Tuesday, October 20, 2015


If your history search across Hoosierland doesn't stop at the scorer's bench, you're in Eerie, Indiana.

The real one has a net on either end.

The nature of basketball in Indiana has been a source of fascination for decades, though arguably the appeal has tarnished in the last 20 years.

I hope to visit several components of the sport in a blog that I hope is long on wow and short on yawn.

The one-and-bonus, so to speak.

In ancient days, meaning the time after the end of the first World War, schools were being built and basketball teams were forming. Anyplace that could be heated in winter served as a gymnasium.

Alquina, always a tough team
Separating the "city schools" from the township entrants isn't particularly difficult in the Whitewater Valley.

In Franklin County alone, high school teams competed from Brookville, Laurel, Springfield and Whitewater townships. In Union County, schools competed from Liberty, Brownsville, Kitchel and College Corner. From Fayette, Alquina, Orange, Fairview, Harrisburg, Bentonville all tried to oust Connersville.

Teams from such diverse places in Rush County: Milroy, Raleigh (The Sir Walters!), Manilla, and New Salem. Bright and Guilford came up from Dearborn County. You could also play Reilly, Ohio.

In most years, it was difficult to determine which school was better. Bentonville was as likely as anybody to play Connersville for the sectional title

Obviously, the rivalries were intense and games were often shifted to larger gyms to accommodate the crowds. In Brookville, the tiny Lew Wallace gym didn't have nearly enough room for all the fans, who were required to buy tickets on an even-odd basis.

A town lottery would be held for seats to the sectional tournament in Connersville.

Laurel played most of its home games in other gyms until around 1958.

Brownsville's gym was mostly a barn with sidewalls cut out to allow for seating.

There were moments, like 1950:

"James Jackson and his powerful Greyhound squad brought glory to Brookville Saturday night, as they trounced the surprising Blue Arrows from Alquina 55-38.

"The old town was in a blaze of glory after the game as the Greyhound fans built a big bonfire in front of the Valley House and gave the players a hearty welcome as they returned from the tourney."

The win had given Brookville its first real sectional title ever, and marked the end of a peculiar decade that saw perennial powerhouse Connersville come up short as often as not.

Connersville, by far the largest school in the sectional, also hosted the tournament in a cramped fieldhouse. Most years, the township schools battled for the right to lose in the final game.

Wartime changed some of that, with a large number of Connersville boys opting out of sports to work evenings in factory production, a practice that was not only accepted, but was indeed encouraged.

As a result, odd sectional winners emerged, though the Brookville title in 1950 was more the result of a talented team than watered-down competition.

Some of the winners during that decade:

1942 AND 1943 -- Kitchel
1945 -- Liberty
1946 -- Brownsville
1947 -- Everton

Oddly, it was Everton's final year as a school. A year earlier, the Everton team had lost only one game.

Marker in Kitchel denotes sectional titles
The Kitchel phenomenon defies description but I've discerned that brothers Clinton and Darrell Bostick were standout players for the Cowboys. I can find no detailed information on either player, though it was Clint who had made the winning shot in 1942. Darrell was the team's top player. Both are deceased.

The 1943 sectional story was succinct. Kitchel had already manhandled Brookville in the regular-season finale and the two were scheduled to meet again in the first game of the sectional. A dozen teams were entered.

"The Greyhounds will enter the tourney at 10 o'clock Friday (weekday morning games were common) against the highly touted Cowboys, who just recently handed the 'Hounds their worst drubbing of the 1942-43 season, 47-29. However, since Kitchel and Connersville are picked to clash in the finals, the 'Hounds would have to reckon with the Cowboys sooner or later in the fray, so it might just as well have been in their first game."

The report in the Brookville paper spent some time cheerleading. "Nevertheless, dope buckets have been upset, and should the 'Hounds spill the dope, and win from Kitchel, they will play the winner of the Whitewater-Everton game at 7 o'clock, Friday night, etc."


The 30-17 Kitchel win sealed the 'Hounds' fate.

Kitchel went on to beat Connersville 36-35 in double overtime to take the crown. Harry Dils made the winning shot.

But Kitchel had already etched its name on the walls of sectional history a year earlier.

Brookville American scribe Marion Cox with the call:


20-Time Winners Dethroned
By Kitchel Cowboys

"The sectional tourney at Connersville last week wrote finis to the 1941-42 basketball season for fans in this section. This year's tournament was different. It was different in that the Connersville Spartans, favorites to win as had been the case year after year, were corralled by the Kitchel Cowboys, who galloped all the way to face the stalwart Spartans in the final, winning undisputed right to the pennant, by the score of 40 to 38 in a double overtime game.

"Connersville holds the most enviable record of winning the sectional 17 consecutive years up to 1938 when Liberty was victorious; with Connersville returning to the win column until this year."

The report contained no details on the game but two consecutive double-overtime sectional titles was fodder for the ages.

In those days, the first TWO points in the second overtime gave a team the win. A first point did not, however. So, do the math on 1943.

As an aside Kitchel, actually won first-round games in each of its regional appearances before being eliminated and cast into the trivia bin of basketball history. Keith Stroup was the coach.

Laurel did not have a team in 1942.

For its part, Brookville's program was, at best, fairly ordinary. It was not rare for Whitewater or Laurel to beat the Greyhounds. Although ... one somewhat interesting near-success occurred in the fall of 1954.

"A hard-fighting Brookville squad was edged by the Milan Indians, 37-36, in a nip-and-tuck contest Tuesday night at the Milan gym.

"Coach Robert Mode's Greyhounds showed more spirit than they had displayed in their previous two contests ... and were leading the much heralded Indians during most of the contest. Milan grabbed the lead with a little better than two minutes left to play.

"Big Dick Cly, who started for the first time this season, had a chance to tie the contest and give the Greyhounds a victory as he was fouled just as the game ended. He received two free throws but missed them both."

Ah ................... choke!

Milan, for the record, had won the 1954 state tournament in its storybook upset of Muncie Central.

Brookville's basketball fortunes began to turn in 1957 ahead of its only unbeaten team the following year.

By the end of the 1950s, the consolidation script was on the wall and it would soon be apparent that the Kitchel Cowboys would be sent to that dude ranch in the sky.

In fact, the 1959 Brookville sectional championship team opened the tournament by easily defeating a Kitchel squad that was identified as "hapless."

Neither Whitewater, Springfield nor Laurel ever won a sectional tournament though all were finalists at one time or other.

Springfield holds a unique record, having shut out Fairview 51-0 in a 1938 sectional game. There has never been a sectional shutout that lopsided in Indiana history.

Not many people know that.

Teams that played in the Connersville sectional up until the mid-to-late 1950s:

Brookville Greyhounds (Purples)
Laurel Panthers
Springfield Cardinals
Whitewater Elkhorns

Alquina Blue Arrows
Bentonville Trojans
Connersville Spartans
Everton Bearcats
Fairview Yellow Jackets  (Fayette Central Chiefs)
Harrisburg Hornets  (Fayette Central Chiefs)
Orange Tigers (Fayette Central Chiefs)

Brownsville Lions
College Corner Trojans (usually played in the Ohio tournament)
Kitchel (aka Harrison Township) Cowboys
Liberty Warriors (later, the Lancers)



  1. Ahh, faintly remember the old Connersville gym. Think it had a balcony all the way around, with a running track near the rail. Also, schools chose up who else to root for - the cheer was "Two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar. All for Kitchell, stand up and holler". And soon the gym was most nearly divided in one game loyalties. But, everyone was against Connersville.