HALL OF FAME: Elders Ridge's Bolo known for big game, but his career was so much more
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fifth of an eight-part series profiling the individuals who will be inducted into the Indiana County Sports Hall of Fame. Tomorrow: Mark Hess.
It has been more than 47 years since that night, and he still remembers thinking it was just like any other basketball game. But the evening turned out to be anything but ordinary, and the game against rival Elderton ended up in the record books.
He remembers the cheers coming from the crowd, and he remembers feeling on top of the world.
Marty Bolo, the 5-foot-11 senior, squared up
time and time again and drained jumper after jumper. It seemed as if he couldn’t miss, and everyone in attendance knew there was something special happening in the gym that night.
“I actually got a chance to play in that game,” teammate Mike Bertolino said. “We all knew he was hot, and we kept feeding him the ball. It was swish, swish, swish all night long. It was incredible to watch.”
Bolo finished with an astounding 61 points, and Elders Ridge walked away with a 98-34 win over the winless Bobcats in a WPIAL Section 21-B game.
“It was honestly just like any other game to me,” Bolo said of his record-setting performance. “But as time went on, I could sense something in the crowd.
“You have to understand, it was two small schools, so it was a very intimate setting. There was something in the crowd, but I didn’t know what was going on until after the game. Coach (Norman) Lewandowski told me afterward, and I was shocked at what I had done.”
Bolo hit 28 field goals and five free throws in the Jan. 25, 1966 game to set the Alle-Kiski Valley single-game scoring record.
“I have never seen anything like it,” Lewandowski said. “He just kept throwing them in there. He was making them so fast, we didn’t even have time to set up a play.”
The 64-year-old Bolo, who now lives in Manassas, Va., held that record for almost 45 years until Highlands’ Micah Mason fired in 64 points on Jan. 25, 2011.
That 61-point night might be Bolo’s longtime claim to fame, but the 1966 Elders Ridge graduate was — and still is — an all-around athlete.
Throughout the years, Bolo played on many pick-up basketball teams, won multiple baseball championships in the Indiana County League, was a part of the American Legion state championship bowling team and has participated in the state VFW golf tournament in Indiana more than 30 times.
His success and athleticism will be recognized Sunday evening when he is welcomed into the Indiana County Sports Hall of Fame at the annual induction banquet.
“It totally took me by surprise,” Bolo said of the phone call he received about the honor. “I feel very privileged as someone who deserves to be there. There have been a lot of teammates and opponents who have been inducted. I saw a lot of familiar names, and to be compared to them is truly an honor. To be recognized for my ability to compete is very special to me.”
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Bolo was a three-sport athlete at Elders Ridge High School where he participated in football, basketball and track and field. His senior year, he was a captain of the football and basketball teams. Just a few years before he reached varsity eligibility, the school cut its baseball program, forcing Bolo to compete on the track in the spring months.
“I did all the sports,” he said. “I wish they would’ve kept the baseball team because I was a much better baseball player than a trackster. But I wanted to compete, so I participated in track. I think either basketball or baseball was my favorite, though.”
Bolo finally got his chance on the baseball field in the Indiana County League in 1965. He started at shortstop for Coal Run, which went on to win the league title that year with a 4-3 victory over Saltsburg.
“I didn’t know him that awfully well because he was right out of high school, and I was older than him, but he could really hit,” teammate Tony Sottile Jr. said. “When the Plumville team disbanded, I went to play for Coal Run because I knew some of the guys there. I played third base and Marty played shortstop, so we played beside each other for a couple years, and I enjoyed playing with him very much. He is a good person, and has a great personality.”
After serving in the United States Air Force from 1969-73 working in ammunition storage, Bolo returned to the diamond. But this time, he joined the West Lebanon team which was managed by Bertolino, his high school friend and teammate. West Lebanon then won the ICL championship in 1973 and 1976 with the Vietnam veteran as its shortstop.
Bolo, who graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 1975, attributes some of his success in the county league to his time playing fast-pitch softball while in the military. He was the second baseman for the base team at Korat, Thailand, which ended up losing in the finals of the Far East tournament.
“Marty was a hell of an athlete,” Bertolino said. “He’s probably one of the best athletes to ever come out of the old Elders Ridge school. When he played on the WL team, he was great in the field. He was a great hitter, a great teammate and an overall great athlete. The only reason we did track in high school was because we didn’t have baseball.”
