(This deletes the name of the co-combatant, which Dave says is St.Elizabeth of Oakland. Nate Branch later played for Nebraska and the Harlem Globetrotters and was recently known to play organ at a local church.
From Jim Gallegher, 2008:
Crane, now retired and living in Auburn, installed Milky as a starting guard on his 1961-1962 Ravenswood varsity, one of the best high school teams in Peninsula history. He played in perhaps the greatest high school game ever played here.
The date was March 17, 1962. It was the championship game of the Peninsula Basketball Tournament at Stanford University. Ravenswood featured Johnson, Nate Branch, Milt Dickerson, Clifton Grandy and Art Crum.
The opponent was St. Elizabeth of Oakland, with center Kevin Hardy, 6 feet 5 inches tall and 270 pounds, and a sharpshooting forward named Pat Furlong.
There was no shot clock; both teams took turns holding the ball. The game was tied at 58 after four overtimes. Crane called for a play to Johnson at the head of the key with five seconds left. Branch, in the corner, couldn’t find Milky and launched a jump shot as time ran out.
The ball hit nothing but net. Ravenswood 60, St. Elizabeth 58. The packed stands of rickety Stanford Pavilion erupted.
Branch, best known among the Ravenswood alums, went on to the University of Nebraska, where he was All-Big Eight and enjoyed a decade with the Harlem Globetrotters. Milky and several of his teammates matriculated at CSM, where they were welcomed by Coach Avina.
“We had Milky, Dickerson, Crum and George Raybon from Ravenswood,” Avina recalled. “CSM’s new hilltop campus had just opened. It was a challenge for those guys to get here. They were known to jump a freight at the county line and ride up to San Mateo.”
The Ravenswood contingent made an immediate impact.
The Bulldogs captured the 1964 Modesto Tournament, a premiere early-season event matching 16 of the best community college teams throughout the West.
“It was a great thrill,” Avina recalled. “Milky was fantastic. He and Raybon were named to the all-tournament team.”
Johnson left school after the basketball season but returned for another year at San Mateo that earned him a bid from coach Rene Herrerias at UC Berkeley for the 1966-1967 campaign.
Milky’s contributions were modest.
A 10-point effort against UCLA — the national champions — was the high-water mark.
An early marriage and an infant with health problems compelled Milky to abandon Berkeley and enter the workforce. Beset with a chronic heart ailment, he died shortly before Christmas in 1991.
His older brother, Timroff, who also played basketball at Ravenswood, succumbed to diabetes in 1994.
Ravenswood High basketball may be a fading memory to its coterie of aging alumni, but to Milky’s teammate Branch, a 1991 county Hall of Fame inductee, the Johnson aura burns brightly.
“He was born to play the game,” Branch recalled recently. “He never practiced “… just played one pickup game after another. The smoothest I’ve ever seen.
“Small as he was, he would dunk during warm-ups, and the crowd would go crazy. But off the court, he’d go his own way. Later on, he had a family to take care of.”
Milky’s daughter, Sonja, of Fremont, and his mother, Dewell Johnson of Menlo Park, expect to attend the Hall of Fame ceremony.
By the way, I texted Hans Delannoy, Cubberley 1969 and my Gunn coach 1981 and he replied without much thought “Elizabeth with Kevin Hardy”.
Basketball legend and former Harlem Globetrotter, Nate Branch spoke to MC Sports youth about his time playing ball. The presentation took place at the East Palo Alto YMCA on December 14, 2017.
Branch, a star player at Ravenswood High School in East Palo Alto, went on to play for Nebraska University and launched to celebrity status with the Globetrotters. At the event, the kids watched clips featuring the Globetrotters, on the late 70’s early 80’s, high school basketball, TV drama series, “The White Shadow.”
Being a professional athlete brings many opportunities, some good some bad, shares Branch. He traveled the world, met three presidents and had a TV career with the Globetrotters. But being an athlete took a toll on his body. In his talk, Branch imparts to the kids that he is thankful for his education which enabled him to support himself after retiring from basketball.
A key takeaway from Branch’s presentation is the importance of working hard toward your goals, and education is a part of that process. You can improve your life and be successful even if you come from a lower income community like East Palo Alto.
Nate Branch possibly made the most incredible shot in basketball history — a jumper from the corner at the end of the fifth overtime of a tournament championship game. Although it happened at the high school level, on the Stanford University campus in 1962, Branch’s perfect swish had a historical imprint in other ways. The game was between an all-black team and an all-white team located in California cities that were designated as murder capitals in America. The Seismic Sixties, the most transformative decade of the century, was just underway as Branch gave Ravenswood High of East Palo Alto, the black public school team with a White Shadow coach, a hard-fought, exhausting victory over St. Elizabeth High, a parochial school from Oakland. In 2018, author Dave Newhouse met with players and coaches from both teams to relive that game — the longest high school tournament championship basketball game up to that point — and the ramifications that followed. Both schools would shut down in name, the tournament would be discontinued, the gymnasium no longer is used for basketball, and the three newspapers that covered the tournament are no longer in operation. Thus players and coaches from that game, plus additional alumni who were interviewed, view that memorable evening from a lifetime’s perspective. East Palo Alto, in 1992, led the country in murders per capital. Oakland continually ranked in the top ten until both cities underwent gentrifications that reduced crime immeasurably. Both current mayors of the two municipalities were interviewed about the cultural change. Though a number of combined players have passed on, a long-overdue reunion of the players from that classic game took place fifty-five years afterward in 2017 at a church where Branch, the game’s hero, plays the organ and sings on Sunday mornings inside the East Palo Alto church where his father was the pastor. The Seismic Sixties are relived as well as the five-overtime game has moved on from a fierce rivalry to a friendly relationship.
This was Dave’s 15th book; there is also something about St. Mary’s Football at the Cotton Bowl.