Eight teams move on in ‘Best Of All Time’

By HERALD STAFF
sports@dcherald.com

After thousands of votes were cast — both through paper ballot and online at DuboisCountyHerald.com/BestOfAllTime — eight teams have moved on in The Herald’s Best Of All Time bracket to crown the best high school boys basketball team in Dubois County history.

After reading more about each of the advancing teams, it’s time to once again head over to the contest website and vote for who you think should move on to the Final Four. Voting in the second round of the bracket is open until 11 p.m. Thursday.

 

1. Northeast Dubois (1977)

The quartet of Leon Wehr, Steve Sander, Mike Archer and Bernie Merkel all knew what success on the basketball court felt like prior to their senior season of 1976-77.

Herald file photos
The Jeeps leading rebounder, Leon Wehr (52), outdid Crawford County’s Ron Spencer several times during the opening game of the 1977 regional. Wehr was top rebounder for the game.

The four of them won the Shoals eighth grade basketball tournament in 1973. The Jeeps also won the Lost River Conference when they were sophomores in 1975. But that sectional championship eluded not just them, but the town of Dubois. It would be up to them and their teammates to try to change that.

Then-Jeeps coach Jim Mueller said he was cautiously optimistic heading into the year, according to the Nov. 17, 1976, edition of The Herald. Wehr, Sander, Archer and Merkel were all starters their junior year, and all of them averaged in double figures. Greg Wineinger moved to Dubois from Louisville as a junior, and the Jeeps had five senior starters that year.

Dubois didn’t get off to the hottest start early on. The Jeeps went 2-2 in their first four games of the season, but they never lost back-to-back games all season. They won five in a row after their second loss of the season. Streaks proved to be a common theme. Dubois also claimed three victories in a row after their third loss, and five in a row after their final regular-season loss.

Archer averaged 18.6 points per game, but the Jeeps had to learn to play without him toward the end of the regular season. They proved to be just fine without him, as they continued to win down the stretch. Current boys coach Terry Friedman, and also Rick Schepers, took turns filling in for Archer during his hiatus.

Archer, the player with the second-highest scoring average in Dubois County, did not start the Jeeps’ sectional semifinal game March 4 against Forest Park. However, the fans roared with applause when he came off the bench and onto the floor when the Jeeps trailed, 4-0, against Forest Park.

There didn’t appear to be any rust, despite playing with a cast on his injured arm. Archer scored 18 points to lift Northeast Dubois to a 58-45 win against the Rangers in the semifinals. That win pitted them against Jasper, who took down the Jeeps in the 1971 sectional championship in what was the first of a string of five in a row for the Wildcats.

However, Jeeps fans did not see their school suffer the same fate this time around. Archer posted 25 points, helping Northeast Dubois to its first sectional championship ever that season, and that was only the beginning of what would be a run all the way to the semistate championship.

 

2. Ireland (1963)

Some teams had all the fortune when Huntingburg began hosting the sectional tournament in 1925.

The Ireland Spuds gathered on the gym floor after winning the school’s first regional championship at the Huntingburg Regional in 1963.  Ireland defeated the Washington Hatchets 39-37 to claim their first regional crown. Pat Schitter, Ireland’s sophomore center, hit the winning shot with just one second on the clock.

Then there’s Ireland, who had a hard time just getting to the sectional championship, let alone winning it. The Spuds made it to the sectional title game for the first time in 1933, but they were no match for Jasper in a 41-7 loss.

A whole generation was born, grew up and played for Ireland, but the Spuds could not return to the sectional championship until 1962 — 29 years after their first appearance. They entered the sectional championship with a 21-1 record against a 16-7 Wildcats team. Coaching the Spuds was Jerome Stenftenagel, who played on Jasper’s 1949 state championship team. The Spuds pulled within a four-point deficit, 55-51, against the Wildcats, but Jasper walked out of Huntingburg with a championship.

