Betz broke out as a senior scorer for JasperJune 12, 2020
BY COREY STOLZENBACH
There isn’t likely to be a picture of Charles “Butch” Betz next to the term “late bloomer” in the dictionary, but perhaps there should be.
A height disadvantage kept Betz from being part of Jasper’s varsity basketball team for much of his high school career. He instead played for Jasper’s junior varsity team, the Kittens, up until his junior year, given the fact that he was undersized.
“I didn’t mature until about early in my junior year, I guess,” Betz said. “I was short, and I guess my junior year I was still only about 5-foot-9. I wasn’t really big enough to be a factor.
However, Betz experienced a gradual height growth from his freshman year onward. He began playing better in practice, and continued his physical maturation. Jasper coach George Perry put him in a Jan. 29, 1965, game against Tell City. The Marksmen got the better of the Wildcats, 72-70, in overtime, but Betz tied for a game-high 23 points, and, thus, a varsity career where quality superseded quantity was born.
That game was all it took for him to get acclimated for the varsity level.
“I think I was ready to go that night, and after that, I felt right at home,” he said.
He joined the Wildcats during a low period. The 1964-65 Jasper squad went 3-18 after losing to Huntingburg, 62-51, in the sectional, in which Betz scored 11 points. Many of Jasper’s losses were by single digits that year, but Betz didn’t think he would’ve made a difference if he played the whole year on varsity, citing his size.
Betz spent the summer of 1965 working on his shooting going into his senior year, but he was also big on conditioning, which paid big dividends when he stepped onto the court for the Wildcats in 1965-66.
“I never got tired, really, in a basketball game,” Betz said. “Running was just second nature, and I didn’t really think about it very much when I was playing.”
Jasper began the season with a 3-4 record entering the Jasper Invitational Holiday Tournament, but Betz himself was on a torrid pace. He averaged 24.1 points per game through the first seven games for the Wildcats, but Betz saw improvement from the team by the time they got to the holiday tournament.
The Jasper record for most points in a single game heading into the tournament was held by Bob “Chesty” Luegers, who scored 35 points on Jan. 15, 1960, against Evansville Central. Betz flirted with the record not long before the tournament, posting a 34-point performance on Dec. 11 in a 57-53 losing effort against Springs Valley.
The Wildcats made it to the championship game against Evansville Rex Mundi. The Monarchs got a 30-point effort from Mike Owens that night, but Betz did him one better. He got into a groove that night and never slowed down.
Betz began the first quarter with five points, but scored in double figures in each of the next three quarters. His 15th basket came with 3:22 to play in the fourth quarter, giving him a new record of 37 points. Betz finished with 38.
Fans yelled "shoot, shoot” to him in the final minutes of play, as he earned a rousing ovation for his performance. Luegers himself was in attendance at this game, though Betz doesn’t remember the former saying anything to him. His record has since been surpassed many times, but Betz’s performance helped carry the Wildcats past the Monarchs, 74-64, to win the championship.
He had been a bastion of consistency from a scoring standpoint, but he still had no idea he’d go off the way he did.
“The ball came to me a lot that night,” he said.
That wasn’t the only record Luegers held that Betz broke that season. Luegers scored 438 regular-season points during the 1959-60 campaign, setting a new team record. Betz surpassed this on Feb. 12, 1966, with a 20-point performance in a 70-51 loss to Evansville North. He dropped another 28 in the season finale — a 70-59 win against Bedford — to give him 477 points.
The Wildcats reached the sectional championship that year in search of their first title since 1962, but standing in their way that night was two-time defending champion Springs Valley. The Blackhawks made it back to the championship game in search of their fourth championship in school history, but Jasper was out to prove that night it was a different team than in recent years.
“I thought they couldn’t beat us,” Betz said. “I just didn’t think they could beat us. I thought we had as good a team as they did, and I thought we had the crowd on our side there. I really thought we were going to win.”
Four quarters wasn’t enough to decide this one, and the two teams went into overtime with the score tied, 53-53. The Blackhawks double-teamed Betz that night, though he still finished with 15 points. Eric Otto proved crucial to Jasper pushing it to overtime with a 24-point performance.
Betz tried to come through big for his team just like he had all season long. He tried to draw a foul, but instead received a charging call with two seconds left as two Blackhawks went down on the charge.
Betz believes the charge was the right call.
“I was thinking that if I drove to the basket and I went up and got above everybody, that somebody would hit me on the arm and I’d go to the free throw line, we’d win the game,” he said. “But I leaned in a little bit too much with my shoulder, they called the charging foul and I think it was the right call. I never argued about it.”
The two teams traded leads in the second overtime, when it was tied at 57 with two seconds to go and the possibility of a third OT.
That’s when Springs Valley senior Charlie Carnes took a long-range shot to carry the Blackhawks past the Wildcats, 59-57, for the three-peat.
“Charlie was more of a rebounder and a defender — he was a tenacious defender,” Betz said. “I know he and one other guy were on me that night, and I could hardly get the ball, but, yeah, when he took the shot, I thought, ‘Great. I don’t think that’s going to go in from 20 feet,’ but it did, and that was the name of that tune.”
That was the end of Betz’s prep career. He finished with 643 points when he graduated in 1966. Betz is still one of the most prolific scorers in Jasper history. He scored 528 points as a senior, which is still one of the highest ever posted by a Wildcat. His career average of 18.9 points per game is third all-time. He averaged 22.5 points per game as a senior, a then-Jasper record, that has only been surpassed by three players across a span of four seasons.
Betz was more interested in academics than basketball by the time he went for his higher education, and accepted an academic scholarship to Wabash College. He played basketball as a freshman, but his heart wasn’t in it. Betz wanted to become a physician.
He wanted to work in an emergency room, and Betz moved to Rome, Ga., to fulfill his dream of becoming a physician. He wanted the small-town experience, not wishing to live in a big city, and it worked out well for him, as he has resided in Rome for the past 45 years.
Dr. Betz established a private practice that he ran for decades, and also has done nursing home work in his career, which he still does to this day on Tuesday and Thursday mornings each week. The outbreak of the COVID-19 virus was a challenge, as many patients and colleagues became infected, but he didn’t and nobody got really sick, and he still loves doing what he does.
“I may do it for a while,” he said. “I feel good and I enjoy doing it.”
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