Okabena Bluehawks shock Jackson Bluejays in 1965

OKABENA -- Brand new sweatshirts with pictures of the four Beatles had just arrived at Cooper Sporting Goods in Worthington and were selling for $2.95.

OKABENA -- Brand new sweatshirts with pictures of the four Beatles had just arrived at Cooper Sporting Goods in Worthington and were selling for $2.95.

NBA star Bob Pettit, 32, was announcing his upcoming retirement after a stellar 11-year career with the St. Louis Hawks, having netted 20,841 points.

"This Diamond Ring" by Gary Lewis and the Playboys was being replaced by the Temptations' "My Girl" as the top rock and roll song in the nation -- which would give way to "Eight Days a Week" by the Beatles, the following week.

And the month started out with the area's worst blizzard in three years.

"Well, This Time It Didn't Miss Us ... Rip-Snortin' Old Blizzard Howls" ran the banner headline of the Daily Globe on Monday afternoon March 1, 1965.


"Storm is First in Blizzard Category in Three Years" ran the sub-headline -- and the banner headline, the following day screamed:

"Lion Gets Second Wind, Roars Over Area Again."

Yes, March of 1965 definitely came in like a lion, as multiple blizzards stranded travelers, closed schools and postponed tournament basketball games.

Defending state champion Luverne was undefeated and was a huge favorite to repeat in District 8. After several postponements, the Cardinals did as expected, winning the championship with victories over Magnolia (77-41), Pipestone (61-40) and Worthington (73-60).

But in District 7 it was a different story.

Two-time defending champion Jackson was the favorite. The Bluejays had three starters back from the team that had made it all the way to the Region 2 finals in '64, including outstanding all-around athlete Dennis Hale.

Jackson had become a dominant football powerhouse in the 1960s and the school was having success on the basketball court too, as the Bluejays had played in seven consecutive District 7 championship games from 1958-1964, winning four championships -- 1958, 1961, 1963 and 1964.

Hale scored 24 points in Jackson's season-ending 87-70 victory over arch-rival Windom and the Bluejays awaited the results of sub-district action to find out who their first round opponent would be in the District 7 quarterfinals, scheduled for Thursday evening March 4 at Windom.


But those two blizzards at the beginning of the week -- plus a third one on Thursday -- moved things back.

"I remember how much we were anticipating playing," recalled Hale, who later starred as a defensive back for the Minnesota Gophers Big 10 football champions in 1967. "It seemed like the game was postponed twice and then we finally played on Saturday and the weather was not good that day either."

How true -- more on that in a bit.

Originally scheduled for Monday night, four sub-district games were finally played -- after being postponed twice -- in District 7 on Wednesday night March 3.

At Mountain Lake, Comfrey defeated Brewster (64-43) and Storden edged Round Lake, 56-51.

Darrel Roy (20), Harold Grote (18) and Andy Nerhus (14) scored in double figures for the Tigers, while Dave Poppen (20) and John Sather (14) were Round Lake's leading scorers.

At Jackson, nine players scored for Okabena, as the Bluehawks pulled away for a huge 92-65 victory over arch-rival Heron Lake. All five Okabena starters tallied double figures, as Arnie Rients (32), Dale Olson (14), Steve Koster (12), Harlan Radamacher (12) and Jim Rademacher (10) combined for 80 Bluehawk points.

Phil Fury (22), Bob Ferguson (13), Dane Knutson (10) and Dave Henkels (nine) were the leading scorers for Heron Lake.


In the second game at Jackson, Lakefield won a close game over Jeffers, 56-51, as Dennis Suelflow (17), Fred Mosley (15) and Bruce Rue (11) scored double figures for the Panthers. Dave Jorgenson netted a game-high 24 points to lead Jeffers, while Elton Goeman scored 13 for the Wolves.

The plan was to play the sub-district championships on Thursday night -- but that's right, another snowstorm delayed the games until Friday.

"Snowplow Digs 60 Miles to Arrive in City" ran the headline in Friday's edition of the Globe.

But conditions were okay to play that night and Okabena and Comfrey claimed sub-district crowns and advanced to the "elite eight" of the District 7 tournament.

Playing at the Windom gym -- which is now known as the BARC (Business, Arts and Recreation Center) and was then known by some as "The Black Hole of Calcutta" (the stage end with both a lower and upper balcony was dark and provided a different background than most gyms) -- Okabena defeated Lakefield, 74-58 and Comfrey edged Storden (68-65).

Koster topped Okabena's scoring with 15 points, while Jim Rademacher and Brad Glaser each tallied 13. Mosley had a fantastic game for Lakefield, ripping the nets for 26 points.

Jim Armbruster scored 26 poins to lead the Rockets, while Wayne Kratz (15), Rick Wellner (14) and Phil Janzen (11) also had double figures for Comfrey.

Grote matched Armbruster's game-high 26 point total to lead Storden, while Roy (13), Nick Meyer (12) and Dan Sundahl (10) also tallied double figures for the Tigers.


Okabena Pulls Out Teammates Before Pulling Tounament Upset

The victory by the Bluehawks earned Okabena the right to meet Jackson in Saturday's quarterfinals at Windom.

"It was a long day," remembers Koster, who hit some remarkable shots in the Okabena's victory that afternoon. "I had to do chores and get the cattle fed that morning and I was starting to swell up, but there was no way that I going to miss the game.'

