The Golden Age of Indiana High School Basketball
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The Golden Age of Indiana High School Basketball


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317 pages

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A tribute to the coaches, players, and fans of a legendary era in Hoosier basketball

The years 1945–1959 marked the time when basketball truly became the sport of Indiana. High school basketball bound together communities across the state and interest in the sport rose to a new level. The period saw the Milan/Muncie Central game, given new fame through the movie Hoosiers. It also saw the first televised game, the start of the career of Oscar Robertson (who played for Crispus Attucks), and friendly town rivalries to build the state's biggest gymnasium. It was a time before the massive consolidations of the 1960s and '70s, with more than 700 teams involved in basketball tournaments. (There are some 300 now.)

Greg Guffey captures the flavor of the period and showcases many of the best teams, players, and coaches. This is a book for all fans of Indiana basketball.


1. The Beginning: "It was every player's dream to be on the varsity team. That's all we thought about."
2. "You just forget everything and play by instinct."
3. "If you weren't at the ballgame, you were either dead or sick."
4. "It was a knock-down, drag-out affair each time we played."
5. "Being a senior, it was like the world had come to an end."
6. "We're an old river town with a lot of pride."
7. "You fought like crazy against them, but you were friends when it was over."
8. "The idea one guy can't get you there is wrong."
9. "Once we got past Muncie, I thought we could beat the world."
10. "The sectional was the big thing. That was what gave you the bragging rights."
11. "Very few small towns . . . are known like this small town."
12. "Oscar made the difference."
13. "We didn't beat them with a bunch of ham-and-eggers."
14. "I hear you are a pretty good player. If you've got anything, I'll get it out of you."
15. "He looked like a toothpick, but he could shoot."

Recommended Reading



Publié par
Date de parution 24 novembre 2005
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9780253027726
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 6 Mo

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2. "You just forget everything and play by instinct."
3. "If you weren't at the ballgame, you were either dead or sick."
4. "It was a knock-down, drag-out affair each time we played."
5. "Being a senior, it was like the world had come to an end."
6. "We're an old river town with a lot of pride."
7. "You fought like crazy against them, but you were friends when it was over."
8. "The idea one guy can't get you there is wrong."
9. "Once we got past Muncie, I thought we could beat the world."
10. "The sectional was the big thing. That was what gave you the bragging rights."
11. "Very few small towns . . . are known like this small town."
12. "Oscar made the difference."
13. "We didn't beat them with a bunch of ham-and-eggers."
14. "I hear you are a pretty good player. If you've got anything, I'll get it out of you."
15. "He looked like a toothpick, but he could shoot."

Recommended Reading

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The Golden Age of Indiana High School Basketball

THE Golden Age of Indiana High School Basketball
This book is a publication of
Quarry Books an imprint of Indiana University Press 601 North Morton Street Bloomington, IN 47404-3797 USA
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© 2006 by Greg Guffey
All rights reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by anymeans, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or byany information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing fromthe publisher. The Association of American University Presses’ Resolution onPermissions constitutes the only exception to this prohibition.
The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements ofAmerican National Standard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paperfor Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1984.
Manufactured in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Guffey, Greg.   The golden age of Indiana high school basketball / Greg Guffey.        p. cm.
ISBN 0-253-21818-7 (pbk. : alk. paper) 1. Basketball—Indiana—History. 2. School sports—Indiana—History. I. Title.  GV885.72.I6G84 2005  796.323′62′09772—dc22                                2005011498
1  2  3  4  5  11  10  09  08  07  06
To Dawn and Alysa—thanks for your love and support.
   1    The Beginning: “It was every player’s dream to be on the varsity team. That’s all we thought about.”
   2    “You just forget everything and play by instinct.”
   3    “If you weren’t at the ballgame, you were either dead or sick.”
   4    “It was a knock-down, drag-out affair each time we played.”
   5    “Being a senior, it was like the world had come to an end.”
   6    “We’re an old river town with a lot of pride.”
   7    “You fought like crazy against them, but you were friends when it was over.”
   8    “The idea one guy can’t get you there is wrong.”
   9    “Once we got past Muncie, I thought we could beat the world.”
10    “The sectional was the big thing. That was what gave you the bragging rights.”
11    “Very few small towns ... are known like this small town.”
12    “Oscar made the difference.”
13    “We didn’t beat them with a bunch of ham-and-eggers.”
14    “I hear you are a pretty good player. If you’ve got anything, I’ll get it out of you.”
15    “He looked like a toothpick, but he could shoot.”
Appendix: IHSAA State Championship Tournament Brackets,Sweet Sixteen, 1945–1959
Recommended Reading
T he scope of a book about the goldenage of high school basketball inIndiana is difficult to understand beforebeginning the project. A one-year effortquickly doubled. One meeting or interviewoften resulted in five more leads on informationthat needed to be included. A plannedbook with fifty photos became a publishedbook with more than 250 photos.
Any book of this magnitude requiresthe patience, graciousness, and open armsof complete strangers. I was welcomed intohomes from Gary to Evansville, Auburn toMadison, and every town in between. To thosewho offered their stories, their anecdotes, anda glimpse into their lives, I say thank you.
At first glance, this is a book about basketball.Under the surface, this is a bookthat mirrors life—of being part of a community,a member of a team, growing old,the joy in winning, and the lessons in losing.It is a book about yesterday’s heroestrying to figure out why something that happenedso long ago still means so much today.Some are legends across our state;some only in their small hometowns.
Several people played invaluable rolesin the completion of this book. Bob Sloanand the professionals at Indiana UniversityPress took a chance on this projectwith no words yet on paper and only vaguespoken ideas. They gave me the tools andthe latitude to carry it out. Sharon Roberts,Roger Dickinson, and the gang at theIndiana Basketball Hall of Fame helpedfrom the beginning and never failed to addressa question or query. In much thesame manner, Jason Wille at the IHSAAprovided guidance, resources, and material.My parents and family always offeredwords of encouragement and assistance.
Countless individuals across the stateappreciated the unique aspects of thisproject and donated numerous hours oftheir time. Jim Dressler, a former newspapereditor in Brazil and a true Hoosiergentleman, generously helped with virtuallyevery aspect of this book. Fred Oyler,a member of the 1946 Flora Final Fourteam and later a school administrator, providedmeticulous research, detail, and contactinformation. Former basketball reporterand IHSAA official Jim Russell tooktime to review the manuscript. Others contributingguidance and research includedBob Adams in Decatur, Dean Monroe inPortland, John Little in Elizabeth, GeorgeGood in Sheridan, and Bill Apple in Indianapolis. Tourney Time by William Maybelongs on the bookshelf of every Indianabasketball fan and saved countless hoursin front of the microfilm at the local library.
I spent almost two years on this projectand could have devoted more than a decade.The golden age of basketball couldfill a dozen volumes with an endless castof former players, coaches, and fans. Thisis a book of winners and losers, stars androle players, dominant programs and once-in-a-lifetimelong shots. It took all of themto define the golden age of high school basketballin Indiana. No one town or oneteam had a monopoly on basketball successand interest. And one stylistic note toall—for continuity and clarity, I refer tothe Sweet Sixteen round of the state finalsas the semistate throughout the book eventhough it was known as the semi-finalsuntil 1956.
This is a story worth remembering—andone worth sharing. I hope you enjoy.
The Golden Age of Indiana High School Basketball
T he road to John Little’s house indeep southern Indiana winds overhills, through fields, and past the OhioRiver. His address is listed as Elizabeth—a dozen miles or so south of the state’s firstcapital city of Corydon—but the real locationis a long way from nowhere. He builtthe house himself and designed the entirelower level as a shrine to his beloved IndianaUniversity basketball and footballteams. Jerseys, photos, autographed balls,and programs line the walls and the showcases,reminders of great players and evengreater teams. It goes without saying thatthe basketball memorabilia occupies muchmore space than the football items.

The interior of the Corydongymnasium. Photo courtesyof Alan Stewart.
On this warm fall day, a dreadful Indianafootball team occupies the big-screentelevision against an equally dreadful PennState squad. But the story of this day isbasketball, as Little has arranged for morethan twenty former high school basketballplayers to spend an afternoon reminiscingabout glory days. The ballplayers, as Littlecalls them, are set to arrive at staggeredtimes throughout the day. Most arrive earlyand stay long past their allotted interviewtime, while Little makes sure to add theirautographs to his growing collection.

