BLAST: Area loaded with fine teams in 1963WORTHINGTON — A train with Strategic Command troops of the United States Air Force was stationed in Heron Lake, Bob Cousy and Bill Russell were piling up assists and rebounds, respectively, for the Boston Celtics on their way to another NBA championship and “I Will Follow Him” by Little Peggy March was climbing Billboard’s Top 40.
By: Les Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — A train with Strategic Command troops of the United States Air Force was stationed in Heron Lake, Bob Cousy and Bill Russell were piling up assists and rebounds, respectively, for the Boston Celtics on their way to another NBA championship and “I Will Follow Him” by Little Peggy March was climbing Billboard’s Top 40.
JFK was finishing up his 25th month as our 35th President, “Bonanza” — starring Lorne Greene, Pernell Roberts, Dan Blocker and Michael Landon — was still a big event on NBC every Sunday night from eight to nine, and high school basketball teams (boys’ only, girls didn’t start until a decade later) were finishing up the regular season conference-title chases and were prepared for tournament competition.
Yes, it was late February, 1963 — and southwest Minnesota was “loaded,” to say the least, with quality teams.
While the area had gone 21 years — from 1939 to 1960 — without claiming a championship in the elite and prestigious one-class state tournament, Edgerton’s legendary 1960 title spurred a boom time for this corner of the state.
Mountain Lake, which won it all in 1939, remained a perennial power throughout the 1940s and 1950s. The Lakers played Edgerton tough in a 61-55 loss in the 1960 Region 2 finals at the classic Myrum Field House in St. Peter.
The undefeated Flying Dutchmen thrilled crowds at Williams Arena a week later, winning games over Chisholm (63-54), Richfield (63-60, overtime) and Austin (72-61) to give Region 2 its first state title since Mountain Lake’s championship in ’39.
Edgerton’s championship was the first state crown for a District 8 team and the school’s first district championship after strongly contending for the title several times.
In 1961, Edgerton repeated its district and regional championships, but lost two of three games at the state tournament, finishing sixth.
But the tradition earned by those back-to-back Region 2 titles remained in the area for years to come.
Tiny Okabena had a fabulous team in 1961, posting an impressive 19-2 record, which included a stunning 71-44 victory over Mountain Lake in the District 7 semifinals.
Jackson, which edged the Bluehawks in the District 7 championship clash, gave Edgerton a good battle in the Region 2 finals at an overflowing three-year-old Worthington High School gymnasium.
In 1962, the area — District 7 or District 8 — was not represented at the state tournament, as Wells defeated Windom in the Region 2 championship and earned the trip to Williams Arena where the Wildcats won a pair of games and brought home the third-place trophy.
Throughout 1963, both Windom and Jackson were again looking sharp and priming up for a possible repeat showdown in the District 7 finals.
But, Sioux Valley, Okabena and Brewster each had fine teams and were capable of upsetting one of the bigger schools, especially the Warriors of Sioux Valley who tied Ceylon for the Southern Star Conference championship and entered the District 7 tournament on a winning streak.
Mountain Lake seemed to always play its best basketball at tournament time and fellow Seven Star Conference teams Lakefield and Westbrook were capable, too, as was Storden, paced by the scoring prowess of Jay Steen.
Fans eagerly awaited the anticipated action of the District 7 tournament, which had been won by Windom, Jackson, Mountain Lake, Westbrook, Jackson, Mountain Lake and Windom in the preceeding seven years (reverse order, 1962-1956).
Over in District 8, there were also an abundance of outstanding teams, including Edgerton — the area’s only undefeated team.
The Flying Dutchmen had won their third Tri-County Conference championship in a four-year span and “rolled the table” for the second time in those same four years.
But conference rival Hills — led by high-scoring sensation Terry Arends — was a leading contender and Fulda, which played in the Seven Star, appeared to the peaking at the right time.
