation crunches, the Salem team made the state tournament trek by private cars.