The outside door of the Elizabethgymnasium. Photo courtesy ofAlan Stewart.
To make one thing clear: these are notformer champions talking about the tripsto Butler Fieldhouse. Most of those in attendancenever won a sectional tournament;many of those in attendance lost more games in their careers than they won. Theycome from places such as Mauckport,Lanesville, New Salisbury, Marengo, Laconia,and English, schools not amongthose mentioned when the talk turns to the greatest teams of the greatest era in Indianahigh school sports.

The remnants of the Little Yorkgymnasium in Harrison County.Photo courtesy of Alan Stewart.
Yet they come together at this out-of-the-waygathering place with one thing incommon—a love for the game they playedmore than fifty years ago. Most of those inthe crowd played in a sectional that includedNew Albany, Jeffersonville, or, fora period of many years, both. Says 1959Marengo graduate Scott Miller, “The gymat Marengo was not anything like the NewAlbany floor. It was like walking into a differentworld. When you walked out thereon the floor, you knew you had made thebig time and that a lot of people werewatching you.”
Most of the time, those people werewatching these players ultimately lose toNew Albany or Jeffersonville. “Most smallschools knew when the sectional came, itwas the end of your season,” said ClydeSailor, a 1958 graduate of Corydon. “Youwent to the sectional, but you knew youdidn’t have a chance,” adds 1950 Mauckportgrad Harold McBride. “If you couldbeat New Albany, that was like winningthe state for us. That’s what you went for—to beat New Albany.”

The remains of the Marengogymnasium in Crawford County.Photo courtesy of Alan Stewart.
And a victory over New Albany didn’tnecessarily mean an easy route to the sectionaltitle, given the parity among thesesmaller schools. Corydon upset the favoritesin 1957 only to lose the next night in the sectional final to tiny Marengo. “Youthink you beat New Albany and it’s goingto be a cakewalk,” recalls Sailor from thatCorydon team. “Marengo didn’t think thatway.”

The outdoor court where Mauckportpracticed in the 1940s and 1950s.Photo courtesy of Alan Stewart.

The New Salisbury gymnasium inHarrison County. Photo courtesy ofAlan Stewart.
“You had all of the towns with teams,”says Miller, one of the lucky ones whoplayed on that 1957 sectional winner forMarengo. “You had unbelievable competitionbetween those towns. It was war, andthat’s just the way it was. Even people whodidn’t have children followed basketball in those days. Everyone kept up with whatwas going on. Growing up, we knew allabout the ’47 team [which had won Marengo’sonly other sectional title]. My generationgrowing up—not until 1957 hadwe ever thought about getting to the levelof ’47. All of a sudden, things kind of gelledtogether.”

The 1950 Mauckport Pilots wonthe Harrison County tournament.Starting bottom left of “M” andproceeding through the letter:Ferrell Duley, Norman Timberlake,Darrell Jacobs, Harold McBride,Clinton Fisher, Donna Loop(Frank), Mary Ann Goldman(Brown), Darlene Frakes (Love),Rex Bliss, LaMar Smith, ArtTimberlake, Paul Singleton,Wayne Jacobs. Coach MarlinMcCoy is on the far left, andmanager Jimmie North is on thefar right.
They talk for hours about the game theyloved, most of the stories having grownlarger over the years. They renew acquaintancesand make new friends. They bringscrapbooks and photos to remind them ofmemories forgotten.
“Basketball was your life at that age,”says Billy Brown, a 1955 graduate of Elizabeth.“You shot layups till the morningbell, free throws at noontime, and practicedafter school. Your dream was to winthe sectional.”
“It was a pretty high honor just to playon the team,” says Kermit Hays, a 1949Mauckport grad who played on a team thathad no gym and practiced outside even inthe dead of winter. “We didn’t have a gym,and at the time, we didn’t think it was adisadvantage.”

The 1954 Elizabeth Pirates wonthe Harrison County Tournament.Front, left to right: Murl Shaffer,Earl Stewart, Carl Shaffer, RalphBarger, Bobby Board. Back, left toright: James Cunningham, PaulHendricks, coach Edward Reagan,Delano Allgood, Ronnie Beams,Bill Brown. Photo courtesy of theIndiana Basketball Hall of Fame.
Harold McBride carries the picture thatmade it all worthwhile—the team photo onthat outside court with “County Champs”emblazoned on the front. “We really thought we could beat the big teams,” McBride says.“We thought we could beat New Albanythat year.”
Says 1958 Lanesville grad Bill Lyskowinski,“There were packed houses. Ifyou had two undefeated teams at Christmastime, the place would be packed. Therewas more closeness than there is now.”
The talk, as it does in every such settingthroughout the state, eventually turnsto class basketball. These are the playerswho would have benefited from today’s system,one that keeps small schools awayfrom powers like New Albany and Jeffersonville.No one, at least not publicly inthis type of setting, admits to being a fanof the new system. A sectional title againstsmaller schools? That’s why you played thecounty tournament, comes the reply. Wecould play all season against teams our ownsize, says another.
Perhaps no team would have appreciatedclass basketball more than Lanesville,one of the smallest of those small schools.In a fourteen-year period between 1946and 1959, the Eagles won just eight gamestotal in the sectional, not once making it tothe championship game. “I knew we didn’thave a chance,” says 1952 Lanesville gradBill Baker. “We’d play them [New Albanyand Jeffersonville] in the sectional, but weknew we didn’t have a chance. We likedto play on the big floor in front of the bigcrowd, but we knew we couldn’t do it.”
“But we liked the chance to do it,” addsteammate Bill Hussung.
And just the chance made it all worthwhile.
*   *   *
In much the same manner as World War IIdefined America as a country, high schoolbasketball defined the communities withinIndiana. Almost eight hundred teamscompeted annually for the state’s top prize—all in one class, all against the samecommon opponents. “After World War II,people would come out to watch anything,”says Spence Schnaitter, a member of Madison’s1950 state championship team. “Theywould have watched a dogfight. It gavepeople something to stand for other thanthe war. When Friday night came, therewasn’t an empty seat in the gymnasium.”

Longtime IHSAA officials PhilEskew and L.V. Phillips.
The game of basketball dealt with manyof the same restrictions and rations placedon the rest of the country. Gasoline shortageslimited travel and took away the opportunityfor teams to play a statewideschedule. Schools recycled uniforms. Agood basketball was hard to find, even foruse during games. “During and at the endof the war, it did become a rallying pointfor the community,” says Jim Jones, a sectionalchampion as a player at Wabash in1946 and later as a coach at Wabash andLogansport. “As I recall, everybody had acentral purpose. You didn’t have any bickeringor anything like that. It was the rallyingpoint for the community. They didwhat they needed to do to keep it going.Transportation was limited; we traveled incars. I remember some of the basketballswe had to practice with were unbelievable.Some were sewn like a football. It was abig honor for any boy to make the team. Ifyou were a starter on the basketball team, you were an important person in the community.”
At that time, the game of basketball hadaged more than three-quarters of a century,but it still existed in a relative state of infancy.The NCAA tournament was less thana decade old on the collegiate level, andthe pro game was just beginning to amassstar power with the likes of Wilt Chamberlain,Bill Russell, and George Mikan.The phenomenon of athlete as celebrity—and the corresponding exposure of a star’spersonal side—was still years from birth.“Those people were idols that we lookedup to,” says Rollin Cutter, a sophomore onthe ’54 Milan state champs, “but we knewthem for what they did on the court.”
The arrival of television in the homesof the working middle class expanded thescope of high school basketball from a regionalgame into a statewide obsession.Radio already had resulted in generationsof Hoosier families gathering around thekitchen table to listen to the exploits ofteams from distant parts of the state. “Iremember very clearly to this day listeningto Evansville Bosse winning in 1945,”says Jim Schooley, a member of Auburn’s1949 state finals team. “I could visualizethe games. Hilliard Gates was the voice ofbasketball in the state. Those games lived—they really lived. We had no idea whatEvansville Bosse looked like, but as faras paying attention to the game, we reallydid.”
With the first statewide telecast of thefinals in 1952, Muncie Central became aknown commodity from Gary to Madison,winning its fourth crown with a victory overIndianapolis Tech. When the engaging andenduring stories of Milan and Crispus Attucksfollowed a few years later, televisionhad successfully hooked a string of generationson the high school game. “I watchedthe Milan game on TV,” remembers long-timeKnightstown coach Bill Bergmann.“We didn’t have a TV, so I went down tothe neighbors’ and we all gathered aroundtheirs. I watched it because it was basketballon TV. It was a novelty.” Ironically,the same medium that introduced a newaudience to the high school game andhelped fuel its popularity would also stuntits growth more than four decades later withthe onslaught of programs and games oncable television.

