News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 25, 2012

Old friend missing as Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic begins

Mike Lunsford
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — It occurred to me late last month, as I opened my morning newspaper to read up on the draw for this year’s Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic, that when I walk through Terre Haute South’s doors on Wednesday it will be the first time that I won’t find my old buddy Dean Kendall sitting at one end of the gym, a smile on his face a good while before the first whistle is blown or the first shot is taken.

Dean’s name was hardly synonymous with the PHWVC, but he rarely, if ever, missed a game. Instead, those who have memories of the old Wabash Valley Tournament are probably more familiar with him. He compiled the definitive book about the Valley’s history in 1997, and from the very first game of the very first Classic you could find him at a table near a doorway, selling a book or two and reacquainting himself with all the friends he’d made over the years — myself, I am happy to say, among them.

Dean died last March; he was 88. He enjoyed driving over to Terre Haute from his Indianapolis home, always taking a short detour south to Pimento, where he grew up as a boy, always happy that the classy guys who ran the Classic had taken the time to invite an “old codger” like him to the draw. If there ever was a man who appreciated his seat and a slice of pizza at the Classic, it was Dean.

Like most of us, I suppose, Dean thought his childhood was special. He was primarily a scrawny bench-warmer for his Peppers’ teams, and he graduated in 1942 with hardly a basket to his name. I don’t believe his team ever made it to Terre Haute for a Valley finals while he wore the uniform — after all, the odds were against the Peppers, who entered the tourney 39 times but advanced to the final round only four times. I found that out, by the way, in Dean’s book.

I think that what I liked the most about Dean wasn’t his basketball knowledge; it was his eternal optimism. More than once the old boy beat the odds, particularly after several bouts with cancer, and for years he published a little circular he called “The Cheer-Up News,” a photocopied and stapled handout that he’d slip in the mail to his friends from church or, in my case, to someone he’d met at the Classic. He did it all on his own dime, too, because — as he told me once — he just like to “see people grin.”

Not many people who go to the Classic are going to notice that Dean isn’t there. I’m not going to be able to attend as many games this year as I usually do, but for those I watch, I know it won’t be quite the same when I head out the door past those tables. A few years ago, Dean told me that he appreciated the fact that I’d always come by to talk to him. “You always remember me,” he said more than once.

How could I ever forget him?

Now, as customary, I have prepared the dreaded “Wabash Valley Pizza Hut Classic Quiz.” Nothing much has changed in the quiz’s format over the past 13 years; I ask the questions and you answer them. I almost always slip in a few questions about the PHWVC’s predecessor to appeal to those readers who have a few extra seasons under their belts. As to prizes for the highest score, don’t be ridiculous. You’ll lose your amateur status!

Lunsford’s Classic Quiz

1. Just about every Classic buff knows that Hamilton Southeastern won the very first PHWVC 13 seasons ago, but very few can remember the small Illinois school the Royals defeated in the first game to get their tournament roll started. Who was it? a. Palestine, b. Hutsonville, c. Red Hill, d. Westfield.

2. Now, one to honor Dean: We know that Kendall’s Pimento Peppers played in the Valley 39 times, but another team called the Peppers was in the field 23 times. Name that long-gone school. a. Solsberry, b. Decker Chapel, c. Roachdale, d. Wallace.

3. Only one school in PHWVC history has placed a player on the all-tournament team every single year, and that is Terre Haute North. Who was that very first North player to make the all-PHWVC team (in the first few years, only five players made it.) Sorry, no multiple-guess on this one!

4. Duane Klueh, legendary basketball player and coach, can now say that he not only drew the names for the 13th annual tournament, he played in a few of the Valleys, too. For what local school was Klueh an outstanding player? a. Glenn, b. Blackhawk, c. State High, d. Wiley.

5. On last year’s final day of play, the four games that decided sixth place through the championship all had something in common. Was it a. each of the winners trailed at halftime, b. each of the winners were ahead at halftime, c. each of the four winners were tied with their opponents at halftime, or d. each of the four winners were visitors on the scoreboard?

6. In what year of the Valley Tourney were players first given a fifth foul before being disqualified from play? a. 1927, b. 1936, c. 1945, d. 1955.

7. The PHWVC welcomes the Robinson Maroons to the field for the first time in its 13-year history, but the Maroons were a steady force in the Valley years ago. Which of the following statements is true about RHS? a. Robinson is one of five Crawford County schools to have won the tourney, b. Robinson won the Valley three times, c. Robinson won the tourney more than any Illinois school, d. Robinson held an opponent to its lowest scoring total in Valley championship history.

8. In what year did the old Valley Tournament field over 100 teams for the last time? a. 1956, b. 1958, c. 1960, d. 1965.

9. In last year’s quiz, I asked a question about who was the only player besides R.J. Mahurin to have scored 15 field goals in a single PHWVC game, and the answer was Shakamak’s Billy Newton. Now three players share that record. Who is the most recent player to hit 15 field goals in a game? a. Sullivan’s Rhett Smith, b. Terre Haute South’s Jeffrey Turner, c. Casey-Westfield’s Brandon Wolfe, d. Terre Haute North’s Calvin Blank.

10. What school in the PHWVC field has the most popular nickname/mascot in its respective state (there are three Illinois schools in the tourney)? Just so you’ll narrow the field, let’s go ahead and drop the Miners, Rox, Lakers, Golden Arrows and Maroons. That leaves the Warriors, Lions, Knights, Panthers, Wildcats, Patriots, Bulldogs, Braves and Vikings from which to choose.

Lunsford Classic Quiz answers

1. c. Red Hill played in the first two years of the Classic.

2. d. The Wallace Peppers were from Fountain County.

3. Steve Weatherford

4. c. Coach Klueh started out as a Young Sycamore.

5. b. Every team that led at the half won the game.

6. c. Until 1945, players fouled out after their fourth foul!

7. For those of you who thought, “It could be any of those answers,” well you’re right. You couldn’t miss the question; all the answers are correct.

8. c. There were 110 teams in the Valley in 1960; 88 remained in 1961.

9. b. Turner came up big for coach Scott Ridge’s first PHWVC.

10. It’s Turkey Run. The Warriors join 21 other schools to have the most popular nickname in Indiana, tied with “Eagles” for the top spot. Riverton Parke isn’t far behind at 19, making “Panthers” the second-most popular name. By the way, there are 30 schools in Illinois — Casey-Westfield included — that are Warriors, but that places them fourth (behind Eagles, Wildcats and Panthers).