By J.R. VANHOOSE
PAINTSVILLE — Paintsville High School dedicated its new, 2,500 seat gym on December 9, 1952 as the Tigers defeated the Flat Gap Greyhounds 72-50.
There have been some high-scoring individual performances in the history of the gym. Some of those high -coring games include Paintsville’s Keith Adkins, who scored 53 points against Pikeville High School on January 22, 1988. There was also the Tigers’ Todd Tackett who overtook Adkins’ scoring record on February 17, 1998 by scoring 56 against Pike County Central.
However, the scoring record for Memorial Gym is not held by either of those players, in fact it’s not even held by a high school player.
On January 8, 1953 the following sports article ran in the Paintsville Herald, “According to Coach McKenzie of the Mayo State Vocational School, six cage tilts are scheduled for the Pirates for January, all to be played at home (the Paintsville High gym) against some outstanding College and Independent teams. On January 10, the Pirates meet a Blue Ribbon Squad from Rio Grande College. This college team is undefeated at this date and boasts the nation’s top basketeer who holds a 47.3 point average per game for this year.” The player from Rio Grande was Clarence “Bevo” Francis, a 6’9” freshman from Hammondsville, Ohio.
“Bevo” Francis averaged nearly 32 points a game as a high school senior at Wellsville, Ohio, his only year on the varsity squad, and was a unanimous all-state selection. After being offered numerous scholarships, he decided to follow his high school coach, Newt Oliver, to tiny Rio Grande. Oliver had played basketball at Rio Grande and no doubt had been offered the job so that his prized prospect would come to the school as well.
On January 9, 1953 against Ashland Junior College, “Bevo” scored a national record 116 points, making 47 field goals and 22 free throws, in a 150-85 win. The most amazing fact from the game is that he scored 55 points in the finals ten minutes of the game to get his final tally. The game between Mayo State Vocational and Rio Grande was played the night after Francis’ amazing performance against Ashland, in the Paintsville High School gym. “Bevo” scored 63 points in a 119-91 win over Mayo State Vocational to set the scoring record at the Paintsville High gym.
Amazingly, the 63-point game was not reported in the local paper, it was not until weeks later that the Paintsville Herald reported, “Most fans will remember the Rio Grande game played here a few weeks ago when 6’9” Bevo [Francis] scored 63 points on the PHS floor to set the individual scoring record on the floor to almost unobtainable heights.” Less than a month later, on February 7, 1953, Mayo and Rio Grande squared off again, this time at Community Hall on the campus of Rio Grande. This time Francis scored 60 points in a 126-98 win.
“Bevo” Francis went on to have an outstanding season. Rio Grande finished with a perfect 39-0 record and “Bevo” finished with an astonishing 50.1 points-per-game average. He became a UPI, Helms Foundation, and Associated Press All-American and set NAIA season records for field goals (708), free throws (538), point (1,954), and average (50.1). The NAIA recognizes all of his records, however, his 116 point performance and some other records were wiped from the record books by the NCAA as the competition that was played was not against degree-granting institutions.
Francis followed up this miraculous season by averaging nearly 50 points a game the following year, including scoring 113 points against Hillsdale (MichiganI) College. The 113 points is recognized as the individual collegiate scoring record. The Rio Grande Redmen went 21-7 in that 1953-54 season and were ranked as one of the Top 20 teams in the country. In two-seasons Francis scored an astounding 3,272 points, making 1,180 shots and 913 free throws.
After only two seasons at Rio Grande, “Bevo” signed with the Harlem Globetrotters in April 1954, playing with the Boston Whirlwinds, the Globetrotters opponents for two seasons. He was then drafted by the Philadelphia Warriors of the NBA in 1956, but did not play for them. The scoring record for Paintsville’s gym, as of now, has been “unobtainable” and the closest that anyone has gotten has been Todd Tackett’s performance in 1998. It is the folk hero “Bevo” Francis that holds the record.