The coach, nicknamed “Dimp,” resigned to take the Lapel job, and in came Ray “Pete” Gill. Gill inherited a Spuds team that won 27 straight Patoka Valley Conference games going into 1962-63, but had only two returning starters, both seniors, in Dave Small, who scored 222 points as a junior, and Joe Lents, who scored 170.

Ireland kept the good times rolling with a perfect 9-0 record in the PVC, and another conference championship. The Spuds ended their regular season 15-5, their sixth winning season in a row. They had the best regular-season record entering the Huntingburg sectional for the fourth year in a row, having gone 19-1 in the regular season the previous years.

However, three of those regular-season blemishes came against sectional opponents. They lost to Dubois twice and Holland once. Two of those losses were in the holiday tournament in Ferdinand.

The Spuds didn’t quite match the win-loss record from the previous three years going into sectional, but this team is still remembered more than a half-century later for being the one to finally win the championship with a 20-19 win against Springs Valley in the title game.

They weren’t done after sectionals, though. Pat Schitter, who scored eight points in the regional championship March 9 against Washington, stunned the Hatchets on his last-second shot for a 39-37 title winner.

Ireland saw its luck run out in a 61-36 loss to Evansville Bosse in the first game at semistate. However, the school with an enrollment of just 147 students, that saw their Spuds deliver excellent regular-season records in previous years, finally could claim that sectional  hardware for itself.

 

3. Southridge (1986)

Southridge attained its best record ever in 1984-85, becoming the first team in history to make it to state without having any seniors. That junior-heavy group that saw a lot of success in middle school and delivered the first regional and semistate championships in Southridge history were all seniors now.

Southridge’s Ron Steinhart blows past a Memorial defender as he helps the 1986 Raiders secure the semistate championship.

The Raiders faced some adversity along the way. They started off with senior Todd Jochem being out due to an injury to begin the year, leaving junior Ted O’Bryan to step up in his spot before Jochem later returned. They began the year ranked No. 3 and the one team to beat in southern Indiana, but upsets from the opposition came, too.

Southridge had the luxury of hosting the Hall of Fame Classic in 1985. The Raiders lost, 58-48, against Muncie Central, in the championship game. It was their first of four regular-season losses after starting the season 5-0.

They won another eight in a row before posting back-to-back losses by a combined five points. The Jeeps came away with a 50-49 victory, and Heritage Hills, 49-45. Southridge won another five in a row before losing the regular-season finale.

Getting payback against Northeast Dubois seemed to be a central theme to this particular Southridge club. The Raiders avenged the 1984 sectional championship loss with a 1985 championship win. They also reigned supreme in the 1986 sectional semifinal with a 74-51 win against the Jeeps.

Southridge met another county rival in Jasper for the sectional championship. The Raiders once again got the luxury of cutting down the nets on their home floor with another title, but edged the Wildcats, 55-53, in a tight game the whole way through. Jasper led most of the way. The Wildcats had an advantage as late as 51-50.

The Raiders took another regional championship with a 59-46 win against Loogootee, but had to work in the semistate championship to prevent Evansville Memorial from going to state for the first time in its history. Memorial took the lead in the third quarter, and led 44-40, then 46-44, in the fourth, until Southridge went on a run to go back to state with a 60-52 triumph. O’Bryan led the way with an average of 17.5 points in two semistate games.

It looked like Marion was going to run away against the Raiders for the second Final Four in a row. The Giants led the Raiders, 22-6, at halftime, and 39-17 in the second half. However, Southridge fought resiliently to trim that deficit. The Raiders got the deficit to single digits with just more than a minute remaining in the fourth quarter. That was the first time it was single digits since early in the second quarter.

The Raiders held tight, losing, 63-54, to the Giants for the second straight year. Marion would go on to repeat as state champions later that night.

 

6. Forest Park (2006)

If, in November 2005, Forest Park wasn’t talking about it, the Rangers sure were thinking about it.

Forest Park head coach Tom Beach and his 2006 team cheer from the bench during the team’s state title run.

