More than 50 years ago, two young men who someday would rank among Indiana’s greatest basketball legends crossed paths at Butler Fieldhouse.
On one side was senior Bobby Plump of the small-town Milan Indians. On the other stood sophomore sensation Oscar Robertson of powerhouse Indianapolis Crispus Attucks. It was 1954 and a trip to the state semifinals awaited the winner.
Attucks led early, but Milan pulled ahead and played keepaway in the second half to win 65-52. As Plump recalls, he scored 28 points. Robertson, who became one of the NBA’s all-time greats, scored 22.
“I keep telling Oscar he has to respect me,” Plump said with a laugh during an interview with The Associated Press. “I don’t refer to the fact that I was a senior and he was a sophomore.”
Added Plump: “I think he was the best player I ever saw.”
Two games later, Plump hit the shot of his life in the closing seconds of the state final against another big-school power, Muncie Central. With time winding down, Plump drove from near the midcourt circle, then cut to his right and pulled up from about 15 feet. The shot was good, Milan won 32-30, and a David-vs.-Goliath story that has survived generations emerged.
The story, and that final shot, inspired the 1986 movie, “Hoosiers.” Smooth-shooting Jimmy Chitwood from the film? That’s Plump.
“Everybody in Indiana was familiar with what happened in 1954 because they kind of lived through that thing, or they heard tales passed down,” said Plump, now 73. “It used to be I’d meet people and they’d say, ‘I saw that game.’ Now people say ’My grandfather told me about that game.”’
As for Robertson, the loss to Milan marked the last time he lost a state tournament game. The next year, he led the first all-black team in the nation to a state championship. He followed it up by leading Attucks to the first unbeaten state championship season in state history in 1956.
Plump and Robertson, perhaps more than any other two players in state history, inspired Indiana boys — black and white, city and country — to dream of playing in the state tournament. In honor of the 100th state tournament, which will conclude on Saturday at Conseco Fieldhouse, The Associated Press compiled an Indiana All-Century team. The 26 players — a set of twins has been included as a single entry — were chosen with input from a panel of experts who have been involved with basketball in the state for at least 20 years.
Larry Bird, an all-century pick who averaged 30.6 points and 20.6 rebounds per game as a senior at Springs Valley in 1974, said the memories of pursuing a state title live long after the dribbling stops.
“If you go around the state, most guys played basketball on some level,” he said. “When I see a lot of my friends who played in high school but didn’t get to play in college, that’s all they talk about. They remember the coaches, they remember the cheerleaders, they remember the scores of games, and that’s their life.”
The members of the team, in alphabetical order, are:
Steve Alford, New Castle; Damon Bailey, Bedford North Lawrence; Kent Benson, New Castle; Larry Bird, Springs Valley; Hallie Bryant, Indianapolis Crispus Attucks; Mike Conley, Lawrence North; Bill Garrett, Shelbyville; Terry Dischinger, Terre Haute Garfield; Eric Gordon, Indianapolis North Central; Billy Keller, Indianapolis Washington; Clyde Lovellette, Terre Haute Garfield; George McGinnis, Indianapolis Washington; Rick Mount, Lebanon; Greg Oden, Lawrence North; Bobby Plump, Milan; Zach Randolph, Marion; Jimmy Rayl, Kokomo; Oscar Robertson, Indianapolis Crispus Attucks; Glenn Robinson, Gary Roosevelt; Scott Skiles, Plymouth; Homer Stonebraker, Wingate; Deshaun Thomas, Ft. Wayne Luers; Tom and Dick Van Arsdale, Indianapolis Manual; John Wooden, Martinsville; Robert “Fuzzy” Vandivier, Franklin.
Gene Keady, who recruited the state for 25 years as Purdue’s head coach, offered a list of all-time greats. Later in the conversation, he realized he had skipped a few.
“You start forgetting many of these guys,” he said. “That’s easy to do in Indiana. It’s amazing how many players come out of Indiana, per capita. The state has the best players in the history of the game.”
The state held onto one-class basketball until 1997, something that traditionalists say made the state tournament unique.
“I think it was special,” Keady said. “Everybody in the world knew about Indiana’s one-class basketball system.”
Former Pacers coach Bobby “Slick” Leonard, who played high school basketball at Terre Haute Gerstmeyer but was better known for his success at Indiana University, said towns often were identified by their high school basketball teams.
“When I was in high school, there were 714 teams in the state tournament,” the 77-year-old Leonard said. “That’s before a lot of consolidation. And there’s a lot of schools that had 20 kids in the graduating class, and everybody played.”
Leonard remembers listening to state tournament games on the radio in the 1940s, and what the atmosphere was like in Terre Haute and the surrounding towns as state approached.
“All those little towns, those gyms were packed on Friday night,” he said. “When it got to state tournament time, they closed the barber shops, the drug stores and everything else, and everybody headed to the basketball game.”
The special moments, like Milan’s victory, stand out. Keady mentioned Luke Zeller’s buzzer-beater just inside halfcourt that gave Washington an overtime win over Plymouth in the 2005 Class 3A final.
Warsaw coach Doug Ogle recalled watching Bailey play in front of 40,000 at the Hoosier Dome in 1990.