Madison coach Ray Eddy andplayers Spence Schnaitter (left)and Ted Server accept the 1950state championship trophy.
The local newspaper served as the onlysource of information for many people inboth large and small communities. The exploitsof the high school team often madethe front page, and a story or column aboutbasketball could be found every day in thesports section. Larger papers covered theentire state, not just their immediate circulationarea. The newspaper writer becameas much of a celebrity as the coachand the players. If Bob Collins of the IndianapolisStar was in attendance, it gaveinstant credibility to that team and game.“In the Indianapolis paper now you mightfind the score someplace,” says late 1950sNew Castle star Ray Pavy. “At that time,they covered the whole state. On Saturdaymorning, everyone got the IndianapolisStar to see what Bob Collins had written and where he had gone. Collins and Lamm[Corky, another well-known Indianapoliswriter]—they covered the state. You knewwhat was going on in East Chicago andSouth Bend and Evansville.”
The downtown area served as the gatheringpoint for every city or town throughoutIndiana. A person found everything oftenwithin a few city blocks—barbershop,market, department store, soda fountain,diner. There were no strip malls scatteredin different parts of the city. People visiteddowntown for different reasons and differentoccasions, but they almost all gatheredon Friday nights after the basketballgames and on Saturday mornings to replaythe win or loss. “It was hell to go downtownon Saturday morning after you lost,”says Madison’s Schnaitter.
It didn’t matter if the town was big orsmall; it cared about basketball. A goodbasketball team meant bragging rightsthroughout the county. A sectional winner,if a town was lucky enough to have one,meant bragging rights for an entire year.For a couple of decades in the 1940s and1950s, everything came together perfectlyto make high school basketball the focusof a school and a community.
Dick Haslam, a member of the 1958Crawfordsville state second-place team: “The stores closed down on Friday nights.Everybody went to the basketball games.You wouldn’t even think if you were a merchantto stay open on Friday night andcompete with the high school basketballgame.”
Jack Colescott, a team member at GasCity, graduating in 1948: “Basketball wassomething the community just lived around.They took so much pride in those communities.The county tourney and the sectionalwere just so important. It’s amazing howmuch spirit there was in those small schools.Those were great days in Indiana basketball.”

Fans board special “TourneyExpress” buses on MonumentCircle in downtown Indianapolisfor the short trip to ButlerFieldhouse for the state finalsin the 1950s.

Milan players Ray Craft (left) andBob Plump at a dinner in the daysfollowing their victory in the 1954state championship.
George Savanovich, who later shortenedhis name to George Vann, a member ofthe 1947 East Chicago Washington finalfour team: “It was a very, very differenttime. The young guys playing in high schoolwere treated almost like professional athletes.We were the primary source of entertainmentall over the state. It seems everyschool at that time had one of theirbetter basketball teams. It was a very excitingtime to be a high school basketballplayer. Some nights, there were more peopleoutside trying to get a ticket than therewere inside.”

Montezuma brothers Bill (left) andBob Knoblett made quite acontrast as the Indians won thesectional and regional in 1954.
Oscar Session, a member of Glenn’s1951 sectional and regional championshipteam: “Basketball in the small communitieswas one of the most importantthings to them. We were too small for football.Basketball became the sport the communityembraced.”
Bob Shraluka, a member of the 1959Decatur sectional champion team: “It wasthe only thing. There was nothing else. Theexcitement of it all—on a Friday night, thatwas the thing. The whole community revolvedaround it. Everything was wrappedaround it in so many ways. I know therewere people who didn’t go to the games,but it didn’t seem like that.”
Harold “Pee Wee” Lakeman, a memberof Madison’s 1959 regional championteam: “That was our life. On a Fridaymorning, you knew you had a game becauseeveryone was talking about it. Everygirl in school was in love with you, andyou didn’t even know it until thirty yearslater.”
Larry Hedden, a member of Mississinewa’s1954 regional champion team: “Itwas the age of innocence. You just grewup playing basketball—played in alleys,cinders. We didn’t know any different, andit was great. In a small town, you werereally innocent. It was an unbelievable lifeof growing up without pressure and withoutdistractions. We were innocent and unexposed.”
Charles Vaughan, a member of the 1948Lafayette Jeff state title team: “Basketballwas the only thing you had going. Everyonewanted to make the team. I was fortunateenough to be in the golden age ofbasketball. The enthusiasm was great, andit was a very fun and competitive atmosphere.You had really good coaches whoknew the game. You didn’t have the scienceteacher becoming the basketballcoach.”
Harry Hobbs, a member of Sheridan’s1950 final eight team: “Basketball wasthe focal point of the community. If theteam won, the coach was great. If the teamlost, then maybe you should get anothercoach. The fans had a great deal of enthusiasm.”
Jeff Blue, a member of the 1959 BainbridgeSweet Sixteen team: “It was morethan a basketball game or a basketballteam. It was the important social activity. People would get together before the gameand after the game. When you had a winningteam, it was stronger than ever. Thatwas the form of conversation whereverpeople went—to brag about the team orbemoan the losses of the team.”

Bobby Plump of Milan attempts ashot during the 1954 IndianapolisSemistate against Crispus Attucks.
Bill Butterfield, a junior on EvansvilleBosse’s 1945 state title team: “Youreally were interested in your schools. Ifthere was a football game, you were goingto the football game. If there was a trackmeet, you were going to the track meet. Ifthere was a basketball game, you were goingto the basketball game.”
Dick Eberle, a senior and team memberat Pine Village in 1954: “It was an identity.It identified Pine Village. We didn’thave a whole lot to identify us, but the basketballteam did. Everybody was behindus, and they went to the games. They wantedto latch on to something, and that wasit. If you won, there was all good talk. Ifyou lost, they told you what you did wrong.We were a very close-knit community, andeverybody was pulling for us. The one thingis, I’m sorry we didn’t win a sectional. Wealways came close but couldn’t do it. Iwouldn’t change it for the world. I lovedevery minute of it.”
In most counties, the smaller schoolswould gather for a mid-season county tournament.That was only the prelude to theyear’s big festivity, the sectional tournament.The sectional tournament—contestedat sixty-four sites around the state, withchampions at those locations crowned ona Saturday night—brought one or morecounties together at the home of the largestschool in the area. Students receivedearly dismissals from schools, and fans arrivedhours before scheduled games, alwaysstaying after their team had beeneliminated.
The big school always carried the favorite’slabel, but small schools would pullupsets across the state every year. That wasthe beauty of the sectional tournament—somewhere, somehow, several small schoolswould put together the performance of alifetime and shock the host schools.
George Kaiser, a member of the 1957Providence sectional championship team: “That’s definitely what you’re thinking ofthe first day in practice. In Indiana, every boy from the age of eight, that’s all you livedfor—to play on the local high school teamand go as far as you could go.”
Bob Shraluka, a senior and member ofthe 1959 Decatur sectional championshipteam: “There were people everywhere.The town was alive at that time. Allof a sudden this is your last chance. Whenyou’re not a senior, there’s always a feeling,‘We can do it next year.’ At that time,if you didn’t win a sectional, you were azero. You could go 20-0, but it didn’t meananything if you didn’t win the sectional.”
Bob Powers, a 1955 Connersville graduateand longtime newspaper editor: “Thesectional was just a big reunion. More thanthe basketball game, you saw friends youhad not seen in a year and renewed acquaintances.Back then, small schoolslooked at it as a challenge and an opportunityto knock off the big school.”
Kent Poore, a 1951 graduate and teammember at Anderson: “That was the conversation.It didn’t make any difference ifit was at the hospital or at the factory.When the sectional came around, it wasthe talk of the town. It was awesome—itwas so loud.”
*   *   *
One of the most significant rule changesin the history of the game helped usher inthe new era of high school basketball. Before1937, a center jump would follow eachmade basket. It gave a tremendous advantageto a team with a big center or someonewho could jump well, as opposingteams discovered in 1934 when Logansportgained virtually every jump ball on its wayto the state title. The end of the center jumpresulted in a faster-paced game that gaveeach team equal chances at scoring.
The IHSAA made a cosmetic change tothe tourney that had long-lasting implicationswhen it introduced the semifinals,later changed to the semistate, in 1935.The semifinals placed the sixteen regionalwinners in four sites around the state ratherthan bringing all of them to Indianapolisfor the state finals. The move generated incredibleinterest within diverse geographicareas, allowing fans to more closely followtheir teams. The Sweet Sixteen, as theweekend would become known, resultedin standing-room-only crowds at large regionalfieldhouses. The final four, playedthe next weekend in Indianapolis, becameeven more of an event because more fanshad the opportunity to watch and followteams in the Sweet Sixteen.
There were other important changes inthe rules during the 1940s and 1950s.Until 1944, a player’s fourth foul resultedin disqualification, and a player could re-entera game only once. Until 1947, a jumpball was held wherever the tie-up occurredon the court. Before 1948, coaches had tomake better use of pre-game and halftimetalks as they could not talk to players duringthe course of a game or timeouts. Theplayers would huddle near the free-throwcircle during timeouts, taking water andtalking among themselves but having nodirect contact with their coach. The 1948change allowed coaches to perform themodern-day duties of instructing their playersduring a stop in play or timeout.
The 1950s brought the removal of severalspecific rules that took precedence inthe last two minutes of a game, includingthe choice of a team to take a free throw ortake the ball out of bounds after a foul.Other changes saw the free-throw bonusshot in 1952, the adoption of offensivegoaltending in 1956, and the introductionof the twelve-foot foul lane in 1957. Anotherrule that generated plenty of interestand controversy—the sudden-death overtimeguideline, which gave a victory to thefirst team to score in the second overtime—was abolished in 1961.
*   *   *
The golden age of high school basketball was not immune to many of the same problemsfacing society during the same timeperiod—most notably the issue of racialdiscrimination. When the IHSAA grantedmembership privileges to all-black highschools such as Indianapolis CrispusAttucks and Gary Roosevelt in 1943, amulti-year struggle for acceptance and respectbegan. It was a struggle not limitedsolely to all-black schools. Any team thathad black players found itself the objectof scorn and discrimination depending onits location and schedule.