The Rangers entered the season No. 1 in the Class 2A rankings as the defending state champions. They were in the midst of a golden era — having gone to state twice in the past three seasons after winning just two sectional championships in school history prior to 2002-03.

However, with success comes expectations. The six seniors on the 2005-06 squad won many games before they even got to the prep level. The expectations remained lofty by the time they got to high school. They wouldn’t go undefeated like some might have expected, nor did they spend the whole year ranked No. 1, but they once again finished No. 1.

Forest Park began its season in The Herald Tipoff Classic, and met Class 2A No. 2 Loogootee in the championship game. The Rangers graduated some production in Matt Atkins from the year before — Atkins averaged 10.2 points per game. However, the Rangers had enough pieces to dispatch the Lions, 55-38.

The Rangers had some close games, and didn’t always come out on top. A 60-56 loss to Tell City on Dec. 3, a 91-86 overtime loss at Southport on Dec. 17 and a 73-67 loss against Anderson on Dec. 30 in the first game of the City Securities Hall of Fame Classic proved the 2005-06 Rangers weren’t always invincible.

However, after that point, they found a way.

Forest Park met Loogootee in the consolation game of the Hall of Fame Classic, and could’ve lost its second consecutive game for the first time since the 2001-02 season. The Rangers held tough, though, and bested the Lions, 67-63, in overtime. It was the third time Forest Park got the better of Loogootee that year.

The Rangers won the final 12 games in the regular season after that. The closest anybody came to knocking them off was South Spencer on Jan. 13, but the Rangers still held together for a 63-54 win.

Their closest test prior to state came on March 11 in the regional championship against Providence. Justin Benedetti of Providence drained a 3-pointer to trim Forest Park’s lead to two, 55-53. However, free throw shooting in the clutch propelled the Rangers to a 59-53 win.

They cruised to a 60-35 win at semistate to set up a March 25 rematch with Harding. Forest Park escaped with a 68-63 win the year before. This one was close, too, but the result was the same. The Rangers were champions again in a 61-55 triumph.

 

7. Holland (1968)

Holland entered the 1967-68 season with lots of depth, but not as much seasoning from the previous year’s sectional championship team.

The 1968 Holland Dutchmen turned in a historical performance when they capped a perfect 20-0 regular season.

Only Don Buse, Steve Henke and Gerald Hilsmeyer returned from the 1966-67 Dutchmen. They lost Jerry Bueltel, Phile Luebbehusen and Rick Barnett to graduation. Coach Woody Neel brought in many new players to the varsity lineup that year in juniors Gary Dougan, Nathan Schnellenberger, Phil Meyer and Don Kippenbrock. Sophomores Larry Kahle, Lynn Kahle and Don Bacon also joined in, and some of these players provided height for Holland.

The 1967-68 Dutchmen turned in a historical performance. They went a perfect 20-0 in the regular season. Holland became just the second Dubois County team in history to have an undefeated regular season after the 1943 Dubois team that went 18-0. The 1967-68 squad averaged 75 points per game while holding opponents to 49.5 points. Jasper was the second closest with an average of 65.2 points per game, while Ferdinand’s defense allowed 59.8 points per game, second in that category.

The 1943 Jeeps, however, lost to Huntingburg, 26-24, in the sectional tournament. Holland reigned supreme in the sectional tournament by edging Ferdinand, 57-53, for the championship. The Dutchmen set numerous feats en route to the repeat.

Their 20-0 regular season feat was a new record, surpassing the 1938-39 and 1954-55 teams that went 19-1 in the regular season. They escaped with a pair of one-point wins to maintain the record. Holland was also the first team to enter the Huntingburg sectional undefeated since the 1958 Springs Valley team that went to the Final Four.

Buse scored 63 points during the three sectional tournament games — 14 points more than anybody else. Hilsmeyer dropped 43 and Meyer 36. All three earned all-sectional honors.

