Saturday, April 30, 2016

Cortland upsets the Mighty Owls

Entering the 1926-27 season the Seymour Owls were filled with high hopes. The previous season had brought them a sectional title and now four of the five starters were returning. Adding to the optimism of the Owls and their followers was the addition of Charles Henry to the team. He had been the star player at Patriot High School and had recently moved to Seymour. The addition of Henry to the already loaded Seymour squad had the players, coaches and fans expecting far more than a sectional title in 1927. Their expectations were nothing less than the state finals at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis.

Seymour Head Coach JR Mitchell

Right from the start, the season went as the Owl's hoped it would. They opened at home with a thrilling come from behind victory over highly touted Mitchell. The mighty Owls began to steamroll through the 1st half of the season. They crushed county rival Crothersville 61-9, neighboring North Vernon 60-5 then highlighted the early season with another thrilling win over a highly touted Shelbyville team..... Then came the bombshell.

Soon after the rout of North Vernon came word from the Indiana High School Athletic Association that they had determined that Charles Henry was ineligible for the 1st semester as he did not live with a parent or guardian and would not be eligible until he completed a full semester at Seymour. Thus the IHSAA ordered the 1st 10 games of the season to be forfeited.

Seymour appealed the ruling and Henry accompanied by the Seymour superintendent Norman Lasher and principal Stewart traveled to Indianapolis for a hearing. Unfortunately for the Owls the IHSAA was then ruled by 'King' Arthur Trester who seldom reversed their rulings and did not do so now. The Seymour appeal was denied. Seymour's 1st 10 wins were erased.

With the distraction of the IHSAA ruling weighing on them, the Owls traveled to state power Washington for a much anticipated game. 600 Seymour fans boarded a chartered train for the trip down the B&O but it was to be a long ride. Seymour was not able to keep up with the strong Washington team and for the first time tasted actual defeat on the court, 36-21.

Despite the loss, Seymour recovered and cruised through the remaining games routing North Vernon once again, then winning easily over Edinburg, Greenfield, Jeffersonville and Scottsburg. Although they tripped up at Mitchell in a rematch 39-38 their expectations for a trip to the state finals still seemed well within reach as sectional time rolled around.

As usual Seymour was the host for the sectional which mostly consisted of Jackson Co schools. Although the Owls did not get the best draw, nobody thought it really mattered. Most thought that the only team who could possibly give them trouble would be the arch-rival Brownstown. Adding to the flavor of the rivalry was that it was now well-known that it was Brownstown's coach, Earl Chambers, who had turned Seymour in to the IHSAA in the Charles Henry affair. The brackets set up for the two to meet in the semi-final round where everyone thought fireworks would fly.

The sectional progressed just as expected. Seymour routed tiny Freetown and Clearspring to face Brownstown in the semi-final. For the most part cooler heads prevailed in the Seymour/Brownstown match-up and the game was a great barn burner with Seymour pulling out the thriller in the final minute to win 34-31. With Brownstown behind them the only thing left in Seymour's way to the Bedford regional and beyond was tiny Cortland.

It seems tiny Cortland was forgotten about even though they had 16 wins in the regular season. As Seymour was packing their bags for Bedford, Cortland jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead in the championship game. Seymour answered and the two played a see-saw game throughout the 1st half. In the final seconds Cortland tipped in a rebound basket and went into halftime with an unlikely 17-13 lead.

It was no fluke, Cortland held on to the lead in the second half. Playing sure and steady ball they even started to extend the lead late in the 3rd. By the middle of the 4th quarter Cortland held a 31-20 lead setting the stage for a wild finish. Seymour was not about to roll over and die. Indeed they began an incredible rally. With Seymour playing tight defense, Cortland would not score another field goal. Bit by bit Seymour chipped away at the Cortland lead and with just under a minute left, tied the score at 31.

But here the tight defense failed the Owls. As Cortland held on to the ball for a last shot, Seymour committed a foul sending Cortland to the line. Cortland drained a free throw, fell back on defense and Seymour could not find the bucket again. Final score Cortland 32 Seymour 31.

