Skaggs held long-standing sectional record

Herald archives
Bill Skaggs received the Sportsmanship Trophy for the St. Ferdinand Invitational Holiday Tournament in December 1956.

BY COREY STOLZENBACH
sports@dcherald.com

Any employee of The Herald who wishes to sift through the archives will see Bill Skaggs’ picture upon researching the old sectional previews from back in the day. If you’re a longtime reader and/or subscriber, you may also remember seeing the photo of him about to penetrate for a bucket on a perennial basis when Hoosier Hysteria time rolled around.

That’s because the former standout guard at Dubois was feeling it against French Lick on Feb. 28, 1957, at Huntingburg Memorial Gym. The Red Devils had no answer for the Jeeps senior that night, as he dropped 42 points. Dubois coach Ralph Seger yanked Skaggs with 1:56 to play in the game after the Jeeps had built a comfortable lead. The first person to greet Skaggs was Larry Stamm, the other member of the team’s backcourt. Stamm informed Skaggs he had just set a new sectional scoring record.

“I had no idea,” Skaggs said. “I knew I had scored points, but I had no idea as to how many.”

Skaggs remembers feeling fine before the game, and told The Herald that Dubois had a plan involving its backcourt to go against French Lick that evening.

“Larry would take and dribble the ball to me, he didn’t pass to me,” he said. “He took it and dribbled — used it as a dribble screen — I would be on the right-hand side of the floor and I would meet him. He would pick off my defensive man, and as I started my cut towards the basket, our center (Allen Merkel) would come from down low, come to the top of the circle to set the second screen and I just brushed by him and then popped that little 10- to 12-foot shot.”

Skaggs used the old adage of being in a zone that evening. He made 11 straight buckets at one point. That performance broke numerous records. Skaggs set the single-game Dubois scoring record, surpassing the old feat of Frank Senninger’s 32 points from Dec. 2, 1955, versus Otwell. It surpassed Jasper’s Dick Persohn’s 33-point sectional record set in 1956 against host Huntingburg. It was a new record at the Huntingburg Memorial Gym, which was set in the 1956 regional by Orville Bose of Hymera. Skaggs’ single-game Dubois record stood until Steve Merkel broke it with a 48-point performance against Winslow on Jan. 14, 1966.

Herald archives
Bill Skaggs drives to the basket enroute to scoring a record 42 points in the Huntingburg sectional tournament on Feb. 28, 1957.

And it wasn’t just Skaggs who put his name in the record book in that year’s sectional. Winslow’s Gordon Barnett scored 67 points during the course of a three-game span, and Jasper’s Jody Giesler nailed 12 free throws to tie a championship game record.

“We just had some fantastic ballplayers during those years,” said Skaggs, who felt like he was in the “golden era” of Indiana high school basketball.

The Jeeps then met West Baden after knocking off French Lick. Skaggs got off to a hot start, tallying 11 points in the first quarter, but unlike the Red Devils, the Sprudels adjusted to him, holding him to eight points the rest of the way. He finished with 19 points, setting a two-game record, but West Baden eliminated Dubois, 57-50. Skaggs finished his high school career with 971 points.

“They changed up defenses and they sent different people onto me at that point in time and tried to deny me the ball the whole rest of the game,” he said.

Skaggs had pride in holding that record, which stood for more than three decades. He couldn’t exactly pinpoint a reason for why he held the record as long as he did. All he could come up with was emphasizing the quantity that is 42 points.

They say that records are made to broken, though, and Skaggs knew he wouldn’t hold it forever.

“I just hoped it was going to be a great athlete that did it, and it was,” Skaggs said.

Jasper and Forest Park met March 2, 1993, in the opening round of the sectional tournament. The Rangers had the Wildcats on the ropes before Jasper stormed back behind the play of Scott Rolen. An 18-point deficit with less than five minutes to go evaporated thanks largely to Rolen’s performance.

The Wildcats couldn’t complete the comeback, falling to the Rangers, 85-80, but Rolen drained 10 3-pointers that night in one of the most memorable games in county history. He scored 47 points, making him the new record holder.

“I found out from some old classmates that when the record was broken, they even cried over it,” Skaggs said.

Skaggs joked that he would still have the record if people deducted all of Rolen’s threes from him. He did not talk to Rolen after the record was broken, as the two have never spoken to each other. Skaggs has maintained knowledge about local prep basketball through the years, but the game isn’t as much a part of his life any more.

He turned down basketball scholarships at Wofford College (S.C.) and also Austin Peay State University (Tenn.) because he did not want to leave home. Skaggs instead attended Indiana State University on academic scholarship for one year. He did not finish school, but started a family and worked in sales and administration for the rest of his life. Skaggs worked until he was 74 years old.

Skaggs has been married since 1957. His wife, Della Rae, has been battling cancer in recent years, but added she’s doing well at the moment. The Jasper resident can still go out for walks, and considers himself fortunate to be in good health.

“I’m not going to complain about my life,” he said.




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