Holland met Oolitic in its opening game of the regional tournament. Both teams entered the tournament 23-0. Things didn’t look good for the Dutchmen for much of the game. The Bearcats led, 35-25, at halftime, and 46-40 after three quarters.

However, the Dutchmen found a way, limiting Oolitic’s production in the fourth quarter while rallying to tie, 57-57. They escaped, 61-59, thanks to free throw shooting down the stretch.

They met Jeffersonville for the regional championship that night, and despite holding a 38-34 lead at halftime, what did them in was the start of the third quarter. The Red Devils went on a 10-0 run at one point. Holland tried to make a comeback, but fell, 72-70, just shy of completing it.

 

8. Forest Park (2005)

Questions surrounded Forest Park heading into the 2004-05 season.

The 2005 Forest Park team nailed their first state basketball championship with a 68-63 win against Harding.

The Rangers posted six straight winning seasons, but the makeup was going to be different. They only had two seniors, and just one of them would get prominent playing time. Forest Park finished as the Class 2A state runner-up in 2003, but the only varsity player left from that team was junior Brandon Hopf, who contributed to that team as a freshman.

Forest Park graduated senior guards Adam Brames and Neal Knies in 2004. Brames averaged 14 points per game, while Knies averaged 9.4. Brandon averaged 13.5 points as a sophomore, while cousin Clint scored 8.7 as a freshman.

Others had to step up, though. Current boys coach David Welp, Matt Atkins and Tim James all saw some action the year before, but they saw their roles increase beginning in the fall of 2004. They eventually got acclimated.

The Rangers began the season 3-2, but those two losses came by a combined total of three points. They mowed their way through many opponents, while squeaking out some close wins: 62-60 on Jan. 14 against South Spencer, and 57-51 the next night at Paoli. Forest Park lost four games that season, but its 72-60 defeat Feb. 15 at the hands of the Boonville was the only one larger than two points.

Forest Park had some adversity to deal with, such as trailing Perry Central, 10-0, in the semifinal of the Southridge sectional tournament, but a 77-59 win on March 4 more than erased all of that. All of the Rangers’ postseason wins were by at least 10 points until the March 19 semistate game against Knightstown.

The Rangers trailed, 47-38, at halftime, and Brandon Hopf had four fouls before the fourth quarter began. But Clint scored 19 points at the half. Brandon stepped up when it counted the most, however. His two free throws gave Forest Park a 70-69 lead with 2:18 to go in the fourth quarter. The Rangers retook the lead for good when Matt Atkins found Brandon. A 76-73 win put them back in the state championship.

Once there, Forest Park proved on March 26 that it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. The Rangers posted a shooting percentage of 33, and turned the ball over 15 times before the fourth quarter. They also missed 14 shots in a row in the third period. However, Forest Park went on a 26-14 run down the stretch, and that was just enough for the No. 8 Rangers to nail their first state basketball championship with a 68-63 win against Harding.

 

12. Northeast Dubois (1984)

Northeast Dubois entered the 1983-84 with some obstacles it still had yet to overcome.

The 1984 Northeast Dubois team gathered in the locker room before the start of the regional championship game against Loogootee. The Jeeps hadn’t beaten the Lions in 17 years prior to their 46-42 win during the Washington regional.

The Jeeps started 7-2 in the 1982-83 season, but couldn’t keep that hot streak going. John Church’s Jeeps made it to the sectional championship game in 1979 and 1980, but those groups lost in the championship game to Southridge both times.

Northeast Dubois had seven seniors, and three returning starters — Mike Steffe, Kenny Egler and Bruce Terwiske. The Jeeps also had three juniors, making the 1983-84 squad a seasoned one. Steffe led Dubois in scoring, field goal percentage and rebounding to earn team MVP honors.

He’d follow up his senior campaign by once again pacing the team with 14.3 points per game in the regular season. Junior Daron Cave joined him in double figures with an average of 10.5 points. Terwiske and Egler averaged 8.5 points and 6.5 points per game, respectively.