“I remember being way, way up, not being able to see very well, but you just felt it was kind of neat to be there as part of it,” he said.
Now, eight teams on Saturday pursue the same dream that Hoosiers have been chasing for 100 years. That isn’t lost on Ogle, whose Tigers will play Indianapolis North Central for the Class 4A title.
“If you love Indiana high school basketball, how can it not add to the excitement, being part of the 100th boys basketball tournament?” he said. “It’s important. I think it’s going to be meaningful to all four champions on Saturday because I think people are going to remember the 100th. I just think it will stick in their minds a little bit more.”
More than 50 years ago, two young men who someday would rank among Indiana’s greatest basketball legends crossed paths at Butler Fieldhouse.
- High School
Clay City wins regional title game thriller
Clay City rallied to nip Greenwood Christian Academy 66-65 and win the Class A boys high school basketball regional championship game at Martinsville High School on Saturday night.
Linton falls in OT to Clarksville in Southridge title clash
Linton falls in overtime to No. 2 Clarksville in Class 2A Southridge Regional championship game.
Eels' semifinal win is cause for celebration
Clay City fans celebrated the Eels’ 64-46 win over Oldenburg Academy like a championship early Saturday afternoon in the Class A Martinsville Regional for boys high school basketball.
Linton knocks off Perry Central in regional semi
Sensational shooting carries Miners past Perry Central
WIC principals approve expansion
Principals in the Western Indiana Conference approved a five-team expansion last week.
Linton, Clay City coaches pulling for each other Saturday in IHSAA basketball regionals
The only Wabash Valley boys basketball teams remaining in the IHSAA state tournament are the two that tied for first place in the SouthWestern Indiana Athletic Conference.
Linton (Class 2A) and Clay City (Class A) each finished 7-1 in the SWIAC. Clay City handed Linton its only conference loss Feb. 18, a 58-50 decision, while Clay City’s only SWIAC setback was by a 62-51 score at Eastern Greene on Jan. 17.
Paris rally falls short in Super Sectional
When Petersburg (PORTA) finally showed it was possible to hit a free throw on the west end of the Illinois-Springfield gym Tuesday night — after 12 misses in a row — it spelled the end of a high school comeback by Paris that looked for awhile like it would be one for the ages.
“I thought we had ‘em,” Tiger coach Shawn Nugent said after the Class 2A Super Sectional game won by the Bluejays 58-49.
Paris seeking finals berth tonight
The Paris Tigers may be the underdogs again tonight when they play at the Class 2A Springfield Super Sectional, or they may be the favorites. What’s already clear as the Illinois boys basketball tournaments for the smaller schools enter their final week is that rankings and reputation don’t matter, particularly to the Tigers.
Class 2A girls: Rick Risinger coaches Heritage to fifth state title
Rick Risinger spoke this past week about defense being the key to securing a win against a talented Fort Wayne Canterbury girls basketball squad in the Class 2A state championship game.
Coach Risinger’s Heritage Christian squad rose to the occasion Saturday in Hulman Center, holding the Cavaliers to 33-percent shooting to claim the school’s fifth state title since joining the IHSAA in 2003.
The Eagles won their first title since 2009 by a score of 64-61.
Class A girls: Oregon-Davis holds off Vincennes Rivet
Oregon-Davis jumped out to a 15-2 lead when senior Alicia McIntosh drilled a 3-pointer in Saturday’s Class A state championship for girls high school basketball.
The Bobcats stretched that lead to as large as 17 before halftime, and still led by double figures with three minutes remaining.
Class 3A girls: Western over Evansville Mater Dei 38-35
Like Fort Wayne Canterbury in the Class 2A championship, two-time defending Class 2A champion Evansville Mater Dei found the going much more tough when moving up one class due to the IHSAA’s “Team Success Factor” legislation.
Mater Dei (26-2), which had an average margin of victory of 27 points throughout the season, struggled against Western’s 2-3 zone all night long in falling to the Panthers 38-35.
Class 4A girls: Bedford North Lawrence wins second straight title
Damon Bailey guided Bedford North Lawrence to a second straight state championship in his first year as head coach.
Bailey, an assistant on the Stars’ unbeaten Class 4A champions in 2013, watched his team hold off a scrappy Penn squad for a 51-41 victory Saturday night.
Central Catholic rallies to defeat Rockville
It was an old story in a new location Saturday for the boys basketball team from Lafayette Central Catholic High School.
Clay City wins third straight sectional
Clay City, the two-time defending champion of the IHSAA Class A Sectional No. 57, took the floor at White River Valley High School with a chip on its shoulder Saturday night.
Linton pulls away late to win at North Knox
Defending smartly and playing the offensive tempo like a finely tuned violin, Linton’s Miners dominated the fourth quarter of a previously air-tight high school basketball game to defeat South Knox 57-45 and repeat as Class 2A Sectional 47 champions.
Damon Bailey among coaches directing daughters at Hulman Center on Saturday
Father-daughter bonding was among the themes Saturday at Hulman Center as Terre Haute played host to the IHSAA girls basketball state finals for a third straight year.
