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Fort Wayne Sports History: Pistons played for two NBA titles

Fred Schaus, right, drives for a basket against the Minneapolis Lakers during a game at North Side Gym, Febuary 16, 1952.

Despite long series, local team denied world championship

Monday, July 1, 2013 - 5:35 pm

Editor's Note: This is the sixth in a series of excepts from the book ``Fort Wayne Sports History.

April 10, 1955

The Syracuse Nationals won 92-91 when George King hit a free throw with 12 seconds left and then stole the ball from Andy Phillip in the final seconds.

King scored 15 points to lead the Nats, who had seven players score in double figures and hit 40 of 49 free throws. Larry Foust scored 24 points to lead the Pistons who attempted 34 free throws.

Fort Wayne led 31-21 after the first quarter and 53-47 at halftime, but the Nationals tied the score 74-74 after three quarters. At one point, the Pistons had a 17-point lead, 41-24, in the second quarter.

Dolph Schayes hit two free throws with a minute left to give Syracuse a 91-90 lead, but the Pistons' George Yardley answered with a free throw. The Pistons had a chance to take the lead, but Yardley turned the ball over on a palming violation with 18 seconds left. Then King was fouled and missed the first free throw but hit the second before stealing the ball from Phillip with three seconds remaining.

Schayes finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds per game in the series. Foust, Brian and Yardley all averaged 16 points per game for the Pistons, and Mel Hutchins scored 14. Phillip set a record with 7.1 assists per game. The Pistons shot 79 percent from the free throw line compared to 75 percent for the Nationals, but Syracuse had 30 more attempts in the series.

This was the first NBA Finals to use the 24-second shot-clock.

The Pistons had defeated the Minneapolis Lakers in four games during the semifinals, twice playing into overtime.

April 7, 1956

The Pistons lose to Philadelphia 99-88 in the deciding Game 5 of the NBA Finals.

After winning the Western Division title with a 37-35 record, the Pistons fell behind St. Louis 2-0 in the best-of-five semifinals before rallying to win the series in the fifth game 102-97 before a Fort Wayne playoff-record crowd of 9,261. The Pistons were the first NBA team to rally from a 2-0 deficit to win a five-game playoff series.

Things never worked out in the finals as the Warriors won the first game in Fort Wayne to take control early.

Pistons owner Fred Zollner had come close once again, but eventually became the longest-tenured owner (34 years) never to win an NBA championship.

Woodson wins first-round voting

Rod Woodson's induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame took 39 percent of the vote to win the first of four rounds in a vote to decide Fort Wayne's All-Time Greatest Sporting Event.

Woodson beat out Fort Wayne hosting the 1953 NBA All-Star Game with 27 percent and Baseball Kekiongas play first game in National League with 21 percent. Harding High School's Lashanda Harper winning 11 state titles finished with 8 percent of the vote and Sharon Wichman-Jones winning an Olympic Gold Medal received 5 percent.

The next round of voting will take place in four weeks.

For more information on the book "Fort Wayne Sports History'' written by News-Sentinel sports reporter Blake Sebring visit www.amauth.com or www.blakesebring.com.