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BY MIKE AVITT
Thanks to Max Varner, son of Alvin Varner and grandson of O. C. Varner, for this week’s picture. The players are unidentified but, of course, that is coach Omer Clay “Pop” Varner in the back row on the right. And I believe the player in the front row on the far left is Corwin Bonebrake. I say that because Corwin appears as number 7 in a newspaper photo.
The Diagonal Maroons won the state basketball title in 1938 and I’ve written about that. There were many other successful seasons, so let’s look at some of those.
After the 1938 championship, the Diagonal boys returned to the state tournament in 1939. The Maroons beat Clinton and Hubbard to get to the semi-finals. On Saturday afternoon, in Des Moines, the Diagonal team scored a difficult victory over Mason City. That evening, Diagonal was beaten 25-20 by Creston. Diagonal missed back-to-back state titles by six points.
Another powerful team was the 1934-35 squad. Diagonal went into the state tournament with thirty victories, two losses, and two star players; Leroy McCreary and Corwin Bonebrake. The highlight was the defeat of Sioux City East by the Maroons. Sioux City was not only favored, they were the 1933-34 champs.
The skills and abilities of Bonebrake were noted in the big-city newspapers. The Des Moines Register named Corwin Bonebrake to the All-State First Team. Diagonal finished fourth in the 1935 tournament, so, that is three, top-four finishes in five years.
Bonebrake continued to be lauded in 1936. In January, Corwin was voted the second-best amateur athlete in Iowa for 1935, barely trailing University of Iowa football star, Ozzie Simmons.
Bonebrake collected 141,799 votes to 142,464 for Simmons. I don’t know who was eligible to vote or how the process functioned. Bonebrake went on to have a brilliant college career. Professional basketball did not exist in the 1930s.
Omer Clay “Pop” Varner coached at Delphos in the 1920s, at Diagonal from 1930 to 1946, and at Mount Ayr from 1946 to 1952. O. C. Varner suffered a stroke in 1952 and never coached again.