In 1964, Luverne was on top of prep basketball world

Rochester's Dave Daugherty shoots as Luverne players Bill Toms (53), John Beyer (43) and Del Jessen (55) converge to defend in the 1964 high school basketball state championship game. (Worthington Daily Globe file photo)

EDITOR’S NOTE: In March of 1964, the Luverne Cardinals high school basketball team defeated Rochester 72-66 to capture the Minnesota state championship. While spring sports remain on hold, The Globe is reprinting selected articles from great sports moments of the past. Today’s story (condensed), which appeared in the Monday, March 23, 1964, issue of the Daily Globe, celebrates the Cardinals’ basketball title.


MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Luverne, which Saturday night won the 52nd annual Minnesota high school basketball tournament with a 72-66 victory over Rochester, played so poorly in the first round that coach Ray Merry was convinced his team wouldn’t win.

“I don’t know what was wrong with us,” Merry said of the 65-50 opening-round triumph over Hutchinson which required a torrid fourth quarter finish by the Cardinals.

“It seemed like our kids were either tired or scared,” Merry added, “but we played very poorly, and I never thought we could go all the way. In fact, I was certain we’d get beat by Proctor Friday night.”


What happened is history. The Cardinals blazed away with 51.5 percent shooting to crush previously unbeaten Proctor 80-57 Friday night and then held off Rochester Saturday night.

Luverne thus returned the state championship to southwestern Minnesota, where it has rested three of the past five years. Marshall won last year and tiny Edgerton in 1960.

Greg Thone, a slight 5-feet-10 senior, was Luverne’s man of the moment in the title game, but the Cardinals also got outstanding performances from 6-feet-5 sophomore center John Beyer, 6-feet-2 senior forward Bill Toms and 6-feet-1 junior forward Delbert Jessen.

Thone drove the middle for a field goal that broke a 55-55 tie with six minutes remaining against Rochester, then calmly sank six free throws to lift the Cards to the title. He wound up with 26 points to top all scorers, while Beyer had 20, Toms 11 and Jessen 10.

Merry bestowed his highest praise on Toms and Beyer.

“Toms deserved the credit,” Merry said. “We wouldn’t even have been here if it had not been for him. He got us here with his play in the regional tournament.

“Beyer is one of the best sophomores I’ve ever seen. He developed fantastically this year. He’ll be a great one.”

Dave Daugherty, Rochester’s fine 6-foot-7 junior center, got 25 points in the losing effort -- including nine in the fourth quarter when the Rockets rallied from a five-point deficit to tie the count before falling apart.


“We didn’t do a very good job on Daugherty,” Toms said. “He got a lot of layups on rebounds. We just couldn’t keep him out of there. He’s a real good ball player.”

Ron Cady added 16 points and Dave Nelson 13 for Rochester.

Merry, completing his third season at Luverne, said this unquestionably was the finest high school team with which he’s been associated. He previously coached four years at Goodhue and two years at Magnolia.

Three of Luverne’s players have been teammates since they started organized basketball in the fifth grade -- Toms, Thone and reserve Dick Iverson, all seniors. Iverson is the only boy on the squad who lives on a farm. The only other non-Luverne resident is Jessen, who lives at Hardwick, 10 miles north of Luverne.

Merry was making no predictions about next year despite the fact that the Cardinals lose only two starters and two reserves. “Jackson will be awful tough again,” he said.

Luverne finished in a tie for third in the Southwest Conference this year with Jackson, both behind Marshall and Pipestone. Luverne had a 20-5 overall record for the season.

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