Cardinal boys shine again in 1967
LUVERNE -- In March of 1967, "Penny Lane" by the Beatles was climbing the charts, as the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War continued to escalate.
The Worthington High School gymnasium was the scene of lots of dramatic basketball tournament games -- hosting, as usual, the District 7 and District 8 semifinals and finals. But in '67 it was also Worthington's turn for the Region 2 tournament.
In the 60's, the regional tourney -- which featured the champions of Districts 5, 6, 7 and 8 -- had been alternating between either St. Peter or Mankato and Worthington.
The classic event was held at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter in both 1960 and 1962, while Highland Arena at Mankato State was the scene in '64, '66 and '68.
Worthington hosted the event in the odd numbered years, including 1961 when defending state champion Edgerton won its second straight Region 2 championship. The Flying Dutchmen, however, were not able to repeat their state title -- being defeated by the Bemidji Lumberjacks in the first round.
In 1963, Edgerton won its third District 8 championship in four years, but had its undefeated season stopped by St. James in the Region 2 tourney at Worthington.
In 1965, I was an eighth-grader at Heron Lake and saw my first Region 2 game. Sitting halfway up on the east end of the south balcony, I watched in awe as the defending state champion Luverne Cardinals took the floor for pre-game warm-up.
With marine-style haircuts and flashy warm-up drills -- featuring quick, sharp passing -- LHS was an intimidating force.
District 7 champion Westbrook was no match for the undefeated Cardinals that night, as Luverne rolled to its 21st consecutive victory, 72-50.
Those '65 Cards -- with seniors Del Jessen, Tom Kozney and Scott Creeger, joined by juniors John Beyer and Rodger McKay in the starting line-up -- later repeated as Region 2 champs with a victory over Mankato and then defeated highly-regarded St. Paul Central in a tremendous game.
That Cardinal victory over the LeRoy Gardner-led Minutemen improved LHS to 24-0 and advanced the Southwest Conference champs to the state tournament semifinals for the second year in a row. But the exhausted Cardinals would not duplicate their '64 magic, as Faribault -- paced by six-foot-eight-inch Tom Weaver -- defeated Luverne
LHS ended its brilliant 1965 campaign with two losses, as Bemidji won the third-place game over the weary Cardinals.
With the six-foot-six Beyer returning for his third-year as the Cardinals' starting center, Luverne was good again in 1966. But so were Worthington and Windom.
The Trojans (20-3) won the conference and rallied to defeat Luverne (15-6) for the District 8 title.
Windom (22-4) posted an impressive 90-79 victory over Luverne at Windom in late January and later avenged a pair of close losses to Worthington with a awesome 68-45 victory over the Trojans in the Region 2 final at Mankato.
The Eagles lost a one-point game (60-59) to eventual state champion Edina in the opener and then won two games to bring home a state tournament consolation trophy.
Luverne's season-ending loss to Worthinton in the '66 district finals is a vivid memory for Chuck Getman, who now lives in Walforf, Maryland -- about 40 miles from Washington D.C.
Getman, a 6-4 forward, had been a sophomore reserve on the '65 team. He was talented, high-scoring starter for the Cardinals as a junior and senior.
"I fouled out two minutes into the second quarter," Getman recalled. "Five of our top six players fouled out before the game ended."
That was a disappointment for the Cardinals, who had been to the state tournament each of the past two seasons.
"I felt like we let John (Beyer) down," says Hardwick farmer Dave Lorenzen -- who at 6-5, joined Getman and Beyer to form the area's tallest front line in '66 -- in reference to that loss to Worthington. "We had a 17-point lead, but the Trojans never gave up, made their free throws and outscored us in the fourth quarter to win."
With Beyer graduated, Lorenzen, Getman and all-around athlete Gary Golla (6-0, guard) became the senior captains in '66-67 for third-year head coach Dave Hutchins.
"I remember Dave coming in one day and telling me it was no fun this year," Hutchins remembers about Lorenzen after an early practice that season. "I told him that he needed to take on the leadership role -- which he, Chuck and Gary did very well as the season progressed."
The season did not start out too well.
Mankato came to Luverne for the season-opener and whipped Cardinals by 30 points, 85-55.
"We had practice at 7 a.m. the next morning," recalls Getman, who retired in 2004 after a 32-year career as a sixth-grade teacher and guidance counselor in suburban Philadephia. "We ran and ran and ran some more -- for three hours -- Coach Hutchins made his point. We never had a Saturday practice like that again the rest of the season."
The Cardinals never lost a game again either -- not until the opening round of the state tournament.