Church resigned as the Jeeps coach during the season, effective whenever the Jeeps played their final tournament game. He’d get one last chance to bring a sectional championship to Dubois for the first time since 1977. His 1980 team went 16-4 — leading scorer and rebounder Royce Hurst fell to an ankle injury before the tournament began.

This team finished the regular season 12-8. Church told The Herald, according to the Feb. 27, 1984, edition, that that year’s team wasn’t a great ball team, but a good ball team. He liked his team’s chances when they matched up against any opponent in the tournament.

Church believed his team would come up with a win in the Southridge semifinal against Forest Park. His intuition proved correct, but the Jeeps had to grind for a 61-55 win. The game saw seven ties and nine lead changes before the Jeeps came out on top.

They finally got past Southridge in the sectional title game for a 49-36 win. Northeast Dubois got off to an 8-0 start and didn’t look back, taking a 28-13 lead into the locker room at halftime. Church told people all-season long that the team he had in his sixth year that a lot of good things were going to happen to Northeast Dubois. The sectional championship was only one of them.

The Jeeps caught fire in the third quarter of the regional semifinal against Bedford North Lawrence, setting the scene for a championship game with a Loogootee team that survived Crawford County, 43-41. But the Lions had torched the Jeeps for many years before.

Yet, on March 10, that all changed, when Dubois edged out a 46-42 win for another regional championship. A string of 13 consecutive free throws helped make the difference. The Jeeps avenged their 66-47 loss against Loogootee on Dec. 3.

However, they could not keep the good times rolling at semistate, finishing 16-9 following a 56-44 loss to Vincennes Lincoln in the semistate matinee.

 

13. Southridge (1985)

Southridge lost to Northeast Dubois in the 1984 sectional championship on its home floor. However, Raiders coach Gary Duncan thought the experience his young players had could have carried over to the next season.

Players on the 1985 Southridge team erupted in celebration seconds before the final horn sounded and confirmed their stunning upset of No. 3 L&M in the semistate championship game at Roberts Stadium in Evansville.

They already had seven sophomores from the previous year. Another two joined them for their junior year. Their 10th player was a sophomore; no seniors for the 1984-85 squad. That team from the Class of 1986 began to play together in fifth grade, and didn’t lose a game until eighth grade.

No longer would Southridge be the underdog come the fall of 1984. The Raiders had three starters, all juniors, coming back from the year before in Todd Jochem, Ron Steinhart and Rick Patberg.  Jochem and Steinhart averaged 12 and 9.4 points per game, respectively, as sophomores. Patberg came around down the stretch, and twin brother Ron joined him on the team once junior year rolled around.

The Raiders went 15-4 during the regular season. Jochem averaged 16.7 points to lead Dubois County. They couldn’t quite come up with the Pocket Athletic Conference championship and let some things slip from their grasp, but better things were soon to come.

The first order of business was getting payback against the Jeeps, which the Raiders did with a 73-45 runaway in the sectional opener. Northeast Dubois got off to a quick 8-2 lead in that game before Southridge went on an 18-0 run in the final two minutes of the opening quarter that began the rout.

It needed all it could to get past Perry Central, coming away with a 51-47 victory against the Commodores in the sectional to set up a meeting with Forest Park in the sectional championship game. Duncan told The Herald after the semifinal win that his team’s success was no surprise to him, and that his players were exactly where he thought they’d be at the beginning of the year.

Southridge didn’t have to worry about a close game this time, cruising to a 57-37 win on March 2. But a fifth sectional title in seven years wasn’t the end. The Raiders edged North Harrison, 51-48, to capture the program’s first regional championship after misfortune in past regional tournaments.

More history came when the 1984-85 Raiders became the first team in Indiana history to win a semistate championship without having any seniors. They downed L&M, 72-54, to advance to state.

The Raiders could not quite get past eventual state champion Marion, losing, 76-52, in the Final Four, but finished 23-5, their best record in team history at that time.

 




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