I was an eighth grader in a tiny little county school in Indiana when the little school of Milan, Indiana, won the state basketball championship in 1954.
Most people are aware that this particular game was the inspiration for the popular movie, “Hoosiers.”
I had started playing basketball for the junior high basketball team in the seventh grade, a year before the great “Hoosiers” game. All through the school years to follow, playing school basketball was my passion. I wasn’t a “star” player, but I was a starter whenever I was a senior grade at each team level (i.e., as a sophomore for the “B” team and as a senior on the “A” team).
Indiana high school basketball was unique in that it only had one class of teams. When it came to the state basketball championship tournament, all schools, smallest to biggest, were thrown into the pot to see who had what it takes to emerge the victor.
Now, even Indiana has the class system for its school sports. They really don’t understand that they eliminated a great attraction to the game. They removed the opportunity for a small school to pull off the David vs. Goliath game that inspired the movie, “Hoosiers!”
The thrill of a small school trying to knock off a large school wasn’t just a thrill for the spectators. Nope, we players on a small school team looked forward to having the chance to defeat a favorite team. It would be the only time that 90 percent of the spectators would be cheering for us, the little guys.
Sadly, the participation trophy mentality has robbed the boys and girls of that opportunity. So, I would like to offer a suggestion for Arizona basketball to consider. Why not offer a second state tournament after the normal tournaments are finished, that would go like this: The two teams of each class that played for their respective class championship would be entered into this second championship tournament. The team pairings should be completely random and let the best team win.
I think this would create a huge spectator interest and could be used to raise money for the participating schools. I know it would be the highlight of the boys/girls basketball season.
I’m 76 years old and I still have fond memories of playing in those Indiana state tournaments, even though we never got past the first game. It sure didn’t cause me or any of my teammates to be emotionally damaged.