The 1951 Glenn Pirates won theTerre Haute Sectional and theBloomington Regional. Front,left to right: Mike Dragon,Harley Gaston, HowardKillebrew, Pat Dragon, BillTanner. Back, left to right: coachJack Williams, Dick Richmond,Clifford Phillips, Charles Session,Don Wagle, Oscar Session.
The high school basketball coach, oftenone of the most powerful and influentialmen in town, had the most impact on racialharmony during the era. Babe Wheeler,the coach at Brazil, put four black starterson the floor in the 1940s, traveled thestate, and refused to stop at restaurants andother stores that would not treat all of theplayers equally. Jack Williams coached attiny Glenn High School in eastern VigoCounty. He started three black players inthe 1950–51 season, ignoring the criticismfrom the community and leading his teamto the regional championship. Charles Cummingstook the Anderson job in the summerof 1942. A few of the local businessmenpaid a visit to Cummings and told himthey didn’t mind if he put one black playeron the court, but that was enough. Cummingstold the visitors that if his five bestplayers were black, then all five would playat the same time. He further said they couldpay off his contract and he would leavebefore he coached a game. He stayed—and Anderson won its third state title in1946.
Most of the black players from the 1940sand 1950s endured some form of discriminationduring their basketball careers.They also admit that athletes, especiallyvery talented athletes, were spared someof the treatment that other students suffered.All agree on one point—discriminationwas much worse in Indianapolisthan in any other city in the state.

Crispus Attucks coach Ray Crowecelebrates with players followingthe 1955 sectional championship.
Johnny Wilson, 1946 Mr. Basketball andstate champion from Anderson: “Indianapoliswas completely different. It washard to find places to stay; we had to eat atdifferent places [than the rest of the team].There was no excuse for them to be thatway in the state capital. It bothers you butit doesn’t affect you.”
Clifford Phillips, a member of the 1951regional championship team at Glenn: “We knew about it, and there wasn’t awhole hell of a lot you could do about it.They threatened to fire him [coach JackWilliams] and everything else. He was willingto sacrifice for us.”
Oscar Session, a teammate on the 1951Glenn team: “We never had a problemwith the other players, but it was a differentstory with the fans. If something likethat happened, we were going to get on thefloor and beat them that much worse.”
Paul Harvey, a member of the 1953South Bend Central state champs: “Therewas a restaurant where I would get a lemonpie. I would always get it at the back door.After we won the state, I went in the frontdoor. I was told that even though you wonthe state championship, you still get yourpie at the back door. It woke me up rightaway.”
Lamar Lundy, 1953 member of the Richmondfinal four team and a future NFLAll-Pro lineman: “The getting together ofthe community—coming together as far asraces—that was very important to me. Thatgives them a rallying point. A lot of it hadto do with the togetherness of the team.Things weren’t as smooth as they are now.It was clear to me what it meant to the community.It was a great feeling to be part ofthat—to know you had brought the communitytogether. It gave everyone a subjectthey could talk about. There were not that many things to do if you were black.Here was something you could go to andbe a part of it.”

The coaches of the teams in the1955 state finals gather before thegames. Left to right: Don Bruick ofFort Wayne North, Ray Crowe ofCrispus Attucks, John Givens ofNew Albany, John Smith of GaryRoosevelt.
Jake Eison, 1955 Mr. Basketball andstate runner-up at Gary Roosevelt: “Ithink it was pretty bad back in those days,but I’ve gotten over it. When we playedall-white schools, you had to be five to tenpoints better than them. The coaches alwaysemphasized you’ve got to be good,get ahead at the start of the game and beahead at the start of the fourth quarter.”
Gene Wilson, a member of Anderson’s1948 final four team: “It wasn’t good atall. If you were an athlete, you were sheltered.”
Larry McIntyre, a member of the 1959Attucks state title team: “It had changedsome, but not a heck of a lot. It didn’t fazeme. I was just as happy in my neighborhoodas going other places. Ray Crowe [theAttucks coach] always told us we wouldstart out at least ten points behind becausethat’s the way the game is. Just go out andplay the game, and the referees can’t doanything about it.”
Ron Heflin, a 1956–58 team memberand later longtime coach at Gary Roosevelt: “We were aware of it because it waspart of life. Do I think they called them alot closer? Yes. Do I think some officialscalled them different? Yes. But then, life’snot always fair. We were taught not to makeexcuses. Nobody owes you nothing, andnobody tells you it’s going to be easy.You’ve got to make the best of a tough situation.I knew in a black environment wewere taught everything wasn’t going to befair. You knew what color you were, andyou weren’t allowed to use that as an excuse.Does racism exist? Yes, but everytime things don’t go your way, you can’tcry wolf. You have to learn to do things toengulf the wolf yourself.”
*   *   *
While the era from 1946 through 1959 producedthe most memorable upset of all timewhen Milan beat Muncie Central in 1954,it also established and solidified the moststoried programs in the state’s history:
• Muncie Central increased its reputationas the state’s most historic program, winningback-to-back state championships in1951 and 1952. The Bearcats became themost famous second-place team in thenation’s history when they lost to Milan inthat 1954 epic. They could easily have wonfive or more state titles in the decade, losingto eventual state champ Attucks in1955 and 1959 by a combined total of threepoints, dropping a two-point contest to finalfour qualifier Richmond in 1953, and beingeliminated by Crawfordsville in the afternoongame of the 1958 state finals.
• Crispus Attucks began playing in thestate tourney in 1943, after the IndianaHigh School Athletic Association (IHSAA)extended membership to all-black, private,and religious schools. The all-black schoolon the near west side of Indianapolis foundit difficult to schedule any teams those first few years, playing teams such as Pine Village,Hope, and Otterbein. The Tigers wontheir first sectional in 1951 and followedwith state championships in 1955 and 1956with a guard named Oscar Robertson. Theyfollowed with another trip to the state finalsin 1957 and ended the decade with theirthird state championship in 1959.

