Sunday, March 19, 2017

twenty years on

1997 was either the best of times or the worst of times for Indiana high school basketball.  It was the end of an era, the end of one class basketball in the state that had become famous for its system of play.  You can blame the change on many things (we think high school consolidation was a big factor) and the results - well, depending on what camp you are from, the new class system was either a rousing success or a compete failure.  It's true, Milan will never again be David to Goliath in a winner take all state tourney, but I do believe that a Milan 2A State Championship would be just as honored by Indian fans & players as the 1954 crown.  Whatever side of this discussion you are on there is no doubt who the last one class state champion was - Bloomington North.  So, it only seemed natural that as the twentieth anniversary came around we would make the journey to the home of the Cougars.  Although lacking another state crown, the last 20 years have been relatively successful for North, winning 6 more Sectionals, 4 Regionals and 1 Semi-State.  The 2016-17 campaign proved to be a mixed bag for coach Andy Hodson and his young crew - finishing with a record of 12-10 and a home court Sectional loss to rival Bloomington South.  But, even if they never win the state again, Bloomington North will hold a special place in the history of Hoosier Hysteria and in their trophy case - the last prize when there was only one to give. CGS.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

the season ends at lapel

Our 2016-17 season that began back in November at the home of the Salem Lions comes to an end at Lapel, the site of the 2A Boys Regional Final. It seems appropriate that the road to the final four would come through a gym filled with so much basketball heritage.  On this night, the Frankton Eagles claimed their second Regional title in a hard fought contest against a talented Covington Trojan team on a last second shot, 54-52.  The game had all that we have come to know from small school basketball - hard nosed play, great fan support, vocal student sections and talented cheer squads.  Throw in a great pep band and you have the best of Hoosier high school basketball.  So, like the young Frankton player in the last frame, pausing to savor victory on top of the rim, we'll take a pause and look back on all this season has given us and what lies ahead.  CGS.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

the road home

As many of you know, I live just ten miles east of Milan, in the long shadow cast by the Mighty Men of 1954.  And, thanks to two photos - a portrait of my dad's 1937 Versailles Frenchies basketball team & a newspaper clipping of the same squad prepping for the Sectional, the Hoosier Hardwood Photo Project was born.  So, it was only natural that a Sectional Final between Milan & South Ripley (Versailles) would draw my attention.  Eighty years after the Frenchies entered Sectional play I made the twenty mile drive to Versailles, past pep signs in Milan, across the Busching covered bridge at the Versailles State Park, before ending at my dad's boyhood backyard, across from the town square. Founded in 1819, Versailles is the county seat of Ripley County and the boyhood home of James Tyson, one of the early executives of Walgreen Drugs.  Tyson funds help build an art deco library, church, school and auditorium/gym (that would serve as the home court of both the Versailles Lions and Milan Indians in 1954, the fabled championship year). Versailles was also one of many towns terrorized by Morgan's Raiders during the Civil War (thus the team mascot for South Ripley).  On this night, the hometown Raiders (the 2017 descendents of the Frenchies & Lions) were hoping to dish out their manner of hard court mayhem on the visiting Indians. The game was, as one referee put it, "classic southern Indiana basketball" - meaning physical & low scoring, supported by enthusiastic, vocal fans. The Raiders & Indians, old rivals, were evenly matched and well coached, possessing equal shares of basketball skill and scrappiness.  This final, full of momentum swings, was a game either team could have won, and with 5 seconds left on the clock the Indians had one last chance to tie. But a lost possession and foul led to an end of their title hopes & the 2016-17 season.  For South Ripley, the win opened a door to the Regionals in Paoli and for me - after four years & countless miles, my personal journey on this basketball road now feels complete. CGS.