Cortland celebrated their 1st and only sectional title that night in 1927 as the dreams of the Owls and their fans were gone with the wind.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Best and Worst of Hoosier Hysteria

Wednesday night I made the 4 block trip over to Mississinewa High School to watch the Indians take on rival Jay Co. It is the best of times for the Ole` Miss boys basketball team. Going into the game their record stood at 14-0 and had recently defeated the legendary Marion Giants for the first time in 22yrs.

In a lot of ways the night showed the good and bad side of Hoosier Hysteria. The team was pumped up, the students were rowdy(two Ole Miss students dressed as Austin Powers and Dr. Evil), the band was playing loudly and the locals were cheering on their team. Jay Co. even brought along a fairly good crowd and student section considering it was a mid-week game, 1hr drive away.
As far as the game went it was another successful night for Mississinewa. The home crowd cheered their approval as the Indians improved to 15-0 and their young head coach earned his 100th coaching victory. Adding to the excitement was simply in beating Jay Co, Ole` Miss had never done that before. The was the best side of Hoosier Hysteria.

Unfortunately the bad side reared it's ugly head too. As is often the case the bad side had nothing to do with the kids on the floor who played hard, perhaps a little rough but clean and maintained their cool. Rather the bad side was seen in the stands. A small group of older Mississinewa 'fans' sitting behind the east end goal couldn't help but run their mouths all night in a most idiotic manner.
There are really no words to describe how these 'gentlemen' yell at the officials quite literally every time the ball in on their end of the court. Having attended about 20 boys basketball games at Ole' Miss in the last 3 seasons I can attest that their actions on Wednesday was not a one time deal. Their actions were the rule not the exception. The truly sad part of this is in seeing and hearing a number of young boys ages 5-8 beginning to echo the behavior of the fathers and grandfathers. Clearly the bad example is being passed on to the next generation.
While the constant and persistent yelling at the officials is annoying, the officials at least know what they're getting into and can somewhat prepare for the few idiots in the stands. Where these 40/50yr old gentlemen crossed way over the line was when they started taunting the Jay Co. players in a most vicious manner. There is no place for that in a contest with 15-18yr old kids. This truly was the worst side of Hoosier Hysteria.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

1973 Seymour Sectional upset special, Seymour downs Jennings County

Fresh off their first ever sectional title in 1972, the Jennings County Panthers were back and even stronger than the year before. Lead by 1973 Indiana All-Star Danny Brown who along with fellow Panther Billy Harmon were bound for the University of Louisville, the highly ranked 19-1 Panthers were the heavy favorite to claim not only the sectional title but possibly even the state championship as well.

The Seymour Owls resume` was not nearly as rosy. The Owls came into sectional play with an 11-9 record and had lost to Jennings County by double digits in mid-season. It was not a given that the Owls could even reach the championship game as the blind draw had not been kind to them. On their half of the bracket the Owls would have to face an always strong Scottsburg team and county rival Brownstown Central. Jennings County on the other hand was all but given a cake walk to Saturday nights title game when the little schools of Medora, Crothersville and Austin appeared on their side of the drawing. On paper there was not much to indicate the 1973 Seymour Sectional could hold any of the drama the 1972 edition had provided.

As Sectional time approached Coach Barney Scott's Seymour Owls began to click. In spite of their unremarkable season record the Owls seemed to catch fire. They earned their way to the championship game by routing Scottsburg 91-72 then fighting off Brownstown 58-47. There were no surprises on the other side of the bracket as Jennings County dusted off Medora 80-55 and a determined Austin squad 93-80. The stage was now set for a rematch of the 1972 title game and another classic Jennings County vs Seymour match-up. Coach Scott knew his Owls would need to pull off a nearly perfect game to upset the Panthers, and they did.

Once again the 8,000 seat Seymour Fieldhouse was standing room only for the championship game on Saturday night. Hoosier Hysteria was at a fever pitch by tip-off and it would be a night nobody in the gym would forget.

Just as in the 1972 final, both teams came out firing. Jennings County's high powered offense built a slim 26-23 lead after the 1st quarter and maintained the lead until Seymour forged ahead 35-34 midway into the 2nd on a FG by Dave Earley. Throughout the next few minutes the lead switched hands several times. Inside of two minutes before halftime Seymour's Jerry Hageman scored on a lay-up to give Seymour a 45-44. The Owls built on that to a 49-46 halftime lead with the upset in sight.