The 1954 Winslow cheerleaders.Left to right: Jerry Phillips, DianaDoris, Junior Thompson, NancyThompson, Robert Kent Smith.Photo courtesy of John Dedman.
• South Bend Central emerged in 1949 withits first trip to the state finals before losingto Madison. The Bears captured the 1953state championship and then turned in amasterful undefeated season with anotherstate title in 1957. They had a Mr. Basketballin John Coalmon and seven membersof the Indiana All Star team.
• Lafayette Jeff coach Marion Crawley capturedtwenty-nine consecutive sectionalchampionships beginning in 1944. Thewinner of two state titles at Washington,Crawley won the 1948 state championshipand then made appearances in the final fouron five occasions in the 1950s-1950,1951, 1952, 1956, and 1957.
• Terre Haute Gerstmeyer emerged as thebest program to never win a state title.Howard Sharpe, the second winningestcoach in the history of Indiana high schoolbasketball, led the Black Cats to four finalfour appearances in the 1950s—first in1953, then in 1954, 1956, and 1957.
Other teams and individuals turned inoutstanding performances and put togetherincredible periods of dominance. Madisonstrung together a second-place finish in1949, earned a state title in 1950, and then,after almost a decade out of the spotlight,started a record sixty-one-game winningstreak in 1959. Evansville Bosse won back-to-backtitles in 1944 and 1945 and thenwatched as Central and Reitz followed withfinal four appearances over the next fewseasons. The North Central Conference establisheditself as the elite conference, takingnineteen of fifty-six spots in the finalfour from 1946 through 1959.
Phil Wills, playing at tiny Grass Creekin Fulton County, averaged a record 42.2points per game in the 1956–57 season, amark that still stands fifty years later. LloydBateman, from equally small Plainville inDaviess County, became the first player toscore two thousand career points in 1958.Lewisville’s Marion Pierce began a careerin the late 1950s that would end in thenext decade and place him atop the all-timecareer scoring list. A series of highscorers would establish new scoring recordsin the state finals—Dee Monroe at Madisonin 1949, Jake Eison at Gary Rooseveltin 1955, Oscar Robertson at Attucks in1956, and then Jim Rayl at Kokomo to closeout the decade in 1959.
Although not on the same scale andwithout the same implications as the Milanvictory in 1954, small schools delightedfans across Indiana with tourney upsetsand sectional championships. Flora andSprings Valley, two tiny schools in Carrolland Orange counties, made tournament runsthat ended in the afternoon game of thestate finals in 1946 and 1958. Considerthese accomplishments in Henry County, where New Castle usually dominated thelocal basketball scene: Spiceland won thesectional in 1947, Knightstown in 1958,and Middletown, with Hall of Fame coachVon Jameson, won titles in 1951, 1954,and 1956. Sheridan and Auburn each wonseven straight titles from 1949 to 1955,while Fowler, Linton, and Winamac capturedfive each from 1948 to 1959. Dunkirk,Ambia, Bourbon, Eden, Silver Lake, Everton,Earl Park, and Morton Memorial allwon sectionals during this same time period;in each case it was the only sectionalchampionship in the small school’s history.

Lafayette Jeff player Leon Dickson(left) battles with Dennis Tepe ofElkhart Central during the afternoongame of the 1956 state finals.
*   *   *
Class basketball, consolidation, and schoolclosings all combined to morph basketballinto its modern existence. The game todayis not the game played from 1946 through1959. Two schools that combined for fiveof the state championships in the 1950s—South Bend Central and Crispus Attucks—closed permanently. The School ReorganizationAct of 1959 resulted in a swiftconsolidation of schools within each county.Fewer schools—less than half the high-watermark of 787 in 1938—now chasestate titles in four different classes basedon enrollment.
Larry McIntyre, a member of the 1959Attucks state championship team: “CrispusAttucks was one of the best basketballschools ever. You want to talk aboutbitter, that’s when I’m bitter [when theschool was closed]. Outrage would be thebest word. All the other things—the racialthings—don’t hold a candle to closing theschool.”
Sylvester Coalman, a member of the1957 South Bend Central state championshipteam: “The closing was a terriblething. It was the first high school. That nameshould be carried on. I think we were donean injustice.”
Ted Server, a member of the Madisonstate championship team in 1950 : “Consolidation deprived a lot of kids of the opportunityto play basketball. It ruined communities.There was no feeling, no identity.”

Terre Haute Gerstmeyer coachHoward Sharpe instructs playersfrom his 1957 state finals team.Left to right: Bill Newton, HowardDardeen, Sam Smith, Sharpe,Charlie Hall, Ron Greene.
Ken Dunbar, a Napoleon team memberin 1954 who played against Milan: “Atthat time, Indiana basketball meant thelittle guy against the big guy. Why theseprincipals did what they did is beyond me.A lot of those people who made those decisionswere not from Indiana. They thoughtthey were spreading out the glory.”
Tom Wallace, a member of 1947 MuncieBurris regional champion team: “Classbasketball took away the opportunity thatI had the most satisfaction from in my basketballcareer. I attended one of the smallestschools in the state and beat many ofthe largest schools. It never bothered methe two years we lost to Muncie Central inthe sectional.”
Jess Rhodes, a junior on the 1952 MuncieCentral championship team: “I wasn’t onthe starting five. I was one of twelve boysin the entire state of Indiana to have achampionship ring. How lucky was I to beon that team?”
Vic Klinker, a senior on the 1956 Lafayetteteam that lost to Attucks in thestate title game: “I still enjoy high schoolbasketball when they play the good teams.It’s totally ruined the sport, just like moneyhas ruined all sports. People say go to twoclasses. We should just go to a thousandclasses so everyone can have a trophy.”
Joe Sexson, 1952 Mr. Basketball fromIndianapolis Tech: “My feeling is that it’snot the same as having one champion.However, it appears to me those kids wouldrather have a chance to be champion attheir own level.”
Kenneth “Tot” Nelson, coach of the Lynnvillesectional title team in 1954: “I cansee class basketball being very beneficialto the small schools. Maybe class basketballis the answer for the continuation of alove for the sport. On the other side, whenyou were at a small school and beat a largerschool, that was a feather in your cap.”
Clifford Phillips, a member of the 1951Glenn regional title team: “If you can’tplay the best, why do you want to play? Thatwas a big deal to play [Terre Haute] Garfieldand Gerstmeyer. I’m glad we played duringthat time. With a small school like that, wemade a lot of friends. I wish we could get achance to do it all over again. Those weresome good years.”
Jim Rayl, 1959 Mr. Basketball from Kokomo: “They made a mistake [with classbasketball] and they aren’t going to changeit. They have too much ego to have anyonetell them what to do. I couldn’t tell youany of the four state champions from thispast year.”
Lowell Kidd, a member of the 1947 Evertonteam that beat Connersville to winits only sectional title: “We were glad toplay anybody. You liked to play tougherand bigger teams. If you got beat, you justgot beat. The tougher the competition, thetougher you played.”

The 1950 Roll Red Rollers.Front, left to right: cheerleadersRuth Dick, Barbara Townsend,Wilma Sharp. Middle, left toright: Franklin Payne, DaleRoss, John Tatman, CharlesCain, Lee Sharp. Back, left toright: principal Fred Glancy,Perry Glancy, Jerry Glancy, JohnJohnson, Marvin Sills, RobertStoll, student manager EverettGadbury, coach Cletus Johnson.Photo courtesy of the IndianaBasketball Hall of Fame.
Those that played and coached the gamein the 1940s and 1950s are aging quickly,but they still hold to the memories and thetimes of fifty years earlier. Theirs is a storyworth telling, because the failure to do sowould risk vacating the events and the experiencesthat shaped the communities welive in today. It’s a story of being part ofsomething bigger than individual statistics.It’s one of making the team and making alasting contribution to the community.
Broc Jerrel, who won two state titles atEvansville Bosse in 1944 and 1945: “Thepeople who came to our games were old atthat time, and we’re old now.”

The 1955 Alquina Blue Arrows.Front, left to right: Dallas Fox,John Long, cheerleader FrancesBrowning, Donald Lake,cheerleader Margaret Faber,Larry Riebsomer, James Tuttle.Back, left to right: coach andprincipal Howard Selm, StanleyFields, Max Powell, Willis Kidd,Leo Scholl, Donald Pflum, LarryKenworthy, assistant coachWilliam Williams. Photocourtesy of the IndianaBasketball Hall of Fame.