Koster, who stood 6-5, but was a lean 170 pounds, was Okabena's leading scorer and the Bluehawk's only all-conference (Southern Star) selection. His dad was already sick with the mumps and Steve was coming down with the same disease that day and would later miss two weeks of school, including missing Okabena's semifinal loss to Sioux Valley four days later.

But between chores and bucking snow drifts to get from his Ewington township farm into Okabena, Koster and teammate Harlan Rademacher had to first be sure that Jim Rademacher could get plowed out and get to Highway 16 and catch a ride with them.

"That was an adventure," recalls Koster. "We just about hit a county pick-up in a drift, but after avoiding that and doing some serious shoveling, we finally got to Jimmy's corner. After a couple of hours, he finally made it to the highway, breaking the snow with his dad (George) on their little Allis-Chalmers tractor with a snowbucket on front, scooping the way."

So after, playing the night before, doing morning chores and scooping snow -- all while coming down with the mumps -- Koster later found himself on the Windom floor ready to tangle with the favored Bluejays.

While Koster was Okabena's tallest player, both Rients (6-1) and Harlan Rademacher (6-0) were rugged, strong forwards and Dale Olson (5-9) and Jim Rademacher (5-10) were good guards.


Jim Rademacher, who just became a varsity starter at tournament time, was a sophomore, while the other four Bluehawk starters were seniors.

"We were a veteran team and had been getting better as the season progressed," recalled Harlan Rademacher, who scored 20 points for Okabena that day. "I remember going eight-for-eight from the free throw line that day, which surprised a lot of people, including me."

With Harlan Rademacher and Rients getting baskets inside and Koster and Jim Rademacher warming up from the outside, the Bluehawks "shot the lights" out that day and led from start to finish.

Okabena was especially good in the second quarter, as the Bluehawks turned a 19-16 first quarter lead into an impressive 39-29 advantage by halftime.

With Koster continuing to score from all angles, the Bluehawks maintained a 52-44 as the last quarter began.

"The game was like a nightmare," recalled Hale, who finished with 23 points to lead Jackson. "We trailed the whole game. Several times we came close and then something would happen that went Okabena's way rather than ours. But Okabena had a good team with many fine players and they played so well that day."

According to the Daily Globe write-up of the game -- which was played on Saturday, March 6, 1965 -- in Monday afternoon's edition, Jackson had trimmed the lead to four points with 2:44 to play.

But Okabena's defense stiffened and the "Hawks' wrapped up the victory, as Harlan Rademacher continued to sink his free throws.


The final score was Okabena 68, Jackson 62. "Jackson Is Beaten by Okabena" was the simple headline.

Koster finished with 23 points, while Harlan Rademacher (20), Rients (12) and Jim Rademacher (10) also tallied double figures for Okabena.

Bob Haines scored 18 for Jackson, while John Lee battled foul trouble and finished with just eight points -- well below his average. Glenn Leimbach, Vinton Bellows and Bob Voda combined for 13 Bluejays points.

"I will never forget that day and that game," recalls Koster, who admits that "I never saw a shot that I didn't like -- I just happened to make most of them that game."

Getting the victory over Jackson was especially sweet for Rients, whose niece Breanna recently earned all-state tournament honors, while starring for Southwest Star Concept (Heron Lake-Okabena) in this year's girls' state basketball tournament.

"We had great team at Okabena back in 1941 when Warren "Lefty Gentry" was one of the best players in the state and then we had another great team in 1961 when Lynn Schmidt, Lyle Peters, Phil Folkers, Steve Rohwer, Mike DeWall, Dave Johnson and those guys were 19-1," recalled Rients. "But both times, Jackson beat them in the District 7 championship game. So, in '65 we finally beat Jackson in a tournament game and that was something to be proud of."

It ended up being Koster's last high school game, as the big guy came down with a serious case of mumps and was hospitalized for a couple of days the following week.

The rest of the team, coached by Darrell Phelps and Wes Anderson, advanced to the District 7 semifinals and played conference rival Sioux Valley at Worthington on Wednesday, March 10.

The Warriors had defeated the Bluehawks during the regular season (55-49 at Okabena and 78-68 at Sioux Valley in the last game on February 26).

After winning just three of its first eight games (Rients had been sidelined with a football injury), Okabena entered tournament play, having won eight of its last 10.

Including their three tournament wins, the Bluehawks were 14-7, having won 11-of-13. But without, Koster, Okabena was unable to extend its late-season surge.

Sioux Valley, paced by the double figure scoring of Ed Brandt (20), Bennett Voss (19) and Ken Strohman (16) defeated the Bluehawks, 74-62. Rients (16), Harlan Rademacher (15) and Mike Schmidt (11) netted double figures for the Bluehawks, who ended a stellar season at 14-8.

Westbrook, which had defeated Windom (68-65) and Mountain Lake (66-46) won the district title the next night with an 84-70 victory over Sioux Valley.

Bruce Riekow (27), Rod Boeck (20), LeRoy Huls (13) and Lester "Butch" Perry (10) each had double figures for the Wildcats, while Ben Voss (21), Ken Spessard (17) and Bernie Voss (11) led Sioux Valley's scoring.

But for Okabena, which had seven seniors of its 10-player roster, the "championship game" for the Bluehawks came on that first Saturday in March when -- after doing chores and shoveling snow -- a bunch of farm kids from Ewington and Rost townships pulled one of the biggest upsets in District 7 tournament history.

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