The 1945-46 season saw a revitalized American Basketball League. Rosters were stabilizing and the league enjoyed its best race in over a decade. At the midway point in the season, only two games separated the first and sixth place team. Fan interest blossomed and attendance was up substantially.
Philadelphia was the first to break out of the pack. The Sphas were talented (four of the five starters had been college All-Americans) and deep. The high-scoring frontline of Ralph Kaplowitz, Inky Lautman and Art Hillhouse was the league’s best, while guards Ossie Schectman and Bernie Opper were top-notch. As powerful as the Sphas were, the Baltimore Bullets tied them for first place with a late-season 15-5 rush to the finish line. Baltimore’s resurgence was generated by the acquisition of Mike Bloom from Trenton in a trade for Art Spector. The Bullets relied on superior teamwork and good ball handling to outmaneuver quicker foes. Bloom and Stan Stutz, who blossomed into the league’s leading scorer after two mediocre seasons, powered the Bullets’ offense.
The New York Gothams finished a strong third. Coach Barney Sedran discarded all of last year’s veterans except top scorer Sonny Hertzberg. He put together a young, fast-breaking squad that featured New York City players, most of them just out of the service. Rookies Leo Gottleib, Tony Kappen, and Frido Frey added enthusiasm and solid play to the Gothams. Wilmington captured fourth place, and the last playoff spot, with the league’s stingiest defense. The two New Jersey clubs, Trenton and Paterson, finished at the bottom of the standings.
After Baltimore defeated Philadelphia 63-61 to claim the regular season title, the two clubs quickly brushed aside New York and Wilmington respectively in the playoffs, for the right to face off again in the best-of-five game championship series. The Sphas opened with a convincing 15-point win at home, but the Bullets countered with an equally crushing 17-point conquest on their homecourt. The scene for the third game shifted back to the cozy Broadwood Hotel in Philadelphia, but the homecourt advantage proved meaningless as the Bullets exploded for a shocking 68-45 win over the Sphas. The next day in Baltimore, the Bullets closed out the series with a 54-39 victory to claim their first ABL. championship. The American League enjoyed its best season on the court and at the box office in nearly a decade. The future of the league looked very bright.