Wednesday, October 21, 2015

1954 -- Milan and Fairfield

1954 county champions
Two significant final scores in 1954 marked Indiana as the hotbed of amateur basketball.

One of these, practically everyone knows.

Milan 32, Muncie Central 30.

The other, a bit closer to home.

Fairfield 34, St. Michael's 31.

The Milan legend has been beaten like a slow mule, almost to the point that the tellers of the story keep creating facts as a way of making it more interesting.

A paragraph in the Brookville Democrat on the same weekend that Milan had advanced to the Indianapolis Semistate en route to their improbable title:

"The Fairfield Grade School basketball team played against St. Michael's Friday evening at the Springfield Twp. gym, and won the trophy. The Fairfield teams have no gymnasium so have to do their practicing out-of-doors. They were honored with a party in Johnston Hall after the game."

They won the trophy -- the Franklin County Grade School tournament.

The Big Kahuna.

March Madness. The Gold and Blue rule!

Coach and Principal Chester Bosse led the team to victory, marking the only time Fairfield would ever accomplish that goal, though the Hotshots would gather several third- and fourth-place finishes before the school closed in 1963.

The tournament became a county-wide affair in 1951 and Fairfield lost the first game to Brookville. The 1953 Fairfield team finished fourth. Fairfield had beaten Brookville earlier in the season, the Democrat reported.

Typically, the title went to Brookville, though Enochsburg took the 1955 crown in its first year as a participant.

The 1954 tournament appeared to be a gala affair and the Fairfield news correspondent reported that "Our little town is more than proud of our basketball team of 1954, as they have played good ball and are good sports."

There seemed to be a dispute about the sportsmanship from Joyce Holmes, who reported on the St. Michael's end of the game in what could be considered overt bias. More on that later.

The Hotshots' first opponent on Feb. 26 was hapless Metamora, which fell 43-14 to Bosse's charges.

The big shocker that night was a Blooming Grove 35-31 win over heavily favored Brookville.

The Hotshots the following week sent Blooming Grove packing, 36-25, to set up the title clash against St. Michael's, which was led by the fabled Jimmy Cooper. The Saints had crushed St. Peter's and Laurel to reach the championship game.

Title game box score
With Joyce Holmes on the call for the Democrat:

"Fairfield Junior High emerged victorious 34-31, in a close, hard-fought contest with St. Michael's last Friday night, and copped the trophy symbol of victory in the Junior High Tourney."

Holmes reported that the "Saints couldn't get started" and had fallen behind 5-0, with the Logan brothers -- Chuck and Burnell -- leading the way.

Fairfield led 8-3 at the end of the first quarter (6 minutes) but at halftime, the Hotshots were clinging to a 15-13 lead.

"The third quarter found St. Mike's hot and by the early moments of the fourth quarter, the score was almost even. Then Cooper fouled out on a slightly questionable call. (Dick) Weston came dribbling down the court and hit Jimmy in the face with his fist. Cooper was called for blocking. The St. Mike's crowd gave him a standing ovation as he left the game. Not long after, (Ronnie) Jarrett and B. Logan left the game on five personals.

"St. Michael's made a valiant effort to pull even but they couldn't quite make it.

"The trophy was presented to the Fairfield co-captains, Weston and B. Logan, by Mr. Esarey, who made a nice speech congratulating the victors and consoling the losers."

Esarey would have been Marcus Esarey, who was superintendent of Franklin County schools in those days.

Fairfield team members that year:

Burnell and Chuck Logan, Steve Snider, Ronnie Jarrett, J.C. Linegar, Eldon Cornelius, Butch Alvey, Dick Weston, Dale and Bobby Poe, John Bowers and Freddie Smith.

Of the group, only Eldon Cornelius played varsity basketball at Brookville. He was a senior on the 1958 undefeated team, the only one in school history. He was not, however, the leading player on the FGS title team.

That honor went to Burnell Logan, who typically scored most of the team's points.

The Fairfield basketball program would endure for several more years, wearing those gold shirts with the blue "F" in front. It would not be until about 1962 that the uniforms were replaced.

By then, there wasn't much more tournament ahead for the Hotshots.

But we have 1954 -- and if it works for Milan, it works for Fairfield.

The Fairfield "gym" had seating for ... um ... 4.

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