Class 4A title favorite Bedford North Lawrence looked to repeat as champions late Saturday night. Former BNL state champion and Indiana Hoosier great Damon Bailey led his Stars into the game with a pair of daughters on the court. Junior Alexa Bailey, wearing No. 22 of course, is a Butler recruit and sophomore Loren is a reserve for the Stars.
Owen Valley, Edgewood in sectional final again
Things haven’t changed that much in the Class 3A boys basketball sectional. Northview was in the field for the first time and hosted the semifinals Friday night. But for the second year in a row, Edgewood and Owen Valley will play for the Sectional 28 championship tonight.
Temples’ 3-pointers help Paris advance
The prudent thing would have been to pull the basketball out, wait for an opponent to foul and run as much clock as possible in the final minute of the Illinois Class 2A Westville Sectional on Friday night. Audie Temples was thinking dagger.
Ailing Wilkey helps Rockville advance to title game
For part of Friday, doubt existed about whether flu-stricken Rockville standout Keiontre’ Wilkey would be able to play in the first semifinal game of the Class A North Vermillion Sectional for boys basketball. The junior guard gutted it out, however, and tallied 17 points to help lead the Rox over the host high school 61-53. That sent them into tonight’s sectional championship game against No. 7-ranked Lafayette Central Catholic.
Preps: Late free throws help Linton beat North Knox
Linton hit 4 of 5 free throws in the final minute and hung on to defeat streaking North Knox 47-46 in the semifinals of the Class 2A North Knox Sectional for boys high school basketball.
Former Terre Haute resident Rick Risinger looking for fifth state title in Hulman Center
An accomplished group of girls basketball coaches will make their way into Hulman Center on Saturday for the IHSAA state finals.
Damon Bailey, 1990 Mr. Basketball for state champion Bedford North Lawrence and former Indiana University great, is the most familiar name to Hoosier basketball fanatics. In his first year as a girls varsity coach, Bailey leads BNL into action in the 4A state championship game.
With 590 career wins, Fort Wayne Canterbury coach Wayne Kreiger is already a member of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.
Behind senior Miss Basketball candidate Maura Muensterman, Steve Goans leads Evansville Mater Dei into the Class 3A title game on the heels of consecutive 2A titles.
No answer: Spears scores 30 as Martinsvlle ends TH South’s season
Terre Haute South ran into a championship performance Wednesday night in Game 2 of the Class 4A Avon Sectional for boys high school basketball. Martinsville’s Troy Spears scored 30 points while leading the Artesians to a 65-44 victory that ended South’s season.
North falls to No. 5 Brownsburg in Class 4A Avon Sectional
Terre Haute North did not bow out of the boys high school basketball tournament Tuesday night like a team on a seven-game losing streak.
The Patriots executed their gameplan, battled back from a double-digit deficit and forced Class 4A No. 5-ranked Brownsburg to hit free throws to win the opener of the Class 4A Avon Sectional.
Brownsburg (19-2) hit six straight free throws in the final 1 minute, 15 seconds to hold off the Patriots 51-47.
Two sets of Eels win at WRV Sectional
There’ll be no Cinderella story in Dugger to end this boys high school basketball season, and a spirited upset bid also fell short Tuesday night at the Class A White River Valley Sectional.
Defensive pressure and depth made the difference in both games, as Eminence ended the Union season — perhaps its last, at least as a public school — by a 59-46 score and Clay City pulled away in the second half for a 53-44 win over Shakamak.
Paris knocks off 23-2 Clinton Central in overtime sectional thriller
Paris’ boys basketball team has learned a lot in a late-season run of success, but the one thing that set the Tigers apart on Tuesday in Class 2A Westville Sectional semifinal game was composure.
The Tigers never got rattled, never flinched and got the ultimate reward.
BOYS SECTIONAL ROUNDUP: Linton holds off Sullivan at North Knox
Linton and Eastern posted victories in the opening round of the North Knox Class 2A Sectional on Tuesday.
Linton led most of the way to defeat Sullivan 51-43 in the first game. Eastern Greene bested North Central 62-42 in the nightcap.
Linton is 16-6 and will take on North Knox and Eastern Greene faces South Knox in the semifinals on Friday. North Knox takes an 11-game winning streak into the action.
Tough roads ahead: Terre Haute North faces big challenges in its sectional
With the hope that the obligatory snow is already on the ground, high school boys basketball sectionals begin today in Indiana, and for one Wabash Valley team in Illinois.
South swimmers fall short of lofty goals at state finals
Sometimes the journey is more rewarding than the destination.
That would best describe Terre Haute South’s performances Saturday in the 77th annual IHSAA boys swimming and diving state championships at the IU Natatorium.
Center Grove deals Terre Haute North 7th loss in row
Terre Haute North and Center Grove – two teams that haven’t won much lately – struggled to put the finishing touch against the other on Friday at North.
Prep roundup: Casey falls at Robinson Regional; Paris posts upset win at home
Teutopolis finished strong Friday night to defeat Casey 47-36 and win the Robinson Class 2A Regional for boys basketball teams.
- More High School Headlines
- Clay City wins regional title game thriller