‘Best Of All Time’ crownedApril 24, 2020
By COREY STOLZENBACH
The 1967-68 Holland Dutchmen already had a list of accolades they accomplished that season. They were the second team in Dubois County history to go undefeated in the regular season, repeated as sectional champions and finished as the last undefeated team in the state that year.
Now, according to those who have voted, that team is the Best Of All Time in Dubois County history.
“It’s great for the boys that played,” said Woody Neel, who coached the Dutchmen that season. “What can I say? It is a great honor, and I know that they’ll be really, really proud of it.”
Holland entered the year with three returning players from the 1967 sectional team: Don Buse, Steve Henke and the late Gerald Hilsmeyer. Neel thought they had the potential to have a good team. He thought the Dutchmen had a great attitude that they exemplified on the floor. Neel added that Holland also had great camaraderie. He spoke of the Dutchmen wanting a key so they could take the time to shoot in the gym even on weekends, sometimes on Sundays.
It addition to the returning players, a new cast of characters joined the team — Gary Dougan, Phil Meyer, Nathan Schnellenberger, Don Kippenbrock, Larry Kahle, Lynn Kahle and Don Bacon — to help make magic happen along with the returning trio.
“Don Buse was sort of the center at the heart of the team, but it takes more than one man to make a team, and we had a bunch of guys that was willing to be able to sacrifice, was able to work hard and was able to work within a framework that I expected them to work in, and they did,” said Neel.
The Dutchmen began their season Nov. 3, 1967, with a 60-38 win against Ireland, but not every game was smooth sailing. They twice outlasted Ferdinand in the regular season — 63-60 in overtime, then 54-53. Holland also escaped with a 60-59 come-from-behind win against Tecumseh in the team’s penultimate regular-season game.
Holland’s 53-35 win against Haubstadt made the Dutchmen just the second Dubois County team ever — and first since Dubois in 1943 — to go undefeated in the regular season, a perfect 20-0.
“We could’ve folded several times there that year, but they didn’t do it,” Neel said. “They just sort of refused to lose.”
Holland won only three sectional championships in its history before consolidating with Huntingburg High School into Southridge in 1972. The 1968 sectional crown was Holland’s last.
The Dutchmen got one more test from the Crusaders in the sectional final, but they escaped once more, 57-53, to repeat as sectional champs.
“They had a very good team,” Buse said of the Crusaders. “I thought, talent-wise, they were right along with us. They had good size and they had beat us the year before. They’ve always had good talent over there — there’s no question about that. Year in and year out, they’ve always had kids that can play and wanted to play and played the right way. So, yeah, they were one of our toughest opponents my senior year.”
The stakes got higher the next week when Holland had the right to face Oolitic in the regional tournament. Whichever team would win between the Bearcats and Dutchmen would be the last undefeated team in the state that year. Oolitic certainly proved a challenge, leading, 55-46, with 4:51 to play. The Dutchmen, however, would not go down. They rallied on an 11-2 run to tie it, 57-57, but Oolitic held a 59-58 edge late. Buse’s layup and Hilsmeyer’s free throw put the Dutchmen ahead, and they escaped, 61-59, to become the last undefeated team in the state that year.
Holland could not secure the regional crown, though, as a rough stretch against Jeffersonville in the third quarter of the championship game did the Dutchmen in. The Red Devils trailed, 38-34, at the half, before going on a 10-0 run, and despite Holland’s efforts, it could not reclaim the lead. The Dutchmen fell, 72-70, in the regional championship. They finished the year 24-1.
Neel thought Holland had to have some luck go its way, too, given the close calls the Dutchmen encountered. He demanded a lot of his players, worked them hard, but they stayed together and had good camaraderie and attitude to be successful.
“It’s not always your best ballplayers that make your best team, but it’s your boys that can play together the best that makes the team,” he said.
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