The 1955 Rushville Lions won thesectional and regional beforelosing to Muncie Central. Front,left to right: Bill Frazier, MarionElmore, Merrill Northam, JoeDusing, Carl Michel, Bob Christopher,Bill Morgan, Charles Levi.Back, left to right: Larry Skillman,Delbert Michel, coach Paul Weaver,Bud Shepler, Jim Borem. Photocourtesy of the IHSAA.
George Savanovich (later George Vann),who played on the 1947 East ChicagoWashington final four team: “We’re adying breed. We’re leaving this wonderfulworld slowly.”
Jeff Blue, a member of the BainbridgeSweet Sixteen team in 1959: “Most peopletoday don’t remember. Most don’t know orcare about it. Most young people think inthe here and now. It’s like going to a battlefieldand seeing statues of old soldiers.What are we doing today or tomorrow? Iunderstand that and accept it. Our team’sday came and went. We enjoyed it, lovedit, and that’s OK. It’s a thing of the past,but it’s warm memories.”
Danny Thornburg, a member of MuncieCentral’s 1951 and 1952 state championshipteams: “Our era is gone now. Wedidn’t play for jackets or rings. We playedbecause we loved the game. Would we belike that if we had come along today? Idon’t know. But in our era, everyone whocame up wanted one thing—to be on thatBearcat basketball team.”
Evansville Bosse 40, Washington 34March 11, 1944 1
The Beginning: “It was every player’sThe Beginning: “It was every player’s dream to be on the varsity team.That’s all we thought about.”
C onfidence and arrogance are oftendifficult to discern when analyzingsports teams, especially the good ones. Askanyone in Evansville to describe Bossebasketball in the 1940s, and those are thelikely adjectives. Confidence if you lovedthe east-side team that would win back-to-backstate championships in 1944 and1945. Arrogance if you lived in virtuallyany other area of the city. Ask anyone aboutBroc Jerrel, the diminutive star guard who would provide the spark for those teams,and expect to hear the word “cocky.”
“Broc was cocky; we were confident,”says 1945 Bosse grad Norm McCool.
“Going into a bigger gym in Indianapolisreally meant nothing, especially whenyou had Broc Jerrel, who thought he couldtake on the world,” says teammate GeneWhitehead.
“They were a cocky group of kids whenyou got down to it,” says Frank Schwitz, a member of the 1946 Evansville Central FinalFour team, who had many battles withBosse over those few years.

The 1943 state championshipwas played at the Coliseum atthe Indiana State Fairgrounds.

Max Allen, Broad Ripple (1945): A four-year two-sport star atIndianapolis Broad Ripple. Captainedthe Rockets for two years under Hall ofFame coach Frank Baird. Led the teamto its first state finals in 1945.

Norris Caudell, Evansville Bosse(1945): A two-year All-State selectionat Evansville Bosse, where he graduatedin 1945. Led his team to back-to-backstate titles in 1944 and 1945. Named toIndiana All-Star team. A four-yearvarsity performer at Purdue University.

Bryan “Broc” Jerrel, EvansvilleBosse (1945): Led Evansville Bosse tostate titles in 1944 and 1945. Three-yearstarter and team captain. Team’sleading scorer as a junior and top scorerin final four that year. Member ofIndiana All-Star team.

Bob Lochmueller, Elberfeld HighSchool (1945): Three-year starter attiny Elberfeld. Led team to best recordin school history as a senior. Three-yearstarter at University of Louisville. Spenttwenty-three years as a Hoosier highschool coach with 399-150 record.

Charles Meyer, Jeffersonville (1945): Helped Jeffersonville to three sectionaltitles. Twice named to all-regionalteam. Four-year performer at Indiana.Won four sectionals during coachingcareer at Scottsburg.

The 1944 Evansville Bosse Bulldogs won the state championship. Front, left to right: Norman McCool, ErwinScholz, Bryan “Broc” Jerrel, Don Tilley, Gene Whitehead. Back, left to right: assistant coach Arvel Kilpatrick,Jack Matthews, Norris Caudell, Bill Hollman, Julius “Bud” Ritter, Gene Schmidt, coach Herman Keller.
“I guess I had a look on my face thatirritated the other side,” Jerrel says.
Even in the 1940s, looks could be deceiving.Evansville Bosse had limped intothe 1944 state tournament losers of four ofits last five games and sported an overall9-7 record, but six of those defeats hadcome by four or fewer points. They hadtwo big stars in Jerrel and center Bud Ritter,but it took longer for the team to cometogether. Then the tournament started, andeverything suddenly fell into place for theBulldogs.
“The ’43–’44 team was carried most ofthe season by Broc Jerrel and Bud Ritter.By the end of the regular season, everybodyhad grown up a little bit, and we wereready for the tourney,” recalls 1945 Bossegrad Norm McCool. “We were a surprise, no question about that, but it was no surpriseto us at all. We knew we were betterthan what we were doing. It wasn’t until theend of the season that we had what it takes.”
By the time Evansville rolled throughseven tournament games to reach the finaleight, people had started to notice the Bulldogs.That set the stage for the perfect bellwethergame against Washington, the 1941and 1942 state champs under MarionCrawley, and the team that others in southernIndiana used as a measuring stick. ThisWashington team was a lot different fromthose that won the state title, but Bosse stillneeded to get past the Hatchets to move intoelite status and to reach the state finals.
“Everything was on the line that night,”says Jerrel. “We were expecting to playthem as the tournament evolved. After webeat them, there was a much different atmosphereand outlook. We felt like we belongedat that point.”

The 1945 Rossville Hornets. Front, left to right: Weymon Salmon, Ernest Phillips, Bob Reed, John Irick, DonJackson. Back, left to right: student manager Charles Sharp, Bill Milner, Phil Buck, Duane Meador, Bill Miller,Tom McGill, coach Larry Hobbs.
“That was the turning point right there,”says Gene Whitehead.
Bosse beat Washington 40–34 to advanceto the finals in Indianapolis the followingweekend. Victories over LaPorteand Kokomo sealed the first state title everfor an Evansville school.
The city of Evansville quickly becamethe standard for basketball in southwesternIndiana. Three city schools—Bosse,Central, and Memorial—started the 1945season ranked in the state’s top fifteen. Allthree finished the season ranked in the topfifteen. Throw in Reitz—mainly a footballpower, but one that could field a competitivebasketball team as well—and the cityof Evansville had competitive games everynight, played primarily at the largerCentral gym, with partisan fans that heldstrong loyalties to their favorite schools.
“We were neighbors and the schoolswere close, so that made us more competitive,”says McCool. “It was every player’sdream to be on the varsity team. That’s allwe thought about.”
“I didn’t think about Bosse being thestate champions,” recalls 1947 Centralgraduate Chuck Lamar. “I thought Centralwas the best. I had it in my mind I wasgoing to be a Central basketball player.We wanted to beat Bosse every time wegot on the floor. It was a big rivalry.”
“Central always had good teams thenbut could never make it to the state finals,”adds 1946 Central grad Bob Northerner.

John Molodet, East ChicagoWashington (1945): A four-sport athleteat East Chicago Washington. Went toIndiana University as a baseball player,earning three letters as a pitcher for theHoosiers. Returned to East Chicago in1954 to start coaching career. Longtimeassistant to Johnnie Baratto.

Ralph “Pete” Pedersen, Culver(1945): Three-year letter winner andsenior captain at Culver. Helped unbeatenteam reach the semi-state in 1944. Three-yearstarter at Tulane. Coaching careerincluded stops as head coach at TynerHigh and Culver, an assistant’s positionat Missouri and the head spot at Tulane.

Julius “Bud” Ritter, Evansville Bosse(1945): Starting center on 1944 and 1945state championship teams. Four varsitybasketball letters. Began coaching career atPeru, winning four sectional titles in five years.Moved to Madison and had three straightundefeated seasons from 1959 to 1961 andwon a total of thirteen sectional titles.
Indeed, Central won its share of gamesagainst Bosse, two times in 1944 and oncemore in 1945, but it was Bosse that enjoyedthe tournament success. It was a rivalrystarted in the shadow of World War II, a time when basketball served as a distractionfor the adults in the community.Shortages of gasoline and tires limited whatwould normally have been a statewide orregional schedule for the Evansville teams,and the city schools played each othertwice. “That was a part of life then,” saysMcCool. “We didn’t get nice white socks.The shoes were terrible.” Adds Jerrel, “Thewhole time was difficult. The adults usedbasketball as an outlet.”

