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.

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