Whatever words of inspiration Coach Barney Scott had learned over his many years of coaching he must've used in the halftime pep talk. His Owls exploded out of the locker room with an 11-2 run building a 60-48 lead to take control of the game. Their lead reached a high-water mark of 13pts at 65-52 midway into the 3rd quarter but everyone knew that Jennings County was going to make a run, and they did.

Jennings County was not about to let their fine season die without a fight. Billy Harmon led the attack as the Panthers chipped the lead down to 77-70 at the end of the quarter into the early moments of the 4th the Owls lead had dwindled to 77-74. But that was as close as the Panthers would get until it was too late.

With the giant upset looming the Seymour Fieldhouse was rockin'. The Owls pushed the lead up to 7 at 88-81 in the final minutes. At this point Coach Scott ordered the Owls to spread the floor and force Jennings County to foul. It worked just as he had hoped. With 0:42 left Seymour's Bill Penner hit two FT's for a 90-85 lead. As this was 15yrs before the advent of the 3pt shot, this gave the Owls a three possession lead that proved to be the nail in the Panther's coffin.

Jennings County's All-Star Danny Brown hit a FG with 0:32 seconds left and a 90-87 Seymour lead. Unfortunately for the Panther faithful Seymour was able to milk the clock down to 0:10 left before Jennings County could foul. There was no time left for a Panther rally.

Seymour went to the line and hit 1 of 2 FT's and a 91-87 lead. The Seymour fans were in a frenzy of excitement and as Jennings County inbounded the ball they began to sarcastically chant, "GO JC". A taunt a generation of Panther fans would never forget. Danny Brown hit a FG in the final seconds to bring the score to 91-89 but the Owls didn't even need to inbound the ball. Holding the ball as the clock ran out, the upset was complete.

Seymour had played the nearly perfect game Coach Scott said they needed to win. The Owls committed only 6 turnovers for the game while hitting 56% from the field. Exactly what they needed to win their 36th Sectional title.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Panther Power! Jennings Co. Earns 1st Sectional Title

In March of 1972, Seymour High Schools huge new Lloyd E. Scott Gymnasium hosted the sectional round of the state tournament for the second time. The championship game featured an epic battle between two heated rivals, Jennings County and host Seymour.

Since the inception of the sectional round of the state tournament in the 1910's Seymour had dominated the Sectionals played annually on their home floor, winning the title 35 times. Jennings County on the other had was still a relatively new school having just opened 4 years before in 1968 after 30 years of consolidations had closed all of the schools in the county. While the old North Vernon Panthers had made a great run in the 1966 tournament to the final game of the Evansville Semi-State, this was the first time the new Jennings County Panthers had a good shot at the sectional title and possibly much further into the tournament.

Everyone was expecting this game to be a shootout. Jennings County led by Danny Brown and Billy Harmon had been one of the highest scoring teams in the history of Indiana High School Basketball averaging 92.9 points per game. They began tournament play no different than as they had been in the regular season with a rout of tiny Crothersville 90-57. The Panthers then earned their way to the sectional final after narrowly escaping upset minded Brownstown Central 90-88.

The host Seymour Owls were not lacking in firepower themselves. They had averaged 92ppg in their first and second round blowout wins over Austin and Scottsburg. The Owls were not going to be intimidated by the Panthers scoring machine. Earlier in the year Seymour had fallen to Jennings County by a scant 2pts. Now, playing on their home floor for the sectional title they were certain they could take down their rivals. All the ingredients were set for a classic battle.

As tip-off time approached for the Championship Game the 8,000 seat gym was Standing Room Only. With the excitement at a fever pitch it was clear from the very start that the game was going to be everything that it was expected to be. For three quarters the lead surged back in forth. It was tied after the 1st period at 20. Jennings County managed to gain a 3pt lead going into halftime. The 3rd period was a carbon copy of the 1st half and the final period began with the Panthers still on top 67-64.