Each of the four bigger schools — Worthington, Luverne, Slayton and defending champion Pipestone — had good squads, too, and Daily Globe sports editor Corky Brace was “bracing” for a tightly-contested tournament with upset possibilities as the District 8 seedings and pairings were announced in mid-February.
After Fulda’s title in 1945, District 8 had been won by one of the four big schools 13 straight years until Jasper took the crown in 1959.
Luverne claimed four championships during that span, including the final three in ’56, ’57 and ’58. The Cardinals had also won in 1947.
Slayton (’48, ’50, ’55) Worthington (’49, ’51, ’52) and Pipestone (’46, ’53, ’54) had each earned a trio of District 8 championships during those 13 years and competition in the Southwest Conference during the ’62-63 season was high-caliber night after night, well-preparing each of those teams for tournament play.
Big games conclude 1963 regular season
As the regular season came to a close, two big games highlighted the final Friday evening, Feb. 22, a pair of contests which ended up being “previews” to district title clashes.
At Luverne — in a game that had been a sell out for two weeks in advance — undefeated Edgerton claimed quarter leads of 25-18, 49-37 and 69-53 as they finished a perfect 18-0 season with an 81-66 victory over the Cardinals.
Junior guard Vernon “Tonto” Schoolmeester fired in 29 points — mostly on long “bombs” — and the Flying Dutchmen netted 31-of-47 shots from the free throw line in a physical contest, which had a total of 52 fouls called.
By game’s end, three Cardinals and one Edgerton player had fouled out.
Bernie Stoel (17) and Jake Kooiman (13) also tallied double figures for Edgerton, while Loren Wenzel (20), Bill Toms (15) and Ron Friestad (13) were Luverne’s leading scorers.
That same night, Windom hosted rival Jackson to decide the Southwest Conference title.
In a game which was close all the way, the Eagles prevailed down the stretch as a Rich Elness free throw tied the score before a Steve Baker field goal and a Jim Silliman free throw lifted Windom to a 55-52 win — the team’s second narrow victory over the Bluejays that season.
Playing at home again the next night, the 16-1 Eagles were unable to thwart the upset bid of the Fulda Raiders, who — after trailing by four points (12-8) at the first quarter’s end — stunned Windom, 57-55, as Dick Tolzine scored the winning layup with just seconds left.
Jim Drealan was a perfect 11-of-11 at the free throw line and scored 21 points to lead the Raiders, who had a 21-20 halftime edge and held a 38-34 advantage as the fourth quarter began.
Charles Breit contributed a dozen points for Fulda, while Baker and Dave Palm each netted 14 points to lead the Eagles.
Warriors, Bluehawks win District 7 sub-districts
Tournament play began in District 7 on Monday, Feb. 25 with a pair of sub-district games at both Mountain Lake and Lakefield
Sioux Valley, which was coming off a 73-57 victory over Round Lake on Friday, advanced with a 61-46 triumph over Butterfield and Brewster posted an easy 66-29 victory over Heron Lake in the two games at Lakefield.
At Mountain Lake, Okabena put three players — Byron Christoffer (20), Arlo Baumgarn (14) and Bob Saathoff (10) — in double figures, earning a 62-49 victory over Round Lake. Dave Morrison (14) and Tony Boyer (13) netted double digits for the Thunderbirds.
Doug Storey scored 13 points to lead Jeffers to a hard-fought 48-42 win over Comfrey, as both Don Englin and Ken Wall tallied 11 points for the Rockets.
The next night, the two sub-district championships were decided at Windom.
In a very close battle, Sioux Valley edged Brewster, 75-73, as Rich Wulf (23), Bob Untiedt (17), Dick Voss (15) and Duane Roslansky (15) each netted double figures for the Warriors, offsetting the 29-point performance of Brewster’s Gary McNab, who poured in 14 points in an action-packed second quarter.
Okabena also advanced with a 57-34 victory over Jeffers. Baumgarn’s 20 points paced the Bluehawks, while John Holck scored 14 points for the Wolves.