In 1977, Bolo set aside his basketball shoes and baseball glove for a set of golf clubs and a bowling ball. No matter what sport he was into, Bolo was always one of the best.
He played in his first VFW state golf tournament in ‘77 and never missed another one until 2004 when he suffered injuries from a car accident. He has played in a few since 2005, and will return to Indiana again in June for the annual event.
Though he has never won the championship flight, Bolo has snagged a first flight win and placed second three times. He shot the lowest qualifying score in 1994, but couldn’t capture a title.
“I certainly like going back for that,” said Bolo, who is a lifetime member of the VFW. “Before I moved to Virginia, I really started enjoying it because you make relationships with the fellows. There are probably around 100 people in that tournament now, but back then, there was over 300. We used to tee off at daybreak because it was a big event at that time.”
Bolo also won several bowling league titles at Mohawk Lanes, and he was a part of the American Legion state bowling championship team that represented Indiana Post 1941. It was bowling, too, which led him to his wife, Kay.
Both were league members at Mohawk, and Kay started golfing around the same time she met Marty.
“I obviously knew he was a good bowler because we bowled together,” she said of her husband. “I then realized he was a good golfer when I started golfing and people would talk about him. And then, when I met his friends, they started talking about the baseball and how he was good at that, too. It wasn’t until I met his mother that I knew about all the basketball stuff that he did. He is just good at every sport he tries.”
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No matter how much he has accomplished on the field, on the course or at the lanes, Bolo, formerly of Young Township, will always be remembered for his breathtaking performance in high school.
His 61-point game fell short of the Indiana County record of 66 that was set by Penns Manor’s Tom Jones on Feb. 12, 1965. But both records were set in the mid-’60s, well before the 3-point field goal line was introduced into high school basketball in 1986.
“I thought for sure after the 3-pointer came to high school that the record would go,” he said, “but it still hangs in there. People have told me that I hit about nine 20-foot jump shots, which would’ve given me another nine points. It doesn’t change anything, but of course you think about it every once in a while.”
Even though his team was up big and he started putting his second-string players in, Lewandowski kept Bolo, who led the team in scoring for two straight years, in the game. Bolo, who is now a benefit analyst with Serco, Inc., was chosen to the all-county and WPIAL Section 21 teams in both his junior and senior seasons. He wasn’t the tallest or fastest player on his team, but he was easily the best dribbler and shooter.
“We weren’t thinking about running up the score, and we weren’t even thinking about the record,” Lewandowski said. “He was just so hot with the ball, and we were going to let him cool off and take him out, but he never did. And it was amazing.”
“When you get into the flow of the game and competition, you just play,” Bolo said. “(Lewandowski) saw that there was really something happening, and he let me do it.”
Because of his shooting barrage against neighboring Elderton, Bolo attracted the attention of IUP. His two-year stint with the Indians didn’t amount to much, and he decided to leave the university for the military. He eventually returned to IUP to finish up his degree and graduated in 1975.
“Back then, they had a freshman team, and I played on that,” he said. “I was eligible to return to the team after my years in the Air Force, but I just looked forward to sandlot baseball. Plus, the kids were much younger than me at that time. I played there because I could. They didn’t even show much interest in me until after that 61-point game.”
Until Mason, no player had even come close to breaking the Alle-Kiski Valley single-game scoring record, and Bolo liked it that way.
“I still say it was like any other basketball game,” Bolo said. “Three years after I graduated, Elders Ridge and Apollo Area merged to form Apollo-Ridge. That ended sports at Elders Ridge, so I’m glad it happened when it did, but I was involved of a little bit of everything my whole life.
“Of course that night sticks out in my mind and it was special, but there have been other things I’ve done in sports that were special, too. And I’ve had fun doing them all.”
Family: Wife, Kay; stepdaughters, Traci Fick and Janet Whetzel; sister, Barbara Johnson.
Education: Elders Ridge High School, 1966; IUP, 1975.
Residence: Manassas, Va.
Occupation: Benefit analyst, Serco, Inc.
Career highlights: Set an Alle-Kiski Valley high school basketball record by scoring 61 points in a game. ... Won Indiana County League baseball titles with Coal Run and West Lebanon. ... Was a member of the American Legion state bowling championship team.