From the start of the 4th quarter the play began to get rough and rowdy. Jennings County pushed out to a 75-68 lead early on but Seymour was not about to roll over and die. Turning up the pressure with a full court press, the Owls began to force several turnovers and convert them into points. With less than 4 minutes left to play the score was once again tied, 75 all.

It was now Jennings County's turn for a run. The Panthers led by center Bob Woods went on an eight point run and the Panther fans began to go wild smelling a sectional title. But as it had been scripted all night, Seymour had one last run in them. The Owls clawed back and in the final minute trailed by only one 88-87, following a FG by Scott Silver.

This was going to be Jennings County's night to celebrate. As Seymour was forced to foul, Jennings County converted on 3 of 4 free throws in the final moments to ice the game. After the Panthers Mark Gibson drained his 2nd point of the night to give JC a 91-88 lead, Seymour could not get a shot to fall until the final seconds. Jennings County had their 1st ever Sectional title, 91-90. Seymour's 36th title would have to wait..until next year.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Medora Hornets break 33 year draught

Tiny Medora High School had never had much success on the basketball floor. Forty eight years before the 1997 Sectional the little school of approximately 100 students had won its one and only sectional title. Since that time the Hornets had known mostly frustration at tournament time. In some lucky years they would draw one of the other small Jackson County schools and perhaps garner at least one victory in the tournament before bowing out.

In the 1950's and 60's a great wave of school consolidations sweep across the State of Indiana. As a result of this a great many of Indiana's smallest schools were lost to history or greatly expanded with transplanted students. Unfortunately for Medora the consolidation wave missed them altogether. The small county schools that they could normally be competitive with(Tampico, Clear Springs, Vallonia, Cortland, Freetown and Hayden from Jennings County) were now gone leaving only Crothersville as the only other Jackson Co. school and potential sectional opponent of their relative size.

The handicap proved to be too much for the Hornets. Beginning with the 1964 sectional they would not be able to find the taste of victory at the Seymour Sectional. From 1976 to 1984 Medora was reassigned to the sectional at Bedford but with facing the huge schools from Bedford and Bloomington they didn't find it any easier there either as their annual 'one-and-done' sectional trips continued. In 1985 Medora was returned to the sectional field at Seymour but with the same old results. Medora not only lost in the sectional every time but lost big. From 1985 to 1996 their average losing margin at the Seymour Sectional was 42pts. The worst of the beatings came from the host Seymour Owls who pounded the little school by 73 pts, 125-52 in 1989.

After all of those years of beatings the Medora faithful never had a lot to cheer or even hope for. That would change in the final single class tournament in 1997 when the Hornets drew county rival Crothersville in the bye game. Crothersville had only won 3 times during the year and even though 2 of those wins were against Medora the games had been close giving the Hornets fans a glimmering ray of hope this time around.

As the sectional game with Crothersville began it didn't appear Medora would be having any better luck than normal. Crothersville got out to a 8-0 lead and held the lead through the middle of the 3rd quarter. Medora however never trailed by much and finally took the lead on an old fashion 3-pt play by Chad Beesley. By now the Hornets were riding high on momentum and pushed the lead out to go into the final quarter ahead 41-36.

Even though the two teams held a combined 8-32 record, the fourth quarter was exciting for any fan of basketball to watch. Medora clung to their slim lead but it slipped away with 2:20 remaining when Crothersville forged ahead 51-50. Undetered the Hornets answered right back as Jeremy Stuckwisch nailed a 3pt shot for a 53-51 lead inside of 2 minutes to play. Crothersville was unable to connect on a game tying or go-ahead FG and Medora took full advantage. Inside of 30 seconds left to play Nathan Beesley broke the back of the Tigers with a lay-up and a 55-51 lead. Crothersville was able nail on FG in the final seconds but as they were forced to foul, Medora marched to the FT line and iced the game and a 59-54 triumph. Their first sweet taste of sectional victory in 33yrs and their first ever win in Seymour's Lloyd E. Scott gymnasium.

Unfortunately this would be Medora's last tournament victory to date. Even though the IHSAA State Tournament was revamped in 1998 with the introduction of the 4-class system which requires the small schools to only play each other, Medora has still struggled. Certainly the Hornets will break this streak as well. Will this be the year? Time and the luck of the draw will tell.