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Punch marred 1963 Flagstaff-Prescott basketball game

PRESCOTT, Ariz. — On a Friday night 50 years ago, the Prescott High School
gymnasium was the place to be and those who were there saw a basketball game
that nobody expected.

The final seconds remain murky after five decades.

Flagstaff High and its all-state senior James Dugan faced Prescott in a boys’
varsity game on Dec. 20, 1963. A night earlier, Dugan scored 54 points against
Winslow High.

But in this game against the underdog Badgers in front of an over-capacity
crowd, the winner wasn’t decided until the final seconds. And that is what still
is in debate.

With his team holding a three-point lead, Dugan was called for an offensive
foul. It was his fifth foul of the game and his night was over.

Prescott’s first-year head coach Jim Smith recalled that one of his players
told Dugan something along the lines of “Ha ha! You’re out!” or “Ha ha! You

At that point Dugan still had the ball in his hands and threw it at the
Badgers’ Don Thayer.

After the ball bounced off Thayer’s chest, Smith said Dugan turned around and
punched Prescott’s Randy Emmett in the face.

“He just threw a classic jab — straight from the shoulder — and laid him
out,” Smith told the Courier in Prescott. “I remember
that like it was yesterday. (Emmett) bounced off the floor.”

Emmett lay on the court out cold when Smith ran to him. Emmett’s scalp was cut
and he was bleeding “almost from the eye sockets,” Smith said.

Players and spectators from both sides swarmed the floor. Officials stopped the
game and escorted the crowd out of gym under the direction of Prescott school
district superintendent Abia Judd.

Then-Prescott High football coach and athletic director Ollie Cline sprinted
onto the court, picked up Dugan and carried him straight to a locker room to
help avert what could have been a serious incident.

Once the officials had cleared all spectators, the two teams played the last
several seconds of the game in an empty gym. Flagstaff won 62-59.

Outside, Prescott fans surrounded Flagstaff’s team bus. The angry crowd threw
projectiles at the bus and knocked out most of the windows as the Eagles tried
to drive off.

Prescott’s city police escorted the bus north to Ash Fork to avoid further

Meanwhile, paramedics rushed Emmett to Prescott Community Hospital. He suffered
a broken nose, a concussion, and facial and head lacerations that required 16

Emmett was unconscious for several minutes after the punch.

Dugan traveled to Prescott three days after the game and visited Emmett in his
hospital room to apologize.

The Flagstaff school board later offered formal apologies to the Prescott board
of education.

The Arizona Interscholastic Association, the regulatory body for high school
athletics in the state, suspended Dugan for the remainder of the basketball
season on Jan. 23, 1964.

Prescott was scheduled to play in a rematch at Flagstaff, but forfeited that
game rather than face the Eagles a second time.

Dugan claimed Badger players called him names and used racial slurs against him
throughout the game, which precipitated the punch on Emmett.

Prescott players on the court that night to this day deny that any racial slurs
were used. They say the tough defense that bottled up the high-scoring Dugan
that evening caused frustration to spill over.

“We had a pretty good group of kids there, and I talked to all of them as did
Joe Russo who was the assistant principal, and Ollie Cline who was the athletic
director,” Smith said. “They swore up and down that there was nobody on the
team calling them any names. We were looking at it as a completely unprovoked

Prescott finished the 1963-64 season with a 6-11 record while Flagstaff took
the top seed into the state tournament, where it lost in the first round.


Information from: The Daily Courier,


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