Bill Schroer, Rochester (1945): Two-year varsity player for Rochester.Played on two sectional championshipteams. Coached six years atTalma High before returning toRochester for thirty-two-year run ascoach and administrator.

Tom Schwartz, Kokomo (1945): 1945 Mr. Basketball. Standout infootball, basketball, and golf atKokomo. Junior on the 1944 Wildkatteam which reached the final game ofthe state tournament, losing toEvansville Bosse. Earned threebasketball letters at Indiana.

William Shepherd, Hope (1945): Helped Hope to the school’s onlysectional and regional titles in 1945.Played three years at Butler. Coachedfirst at Mitchell and then Carmel from1958 to 1970. Coached Carmel torunner-up spot in the 1970 statetournament.

The 1945 Roll Red Rollers put together an undefeated season before losing in the sectional to Dunkirk.Front: Ray Glancy. Middle, left to right: Max Glancy, John Sutton, Donald Pierce. Back, left to right: WilliamHolloway, Richard Brose, Jerrol Palmer, William Payne, James Johnson, James Holloway. Photo courtesy ofthe Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.

The 1945 Evansville Bosse Bulldogs also captured the state championship. Front, left to right: Bryan“Broc” Jerrel, Jack Matthews, Alfred Buck, Norman McCool, Don Tilley. Back, left to right: coachHerman Keller, Gene Whitehead, Julius “Bud” Ritter, Bill Butterfield, Norris Caudell, Jim DeGroote,assistant coach Arvel Kilpatrick.
After the surprise in 1944, Bosse enteredthe following season as the favorites,the ones to beat in the entire state. TheBulldogs began the season ranked numberone in the state and had the confident,cocky swagger to back it up. “We expectedto win,” says McCool. “We thought we weregoing to win, and that’s all there was to it.”
“Our team didn’t go on the floor thinkingwe would score so many points,” Jerrelsays. “We just wanted to win the game.Everybody on the whole team thought wewere going to win.”
Bosse won its first eight games, droppeda road contest at Jeffersonville, rattled offseven more wins before a loss to city rivalCentral, and finished with a victory overVincennes. A one-point sectional win overEvansville Memorial would be Bosse’s onlybig challenge on the way to a repeat appearancein the state finals. The Bulldogsrallied from a nine-point halftime deficitto beat Indianapolis Broad Ripple in themorning game before handling South BendRiley in the championship.Bosse had its place in history, alongsideother teams such as Washington andthe Franklin Wonder Five as repeat winners.The players enjoyed celebrity statusin a town that loved high school sports.Sixty years later, they are still recognizedand still revered as winners. “It would bemy idea to remember we played as a team,”Jerrel says, “and the thought of winningwas the one thing on our mind.”

Virgil Sweet, Covington (1945): Coached high school teams to 342victories in twenty-five-year career.Twenty of those were spent at Valparaisowhere his sectional tourneyrecord was 48-6. Twice coachedVikings to final eight.

Cecil Tague, Brookville (1945): Four-year letter winner at Brookville.Coached at Whitewater Township,Harrisburg, Milroy, Spiceland, andNew Castle. Took New Castle to thefinal four in 1967 and 1971 and wontwenty or more games on four occasions.Coached 1973 Mr. BasketballKent Benson.

Howard Williams, New Ross (1945): Three-year standout at tiny New Ross.Twice Purdue’s MVP, leading Boilermakersin scoring two years. Two-timeAll-Big Ten. Drafted by MinneapolisLakers, but opted for AAU basketball.Gold medalist with U.S. Olympic teamin 1952.
2 Flora 50, Lafayette Jeff 48
“You just forget everythingand play by instinct.”
E veryone throughout Indiana eagerlyawaited the finals of the 1946 LafayetteSemistate. It seemed a mere formalitythat top-ranked East Chicago Washingtonand third-ranked Lafayette Jeff wouldadvance to an evening showdown, with thewinner favored to take the state title a weeklater in Indianapolis.

Orvis “Shorty” Burdsall, VincennesLincoln (1946): A two-year varsityperformer at Vincennes. All-sectionaland all-regional in 1946. Team captainand MVP that year. Three-year starterat Butler University. Coached highschool basketball twelve seasons atEaton and Alexandria. Won threeAnderson sectionals.
Someone forgot to tell Flora and Culver,the two small schools opposite the powerhousesin the afternoon contests, aboutthat plan. Culver, which had beaten second-rankedElkhart Central a week earlierin the regional, pulled the first upset, a 35-33 victory in the initial game against EastChicago Washington. That left Flora to completeits end of the bargain in the secondtilt.
Flora, in northern Carroll County, waslike any other small town—crazy aboutbasketball. “Once we got into junior highschool, it was all basketball,” recalls FredOyler, a 1947 Flora graduate. “We had areally nice gym that seated about fifteenhundred, and we played most games athome. It was one of the larger social gatherings.Much of our lives centered around it.”

The 1946 Flora Badgers advanced to the state finals.Front, left to right: student managers Joe Wilson andJim Eaton. Second row, left to right: Kenneth McGill,coach Leonard Reid, Fred Oyler, principal RussellCallane, Bertis Berkshire. Third row, left to right: JoeEikenberry, Richard Nevin, David Mills. Back, left toright: Dick Hanaway, Bill McPherson, Robert Cripe,Robert Spitler, Richard Oyler.
The Badgers had won three sectionalsheading into that 1945–46 season but hadnever advanced past the regional. Afterthey won the 1945 sectional before bowingout in double overtime to Monticellothe next weekend, Dick and Fred Oyler’sfather took them to the state finals in Indianapolis.The brothers, a year apart andboth on the Flora basketball team, sawEvansville Bosse win its second consecutivetitle and then walked onto the courtfollowing the game. “Dad told us, ‘I wantto see you out here on this floor next year,’”recalls Dick Oyler.

The 1946 East Chicago Washington Senators won the sectional and regional before being upset by Culver.Left to right: coach Johnny Baratto, Henry Walker, Elmer Lucas, Buddy Balog, Marty Stipancic, Dan Stancio,John Kolina, Ray Ragelis, Dave Brennan, Ted Titan, Mike Macesick, Bob Krajewski, student manager LeonardBalon. Photo courtesy of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.

Charles Fouty, Terre Haute State(1946): A four-year starter at TerreHaute’s State High School. Teamrecord 75-10 during that span. Four-timecity champions. Sectionalchampions in 1944. Later became areferee and officiated two high schoolstate finals.

At the time, it seemed like a distantdream. The post–World War II economyhad left communities like Flora in searchof even a good basketball to use duringpractice. The team was short on warm-upjerseys; a team photo shows half the squadin different apparel. “Winning the sectionalwas the epitome of our thoughts,” saysFred Oyler. “It was a dream to win the sectional.If you won the sectional, that wasthe big battle.”

The 1946 Mooreland Bobcats. Front, left to right:Ned Wright, student manager Dana Kirby. Middle,left to right: Lloyd Rader, Harold Parks, RichardMoore, Joe Wise, Marion Shore. Back, left to right:principal Ira Meade, Don Matthews, Jerry Ball, DonBrowning, Jack Hoover, Rex Kirby, coach EliRoscoe. Photo courtesy of the Indiana BasketballHall of Fame.
Most smaller schools across Indiana hada measuring stick, a larger nearby teamthat the smaller squad usually met in amostly ceremonial game during the regularseason or the sectional. For Flora, thatschool was Logansport, a North CentralConference team that often played the best programs in the state. The Badgers finallybroke a long drought with a three-point victoryover the Berries early in the 1945–46season, giving them some confidence andmomentum.

By Hey, Concordia Lutheran (1946): Coached Concordia for three years, thenserved as an assistant at Fort WayneCentral before beginning thirty-one-yearrun as head coach at Fort Wayne North.One of winningest coaches in Indianahigh school basketball history with a550-325 record.

Jim Jones, Wabash (1946): Memberof the All-Conference team as a senior.Four-year letter winner at EarlhamCollege. Coached twelve sectionalchampionship teams, won six regionaltitles, and made two final fourappearances during coaching career atWabash and Logansport.

