SoBo great Scalia headed into Hall

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Jim Franz/Beloit Daily News Peter Scalia (30) was an All-State player with the South Beloit SoBos.

Peter Scalia came close to becoming a Beloit Catholic Crusader back in 1982. Or a Boylan Titan.

Instead, he decided to play for his hometown South Beloit High School and enjoyed one of the finest basketball careers ever by a SoBo.

Scalia passed the 1,000-point plateau his junior year and finished with 1,831 points, more than any SoBo before him, including boyhood idol Perry Range. He went on to play Division I basketball for Centenary College in Shreveport, La., and on June 8 he will be inducted into the Beloit Historical Society's Elliott-Perring Sports Hall of Fame.

"This sort of feels like the closing of a chapter," Scalia said. "I'm looking forward to it."

Scalia's steady performances as a SoBo led to All-State recognition.

"I didn't ever score 40 points, but I rarely scored under 20," said Scalia in a telephone interview from his hometown in Stillwater, Minn.

He finished his career having scored in double figures in 78 games, leading the SoBos to a 70-9 record.

It all began for Scalia at St. Peter Grade School where he teamed with his tall, lankier friend Sonny Roberts, to dominate foes. In three years, they lost a total of three games.

While Boylan head coach Steve Goers heavily recruited both and Scalia's friends at the Boys Club tried to lure him to South Beloit, both players leaned toward Beloit Catholic for awhile. Roberts, though, chose to play at Boylan and grew into a 6-foot-7 all-conference center and future Illinois State player.

Scalia said his friends and SoBo head coach Jack McCarthy eventually won out with him.

Joining the varsity as a sophomore, he was an instant success, earning Class A All-State honorable mention for a 24-3 team in 1983. The following season he averaged 25.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and shot 61 percent from the floor and 79 percent from the line to repeat the same honor. Locally, he was the Trailblazer Conference Player of the Year as well as Beloit Daily News All-Area Player of the Year as he led the SoBos to a 22-4 campaign.

"The most fun times I had in high school were in the Christmas tournaments, like the Durand Holiday tournament and the Winnebago Tournament," Scalia said. "The gyms were packed. The competition was very good. I wish we could have played a little bit better competition in our non-conference games throughout the season, but most of the good non-conference teams didn't want to play us.

"In the long run that hurts you. At regional time, you play Mid-Northern (Conference) schools. They've been beating each other up all season and they're ready. We always played on their floors, too. That hurt."

Scalia's senior season was another special one for the SoBos, who posted their third straight Trailblazer Conference title.

The 6-foot-4 Scalia ranked in the top five in Illinois in scoring, averaging 26.8 points as he shifted between outside shooting guard and power forward. He shot 65 percent from the floor and 79 percent from the line, earning All-State First Team honors as the third-highest vote-getter. He shared Daily News All-Area Player of the Year honors with Hononegah senior Dean Severn.

Scalia scored 35 points in his final regular-season game, an 89-46 romp over Christian Life that boosted the SoBos to 22-1 overall. They were ranked as high as third in the state that season.

Scalia had 33 points as the SoBos buried Stillman Valley 74-44 in their regional opener. But in the finals, they met their match in 21-6 Stillman Valley and 6-foot-9 Dan Godfread, 74-54. Scalia finished with 17 points.

Scalia received a lot of recruiting letters, but the large schools weren't following up their initial inquiries. He said he was fortunate former Beloiter Mike McCarthy, who had settled in Shreveport, knew about him and recommended him to Division I Centenary. Scalia visited the school and was sold. He signed in May of 1995.

Scalia's skill-set wasn't a great fit, however.

"I was more of a big shooting guard and we relied on speed and quickness and defense to create points," he said. "I didn't really fit in."

Finally late in his senior year, the Scalia of old emerged. Centenary put together a five-game winning streak at the finish that vaulted them into a conference title game against Arkansas-Little Rock. In the final four games, Scalia averaged 12 points, shooting 57.6 percent. His career high of 22 points came in a 92-87 overtime win at Hardin-Simmons in the final week of his collegiate career.

Centenary's 100-72 loss to Arkansas-Little Rock prevented the Gents from going to the NCAA Tournament. Ironically, Hononegah grad Severn was a member of that Arkansas-Little Rock team.

Scalia was a member of one of the most exciting plays in the school's history. On Feb. 4, 1989 at Sharp Gym in Houston, Texas, the Gents trailed Houston Baptist, 81-80, with just one second left to play and the ball under their own basket. Scalia was the inbounds man and had to pass over 6-9 defender Omar Sierra. Scalia took two steps backward and let fly a long pass.

That pass traveled 82 feet from Scalia into the waiting arms of Larry Robinson, who canned a spinaround jumper at the buzzer for an 82-81 victory. That play was ESPN's Play of the Week.

After graduation, Scalia went to work for Economy Fire and Casualty in Freeport. When that company was bought by St. Paul Companies in 1994 he transferred to the main headquarters in Minnesota.

He married a Division II pitching star, Sheri, and they live in Stillwater, a city of about 20,000 in the Twin Cities Metro Area. He is the father of four daughters.

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