Indiana High School Basketball Jac-Cen-Del Wins

One of the most sought after and contested titles in sports is being crowned champion in the Indiana High School basketball championship that is held each year in the month of March. The original source of the term “March Madness”, the annual tournament is now held in the Colts stadium, draws nearly forty thousand fans, as well as thousands of national TV viewers.

The frenzy created in Indiana over high school basketball has even spawned the move,”Hoosiers”. The movie starring Gene Hackman has become a classic and is shown frequently on the History Channel as well as AMC. The story line follows the route of a small town school on their way to winning all the “marbles” in 1954. In it a small rural town is depicted in their march to their fifteen minutes of fame, where a David and Goliath battle emerged in the final game on a cold Saturday night in March at Butler Field House. The Milan Indians, a tiny southeastern Indiana school with an enrollment of only about 150 defeated the powerhouse Muncie Central Bearcats on a last second shot by Bobby Plump.

Living in the school district adjoining Milan, it left quite an impression on everyone in the community, every boy in town wanted to be Bobby Plump. Many hours were spent in the cold snowy Indiana winter practicing the famous shot. It seemed like a long off dream that had very little chance of ever coming true.

Through the years, although my school consolidated with a neighboring school, not much changed, the school I graduated from only had an enrollment of about 300, still pretty small. However, the dream was still there, many loyal fans never gave up, many attended every game the local team played for over 50 years, weddings, funerals and all other social events were scheduled around the local basketball games.

Many gymnasiums in Indiana held twice the population of the tiny towns they were located in, and a seat was still had to come by. High school basketball in Indiana was almost a religion, you had better be at the game on Friday night or have a good excuse. However it was all kept in perspective,in most cases the players were held to a higher standard, if you messed up, you were off the team, no questions asked. The whole community would come down on the player for messing up and spoiling the chances of winning the next game, the result, most players didn’t mess up.

Jac-Cen-Del had a couple of near misses when it seemed like they might have a chance to win the big one, however, as fate would have it, something would keep the dream from realizing itself. Then after the turn of the century things started to change, Indiana went to a class system whereby they created four divisions based on school enrollment, many, including myself didn’t think and still don’t think this was a wise move. However, J-C-D kept up its winning ways, by now, the grand children and great grand children of the students in 1954 were playing high school basketball. After a couple of more near misses, in 2009 it finally happened, after waiting 55 years, the team had their championship. In a runaway game, the Eagles defeated Triton by a large margin and won it all! Some how it didn’t seem important that we had only won the single A title, a win is a win! We were the champs!

Watching the game and celebration on YouTube, I realized had much things had stayed the same in this tiny farming community,when the team won, there was still the police and fire truck escort from the county line, state senators as well as other politicians still showed up at midnight for the celebration, and the community was still populated with the same down to earth citizens that were common everywhere in America in the 50s.

It’s great when some things never change.