Chandler pulls upset, Arrows score 103 points
in District 8 tournament
Meanwhile, over to the west, District 8 play began with two sub-district games each at Slayton and Luverne on Feb. 26.
Chandler, led by the 34-point scoring performance of 6-5 junior center Don Bandstra pulled the tournament’s first upset by beating Fulda, 71-64.
Rod Behrends helped the Eagles with 16 points, while Drealan (22) and Breit (15) were Fulda’s leading scorers.
Drealan, Schoolmeester and Marshall’s John Nefstead were among the players honored state-wide on WCCO Radio’s “Prep Parade” Team of the Week following the final games of the regular season.
In the other game at Slayton, Adrian — paced by the double-figure scoring of Jim Harberts (25), Bob Smith (15) and Darwin Gonnerman (10) — eliminated Ellsworth, 62-39.
Daryl Boelman scored 15 points for the Panthers.
At Luverne, Pipestone rolled to a 73-34 win over neighboring Jasper and Beaver Creek held off Lake Wilson, 76-67.
Craig Johnson ripped the chords for 21 points to lead the Arrows, while Bill Hagedorn and John King notched 14 and 10 points, respectively.
Sophomore Dean Jaacks — who later coached Windom to a pair of state baseball titles —scored 13 points for Jasper.
Six players tallied double figures in the second game, as Russell Sandstede netted 25 points for Beaver Creek and the trio of Marlin Boom (16), Roger Eads (16)) and Duane Scherff (14) also scored well for the Beavers.
Darwin Busselman (27) and Arlen Gnadt (25) combined for 52 of Lake Wilson’s points.
Two nights later — exactly 50 years ago today — in the sub-district championship games at Luverne, Chandler defeated Adrian (59-52) and Pipestone became the first team to top the 100-point mark in District 8 history with a 103-64 victory over Beaver Creek.
Bandstra (15), Larry Van Dyke (12) and Behrends (11) each scored double figures for Chandler, while Gonnerman and Smith topped Adrian’s scoring with 16 and 14 points, respectively.
Scherff scored 16 points for Beaver Creek and Sandstede tallied 12, but the Beavers were no match for the hot-shooting Arrows, who built a 56-32 halftime lead and had 10 boys score in the game.
Six Pipestone players notched double figures, including Eric Sorenson (18), Jim Chaney (17), King (15), Johnson (11), Rod Lee (11) and Tom Olson (10).
Olson, a freshman guard, sank a free throw with 1:50 left to move the Arrows’ score to triple digits.
Quarterfinals set in both districts; Arends scores 48 points to lead Hills
With the sub-district championships claimed by Sioux Valley, Okabena, Chandler and Pipestone, the quarterfinals for each of the two tournaments was set as the calendar turned to March.
In District 8, Luverne would host two games Friday night, Slayton vs. Worthington and Edgerton vs. Magnolia.
Luverne squared off against Chandler and Hills tangled with Pipestone in a pair of games at Worthington on Saturday night, March 2.
Over in District 7, the match-ups were spread across four floors on two nights.
On Friday March 1, Windom and Okabena would tangle at Jackson, while Mountain Lake and Storden were set to play at Lakefield.
The District 7 quarterfinals continued on Monday March 4 with Jackson and Lakefield squaring off at Windom, while Westbrook battling Sioux Valley at Mountain Lake.
Next week — in the “Blast-From-the-Past — the two districts will converge at the Worthington gym for four straight nights of thrilling action with the District 8 semifinals, the District 7 semifinals, the District 7 championship and the District 8 championship on the evenings of March 5-8.
Look forward to learning — or remembering — about the incredible long-range shooting performance of Hills’ junior guard Terry Arends in the quarterfinals.
Hills was coached by Hugo Goehle, assisted by Dean Schnaible, who — 50 years later — is in his second stint as Adrian’s head coach.
That 1963 Edgerton squad, which was the area’s only undefeated team, will be the feature look of this next trip back in time.