The Salem Wildcat Basketball team that is recognized as one of the best in the school’s history, a team that holds the best won-lost record of any Salem basketball team, was inducted into the Salem High School Sports Hall of Fame in 1988.

The 1947-48 Wildcats ranked from No.2 to No.4 in the State all season ran up a record of 27-3. They captured the North Egypt Conference championship with an 11-1 mark, repeating the championship they won the year before when they were a predominately junior team. Members of the team, selected as the tournament squad, were Carle Blackwell, Darrell Brame, Jim Bredar, Kenny Burchett, Bill Chance, Bob Frala, Bob Hayden, Glenn Holler, Mark Johnson, Richard Laney, John McMackin, Bob Warden, and their coaches, the late Michael E. Lenich and Steve Lenich.

There were a lot of thrills during the season, a lot of anticipation, and one big heartache when they were upset in the Regional finals. That 58-50 loss to Centralia in the title game of the Sandoval Regional denied the Wildcats of becoming only the third team in Salem history to advance to the State Tournament.

The 1947-48 Wildcats outscored their opponents 1752-1136, an average of 58.4 to 37.8 points per game. They maintained that consistency in conference play with a 59-38 per game scoring edge. Johnson was the team’s scoring leader with 429 points, but the Wildcats had a balanced attack with six players scoring over 100 points. Following Johnson’s top total were McMackin, 372; Warden, 266; Laney, 217; Holler, 204; and Burchett, 118.

Of particular interest during the season were the home-and-home series with Lawrenceville and Centralia. Salem split the games with Lawrenceville, winning here, 47-43, and losing at Lawrenceville, 55-54. The interest was particularly high for the second game. Anticipating an overflow crowd as was experienced with the earlier match, here, the late Brad Brinkerhoff and Guy Morgan arranged for a special telephone hookup with the late H.B. Davis broadcasting the game back to several hundred fans in the Salem Gymnasium-the old gymnasium, now the Salem Activities Center.

The two regular season meetings between Salem and Centralia were noteworthy in that the Wildcats were the dominate team. Salem won at home, 59·25, starting with a 19-5 first quarter edge and finishing with a 21·7 fourth quarter effort. In the second meeting In Trout Gym, the Wildcats trailed, 19-12, after the first quarter, but forged in front at halftime, 29·26, and maintained that margin, 44-41, after three quarters. They finished off the 61-47 victory with a 17-6, effort in the final period.

With a wealth of talent – there were nine seniors returning from the previous year’s 23-10 club Lenich stuck with a starting five that was considered tall for 40 years ago. The “twin·towers,” Mark Johnson 6’5″, and Bob Warden, 6’4″, were braced with Glenn Holler, 6’1″, Richard Laney, 6’0″, and Johnny Bill McMackin, 5’11”.

Lenich may have had misgivings, so stating once after particularly outstanding performances by Burchett and Blackwell. In the second game of the season against Sandoval, the starters of McMackin,
Laney, Holler, Johnson and Warden struggled to an 8·5 first quarter lead. Lenich inserted a new five of
Chance, Burchett, Blackwell, Dale Morris and Bob Hayden for the second quarter and they weren’t any
more prolific, Salem leading at halftime, 15-12. The starters returned in the second half and, after a 31-
20 third quarter lead, outscored Sandoval 21-4 in the first four minutes of the final quarter, with the second five coming into finish off a 58-30 victory.

The 20th win of the season came, 61-41, over Olney. The final game of the season brought their regular season record to 25-2 as they clubbed Mt. Carmel, 79-37. The third loss that year was to Freeport in the Centralia Holiday Tournament, 55-53, as Cliff Stout hit a long shot at the buzzer. Reportedly, Stout entered the hospital the next day for an emergency appendectomy.

The junior varsity team that year finished their season with a 23-0 record.

Six players were given all conference honors-McMackin, Johnson and Laney to the first team, and
Warden, Holler and Burchett, honorable mention. Johnson was named first team center on the Champaign News Gazette All-State Team and on the Chicago Daily-News All State Team.

Some of the team members were also outstanding as football players, also winning the NEC title. The team, coached by Hall of Famer Kenny Farrar, had only one close call in conference play. Winning 14-13 over Fairfield to clinch the crown, Salem scored one touchdown on a pass from McMackin to Brame and another on a two-yard plunge by Blackwell, but missed on both extra point attempts. The clincher, with Salem trailing 13-12 late in the game, came when Burchett tackled a Fairfield runner in the end zone for a safety and the margin of victory.

All-Conference football players that year were Burchett, Chance, Holler and Blackwell, first team; J.
Roy Fogle and Derald Spratt, second team.