Bobby Milton, Fort Wayne Central(1946): Led Central to the state titlegame in 1946. Member of Indiana All-Star team. Scored thirty points in theafternoon game of the state finals.Joined Harlem Globetrotters in 1949and played in more than 8,000 gamesin 100 nations.
Then, when everything seemed to be ontrack for Flora, Dick Oyler broke his legand missed the better part of the regularseason. The Badgers stayed focused, losingjust four regular-season games, andthree of those defeats came at the hands ofnearby rival Rossville. Dick Oyler returnedjust before the tourney began, and Florarolled through the sectional and the regional,the latter producing a decisive twentyfive-pointvictory over Logansport. “We feltpretty confident we could be competitive,”says Fred Oyler.
While its presence in the semistate wasnot unexpected, Flora’s chances of anopening-game victory seemed even moreremote than Culver’s. Robert Spitler, whohad scored sixteen points in Flora’s tworegional victories, fell ill just before thegame with Lafayette and stayed home. Floracoach Sweet Reid brought reserve DaveMills to the gym at 6 A.M. the morning ofthe game, walked him through game situationsand told him he would take Spitler’splace in perhaps the biggest game everfor the Badgers.
Mills held his own against Lafayette, butit would be Fred Oyler who would eventuallybe the hero. Jeff held a 45-38 lead inthe fourth quarter before Flora began a 10-3 run that tied the score at 48 with aroundone minute remaining. The score remainedtied until a jump ball at center court withjust a few seconds remaining. Fred Oylertipped the ball to Dick Hanaway, whokicked it back out to Fred Oyler, who wasstanding near center court. He didn’t hesitate,shooting and hitting the game-winningshot that would send the Badgers tothe evening finals. “We didn’t talk aboutit in the huddle,” Dick Oyler recalls. “Itjust happened, and he was open. We werekind of numb.” Says Fred Oyler, “As I remember,Hanaway turned to see what hecould do. He was closely guarded, and hepassed it back to me and I shot it. We werewalking on air. It was unbelievable, like adream.”
Fred Oyler had hit the winning shot, andDick Oyler had scored nineteen points inwhat he called his “best game” ever. Aheadline the next day summed up the experiencefor the favorites—“Jeff Oylered,”it read across the top of the page. “Therewas all the hype of the big powers playingat night, but it didn’t work out that way,”says Dick Oyler.
The heroics in the evening game weresaved for Bill McPherson, who broke a 35-35 tie as time expired to send Flora to itsfirst Final Four in the school’s history. Theplayers celebrated with a bonfire in theirhometown before a quick trip to the ill Spitler’shouse to tell him of the day’s exploitsand of their date with Fort Wayne Centralin the next weekend’s state finals. “It wasshock on both sides,” admits George Savanovich,a junior for East Chicago Washingtonwho did not dress for varsity gamesthat season. “After the game, it was totalshock. Everyone was positive East Chicagoand Lafayette Jeff would be facing eachother in the night game. Everyone still talksabout those two games where the two favoriteswere knocked out.” eggs on his car, threaten to run him out oftown. The coach was probably the bestknownindividual in town. Everyone knewthe coach. They loved him or hated himdepending on how the game went.”
*   *   *
The expectations for basketball in Andersonwere a lot different than in Flora.People in Anderson, a gritty blue-collartown in the industrial corridor of east-centralIndiana, expected their beloved Indiansto compete for a state championshipevery year. There was never talk of rebuilding,never talk of being satisfied with onlya sectional title. “In Anderson, basketballwas it,” says Johnny Wilson, the 1946 Mr.Basketball. “Basketball was so big inAnderson at that time, the coaches were indanger if you didn’t win. They would busteggs on his car, threaten to run him out oftown. The coach was probably the bestknownindividual in town. Everyone knewthe coach. They loved him or hated himdepending on how the game went.”

The 1946 Reelsville Indians won the GreencastleSectional before falling to Crawfordsville in theregional final. Front, left to right: Ernest Cook, RayWells, Jim Hutcheson, Jim Taylor, Jim McCullough.Back, left to right: Mel Bowen, Gilbert Hassler, BobRissler, Bill Hammond, Bob Hathaway. In back,leaning over the players: coach Russell Reeves. Photocourtesy of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.
The coach was Charles Cummings, amaster of detail and conditioning who insistedthat athletes play every possiblesport. He coached football, basketball, andbaseball, and even fielded a boxing teamone year. “The thing I think most about isthe coach had a big impact on the players’personalities and lives,” says 1946 Andersonplayer and graduate Bob Ritter. “Wemight not have liked what he had to say,but we didn’t disagree with him.”
Wilson knew what was expected by thetime high school began. The Indians hadestablished themselves as perennial statechampionship contenders, winning the titlein 1935 and 1937 while advancing to theFinal Four in 1936. Wilson grew up idolizingthose players and teams, walking thetwo blocks from his house to the gym eachafternoon, where he would watch every practiceand study every move. “I would sit thereand dream about being out there myselfsomeday,” he recalls. “Anderson basketballwas the most feared, most talked-aboutprogram in Indiana from 1935 until 1950.Everyone thought each year that Andersoncould win the state tournament. Justabout every boy who grew up in Andersonwanted to play for the Indians.”
Says Ritter, “You wanted to get on theteam. That’s what you were focused on. Itwas an honor. If you were on the team, everyoneknew and recognized you.”
When he reached high school, Wilsonwas ineligible for the first semester of theseason for an Anderson freshman team thathad not lost a game in eight years. Whenhe finally joined the team, the Indians immediatelylost to Lapel and ended thestreak.
The following year, in the fall of 1943,Wilson joined the varsity. He played thesecond half of Anderson’s first game againstNew Castle and started every game the remainderof his prep career. The Indians,with Wilson and future Brooklyn Dodgerspitcher Carl Erskine leading a talentedgroup, lost three games to North CentralConference foes—New Castle, Muncie Centraland Kokomo—during the regular seasonbefore putting together a closing win streak that included revenge victories overthe Trojans and Bearcats.

Emerson Mutterspaugh,Middletown (1946): A three-yearperformer for Middletown HighSchool. All-sectional guard as ajunior. Coached at Pendleton,Anderson Highland, Linden, andDarlington and later served in schooladministration.

The 1946 Syracuse Yellow Jackets.Front, left to right: Lowell Poyser,Richard Bell, Paul Traster, WilfredBeck, Stanley Carr. Back, left toright: coach Calvin Beck, RobertZollinger, Richard Workman, RobertDust, Marshall Coy, Charles Causer.Photo courtesy of the IndianaBasketball Hall of Fame.
The chance to avenge the Kokomo defeatwould come weeks later in the statefinals, after Anderson had marched throughthe first three rounds of the tournamentwith an average margin of victory of morethan fifteen points per game. A win overWhiteland in the semistate final set up therematch with Kokomo, but an injury to Wilsonin that Whiteland contest virtuallydoomed Anderson’s chances in the finals.“I could rebound, but I could not get downthe floor like we would usually run the fastbreak,” Wilson says. “That was the bestballclub I ever played on. We watchedBosse win it [that night in 1944 over Kokomo].We thought we could have beaten themwith no problem.”

The 1946 Huntington TownshipBearcats. Front, left to right:Richard Bruss, Dean Hall, HerbertOden, Paul Schoeff, Ed McNally.Back, left to right: coach EarlKreiger, Stuart Wechslar, MauriceBarnes, Walter Beghtel, GlenHockensmith, Bill Bieghler. Photocourtesy of the Indiana BasketballHall of Fame.
After that trip to the final four, Andersonbegan a rebuilding effort that endedwith an upset loss to Danville in the 1945regional final. The 1945–46 season didn’tstart any better for the Indians when theywere upset by county rival Lapel in thesecond game of the season. They won eightof the next nine games before enduring astretch of ineptitude that left even the strongestAnderson believers wondering aboutany post-season chances. The Indians hitseven of seventy-eight shots, lost to FortWayne Central by twenty-seven points, and waited in the dressing room for Cummingsto admonish their performance. “We werehorrible that night,” says Ritter. “Cummingscame in and said, ‘You have nightslike that. Let’s go get some fried chicken.’”

A promo for the 1946 Gas City Tigers. They won the sectional and the regional titles.
That approach didn’t appear to work,as Anderson dropped three of its last fourgames, including a chance to win the NorthCentral Conference outright against Kokomoand a chance to share the conferencecrown against New Castle. That left Anderson12-7 heading into the tournament, withno momentum and no support. “No onepicked us to win the sectional,” Wilsonsays.

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