Men's basketball | NCAA tournament

Bridgeman, Trgovich 'Harbored' no ill will in '75 NCAA semis

2013-04-05T18:15:00Z 2013-04-09T23:23:07Z Bridgeman, Trgovich 'Harbored' no ill will in '75 NCAA semisAl Hamnik al.hamnik@nwi.com (219) 933-4154 nwitimes.com
April 05, 2013 6:15 pm  • 

"Pistol" Pete Trgovich was the scorer. Tim Stoddard provided the inside muscle. And Ulysses "Junior" Bridgeman was too often the unsung hero.

They helped guide East Chicago Washington to a 29-0 record and the 1971 Indiana high school state basketball championship, along with starting guards Darnell Adell and Ruben Bailey.

Nicknamed "UCLA Jr." because of their explosiveness, the Senators averaged 95.4 points for the regular season, 81.2 for nine tournament games, and 91.0 for all games. They broke 100 on eight occasions.

Now fast forward to the 1975 NCAA semifinals in San Diego, where Louisville, Kentucky, UCLA and Syracuse comprised the Final Four.

The NCAA tournament featured only 32 teams then.

Trgovich played for the Bruins, Bridgeman the Cardinals.

Like today in Atlanta, where three former region players -- Chesterton's Mitch McGary, Lake Central's Glenn Robinson III and Crown Point's Spike Albrecht -- will all play in a NCAA Final Four semifinal, but they will all be wearing the same uniform, Michigan.

Both Trgovich and Bridgeman met in the second semifinal in '75 and, depending on who you talk to, had to guard each other.

"That made it kinda surreal and there was a lot of mixed emotions because we had played together so long, since junior high," said Bridgeman, adding he and Trgovich had met for dinner a day or two before the game.

"We didn't even talk about it. We talked about what was going on back in the Harbor."

Trgovich remembered their meeting a bit differently as UCLA beat Louisville 75-74 in overtime.

"I guarded him but he guarded Marques Johnson," Trgovich insisted. "We spoke on the phone in our hotel rooms for a long time before the game. We always have great conversations.

"He asked me 'Who you guarding?' and I said him. It got quiet. It was awkward. But it didn't bother me. Junior wasn't wearing (UCLA) blue and gold."

Both scored 12 points in the game and Trgovich even remembered what they shot.

"I was 6 of 12 and Junior was 4 of 12, with 15 rebounds," said Trgovich, now an East Chicago teacher. "I feel I did a real good job on him to shoot 33 percent from the field."

According to the CBSSports.com NCAA boxscore from that game, Bridgeman actually shot 4 of 15.

UCLA went on to beat Kentucky 92-85 for coach John Wooden's 10th and final national title.

Currently, Bridgeman is president of Louisville-based Bridgeman Foods LLC which owns and operates more than 160 Wendy's franchises across the country.

He also had a productive NBA sixth-man career from 1975-1987 with the Bucks and Clippers.

Bridgeman plans to attend today's Final Four matchups in Atlanta involving Wichita State-Louisville and Michigan-Syracuse

And he'll continue to pray for Louisville guard Kevin Ware, who suffered a hideous compound fracture of his right leg against Duke on Easter Sunday.

"In all the years of watching basketball, I never saw an injury like that," Bridgeman shuddered.

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