Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Hoosier Hysteria? Redux and Reminisce...

Indiana high school basketball used to be big. Small towns were consumed with it in the 1950s and 1960s. Indiana high school basketball was memorialized in the film "Hoosiers". So what happened?

Lots of things. School consolidation. An expansion of other boys and girls high school sports. Every alternative form of entertainment in the last 50 years. Class tournaments.

But regardless of what happened, boys high school basketball does not occupy the central role it once held in small-town Indiana.


The Author was a kid in the waning days of Hoosier Hysteria. He went to lots of West Noble High School basketball games and watched the newly-consolidated West Noble Chargers lose two close final games in the sectionals. And as a college student, he covered high school sports for a small-town paper. So he watched the game change as the times changed.


Below is a repost of an article in the Kendallville News Sun from February 28th, 2009. But it is more literally from the last week of February, 1966.

43 years later, sectional fever has cooled

Staff Reports

Saturday, 28 February 2009 00:00

It was sectional fever time. Now there’s a term not used much anymore.

Forty-three years ago, 10 area high school boys varsity basketball teams gathered in the South Side Gym for the 1966 Kendallville sectional Feb. 23-26, the first rung of that year’s single-class Indiana High School Athletic Association boys state basketball tournament.

The last sectional before school district consolidation featured the only undefeated team in the state, the Garrett Railroaders, and the 20-1 Wolf Lake Wolves, riding a 15-game winning streak.

The field also included the Kendallville Comets, 9-11; Avilla Panthers, 12-8; Ligonier Red Raiders, 7-12; Auburn Red Devils, 5-15; Cromwell Spartans, 4-15; Churubusco Eagles, 9-10, Albion-Jefferson Trojans, 9-12; and Wawaka Warriors, 0-19.

Sectional fever was everywhere leading up to the tournament. Pep sessions fired up the students. Pep club members and cheerleaders decorated school hallways and classrooms with banners and posters. Fan buses were arranged for the trip to Kendallville.

School colors were popular, and with consolidation looming, that sectional was the last occasion those colors would be worn or waved with pride at a basketball game for many schools.

Cheerleaders painted windows and hung banners in the small towns’ business districts. Retailers offered special “sectional time” deals on everything from cars to appliances to groceries. The V&A Restaurant in downtown Kendallville had a six-piece fried chicken basket special for $2 and a 12-piece basket for $3.25.

The Youth Center in Kendallville held its annual basketball open house for school basketball fans on Saturday from 3 to 7:30 p.m. with pingpong, pool and teen lounge for listening to records and watching TV. A local rock ‘n’ band, “The Chargers,” performed at the dance after the championship game.

Restaurant-goers and bar patrons gathered at their favorite places to talk basketball, specifically the Garrett Railroaders and if any team could beat them. Because Garrett was the only undefeated team in the state, area and state media focused on the Kendallville sectional.

Garrett had 7-foot Chuck Bavis, one of the best players in the state and averaging 30 points and 15 rebounds a game. He attracted national media attention.

The $3 tickets for the five-session sectional in the 4,070-seat gym were all sold before the tourney started.

I remember the excitement for me. As a member of coach Dave Bowers’ Kendallville Junior High School eighth-grade basketball team, I received a free sectional pass along with my teammates. Athletic director John Reed assigned us the responsibility of helping the janitors clean up the gym after the games.

The draw pitted Wolf Lake against Avilla in Wednesday night’s opening game in the six-team lower bracket, followed by Ligonier and Auburn. Thursday night’s opener had Garrett vs. Cromwell in the four-team upper bracket followed by Wawaka and Albion. Friday night’s games pitted the winner between Wolf Lake and Avilla vs. the winner between Ligonier and Auburn, followed by Kendallville vs. Churubusco.

The semifinals were held Saturday at 12:30 and 1:45 p.m., and the championship game was scheduled for 8:15 p.m. Saturday night. That meant two games in one day for two teams, unheard of today.

Coach Burton Wygant’s Wolf Lake Wolves included Lonnie Ladig, Russell Wysong, Dan Perry, Allen Pulley, Bill Hively, Nick Keister, Martin Gaff, Jerry Ott, Doug Taggart, Dan Mitchell and Ed Dunlap.

Coach George Olson’s Avilla Panthers featured Jim Wedding, Fred Myers, Gary Beltz, Jim Frisch, Dave Petrie, Steve Helmer, Charles Wolf, Ron Bruce, Jim Petrie and Phil Luttman.

Ligonier coach Hal Prickett fielded a team consisting of Quentin Saggars, Gary Badorek, Gary Tope, Rolly Badorek, Lyle Becker, Dave Blanchard, Dennis Berkey, Max Golden, Randy Holden, Terry Johnson, Dick Stahly and Greg Warner.

The Auburn Red Devils’ players were Jesse Knowles, Dave Rodebaugh, Tim Grogg, Chuck Smith, Bill Davidson, Tim Alberts, Steve Carr, Gary Grogg, Dan Kruse, Dave Mitchell, Bernard Muzzillo and Frank Pulver.

The Wednesday night games were “barn-burners.” Wolf Lake nipped Avilla 74-73 on a last second tip-in by Wolf Lake’s 6-3 center Nick Keister. Ligonier overcame a nine-point deficit in the final 3 1/2 minutes with reserve Max Golden scoring on a 10-foot jumper with three seconds left to take the game into overtime. Ligonier defeated Auburn in overtime, 57-51.

In addition to Bavis, coach Ward Smith’s Garrett Railroaders featured Dave Clark, Ron Cutler, Craig Gilliland, Mike Heitz, Rick Lewis, Dave Miller, Tony Miller, Ed Myers, Steve Smith, Dave Steward and Jon Vogel.

Coach Tom King’s Cromwell team had Norris Stump, Al Palmer, Dave Barhydt, Rick Vanhorn, Mike Rathke, Mynhier, Jerry Poyser, Mike Loveless, Butch Leamon and Dave Trout.

The Churubusco Eagles, coached by Jake Delegrange included Mike Adams, Rick Bailey, John Bonar, Errol Creech, Roger Crooks, Rex Fletcher, Delynn Geiger, Tom Lang, Roger Schinbeckler, Larry Shively, Randy Stayer and Mike Zeigler.

Coach Gene Racht’s Kendallville team had Randy Ackerman, Mike Brand, Dave Desper, Rex Emerick, Greg Ernsberger, Randy Green, Jon Hossinger, Dave Neal, Dan Radcliffe, Larry Schemerhorn and Mike Wilondek.

Garrett had no problem rolling over Cromwell, 89-36, on Thursday night, followed by Albion’s 66-43 victory over Wawaka.

Wolf Lake disposed of Ligonier on Friday night, 83-67, and Kendallville fell to Churubusco, 72-71.

In Saturday’s semifinals, Garrett overcame Albion’s stall tactics, winning 44-23, and Wolf Lake defeated Churubusco, 65-60.

Garrett easily won its third Kendallville sectional championship in a row by beating Wolf Lake, 83-50, with Bavis scoring 29. Garrett advanced to the Fort Wayne regional at the Memorial Coliseum.

That was the first year two Fort Wayne sectionals were played at the Memorial Coliseum. Garrett beat Fort Wayne sectional I winner North Side, 62-61, and Fort Wayne sectional II winner South Side defeated Angola sectional winner Eastside, 53-35. South Side, led by Willie Long and Chuck Nelson, beat Garrett 45-40 to win the regional.

What happened to one of the most exciting times in high school?

Area boys basketball sectionals begin next week around the state in four classes around the state.