Highlight victories during the season, included homecourt wins over Walnut Grove and Windom, as the Cardinals entered tournament play with a 17-game win streak.
Joining Getman, Lorenzen and Golla in the LHS starting line-up were juniors Dave Mollberg (5-8) and Mike Olson (6-0).
"We really got better when Lefty (Mollberg) became our point guard," remembers Lorenzen. "He didn't even start on the B-squad as a sophomore, but he sure came on and did a great job for us as a junior on the varsity."
Senior Terry Gonnerman (6-3) and juniors Mark Odland (6-1) and David Gonnerman (6-3) were the top Cardinal reserves.
LHS opened with a 66-43 quarterfinal victory over Pipestone. Then Slayton, paced the double figure scoring of Pat Dorn (18), Dan Ohme (18) and Dave Homan (14) nearly upset Luverne in the District 8 semifinals.
Lorenzen (23), Getman (17), Mollberg (14), Golla (10) and Olson (9) did all the scoring for the Cardinals in the hard-fought, 73-68, victory.
LHS then defeated Worthington, 57-44, to earn its third regional trip in the past four seasons.
Playing at Worthington, the Cardinals claimed a 66-58 win over Fairmont in the Region 2 semifinals before tangling with Mankato in the championship game.
This time, the Cardinals prevailed. Utilizing assistant coach Harry Franz's sagging man-to-man defense, Luverne stymied the Scarlets in the first half, holding the high-powered Big Nine Conference school to just 13 points.
"Harry's system worked," said Getman. "A lot of teams thought we were playing a zone, but it was man-to-man. We just each played a man-and-a-half away from the ball."
Holding a 24-13 lead to start the second half, Cardinal fans were hopeful of a return to Williams Arena. But the Scarlets scored the first 14 points of the third quarter, claiming a 27-24 lead. Luverne regained the advantage with eight straight points of its own, taking a 32-27 edge into the last quarter.
The Cardinals built the lead to eight, then held off another strong Scarlet rally, as both Mollberg and Olson were clutch at the free throw line down the stretch.
When the final buzzer sounded, Luverne had won -- 50-49.
The banner headline in the March 11, 1967 Daily Globe sports page ran:
"Amazing Luverne Cardinals Dump Mankato, Are Off to State Again"
Yes, for the third time in four years -- Luverne was playing in the state tournament.
Riding a 22-game win streak, the Cardinals battled with Duluth Central in the opener, but came up short by four points (62-58).
"I remember how springy the floor was," remembers Lorenzen about Williams Arena. "I think everybody but Lefty dunked the ball during warm-ups."
Getman, who had an eye-opening, crowd-pleasing, game-time slam dunk at home in the Windom victory in late January, scored 21 points for the Cardinals in that first round loss and finished with 58 for the tournament.
"I remember that Dr. Odland and Coach Franz had driven to Duluth to watch them play and came up with a great scouting report," recalled Getman. "We had leads and had chances to win."
The Cardinals bounced back from the loss in style.
Playing familiar opponent Walnut Grove -- the Seven Star Conference, District 10 and Region 3 champion -- in the consolation round, the Cardinals set a state tournament turnovers record that still stands.
On the strength of just three turnovers the entire game, Luverne stretched a 31-23 halftime lead into a 63-50 victory -- earning the right to play St. Paul Central for the consolation championship.
"That was a real key to our team success," said Lorenzen. "We took care of the ball."
With Lorenzen (23), Golla (16) and Getman (15) all finishing their LHS careers with double figure scoring games, the Cardinals defeated the Minutemen -- despite 33 points from tournament-leading scorer Jim Hill -- 69-66 and finished the season at 24-2.
Luverne had just 15 turnovers for the entire tournament -- a record that still stands 40 years later.
"We were deliberate and took care of the ball," recalled Hutchins, who was 65-10 in his three seasons at LHS and testified to the importance of winning those last two games.
"It means a lot to win the consolation championship," summed up Hutchins, who moved on to coach Bemidji State for 14 seasons before owning and operating a Dairy Queen in Grand Rapids for 18 years. "At that level, you finish by beating two good teams, and it really shows your character to come back and play well."
Now retired and living in Grand Rapids, where two of his sons run the DQ, Hutchins fondly remembers former Daily Globe sports editor Corky Brace.
"He was the fairest writer I've ever known," said Hutchins. "He was good to the coaches and he gave credit where it was due."
Inspired by an early morning conditioning session -- following a 30-point season-opening loss -- the 1967 Luverne Cardinals stuck together and maintained the LHS legacy of the 1960s.