Discussion over lunch at Los Amigos in New Castle with Ray Pavy, Roger Dickinson, Herb Bunch and I turned to the question of what team was the greatest in the history of Indiana high school basketball.
Realizing the impossibility of fairly assessing teams from various earlier times, attention turned to the “Modern Era. “ This we defined for our purposes as post World War II through the end of the single class era in 1997. Earlier teams were great, of course. We acknowledged that surely the Franklin Wonder Five, champions from 1920-22 and led by Fuzzy Vandivier, must have been pretty darn good relative to all of the other schools at the time. Homer Stonebraker’s Wingate champs of 1913 and 1914 must also have seemed strong and superior to its opponents. It’s just difficult to judge these early teams.
But the discussion narrowed down to three contenders for the later period we had decided upon. First, Oscar Robertson’s teams of 1955 and 1956, the latter undefeated but the former with its one loss at Connersville in their tiny old gym perhaps even the better of the two (their entire 1954-55 season occupies a full chapter in my book Hoosiers All). Then we have to choose the George McGinnes-Walter Downing Washington Continentals of 1969; and the powerhouse East Chicago Washington champions of 1971 led by Pete Trgovich ( who played on three NCAA championship teams at UCLA), Ulysses (Junior) Bridgeman (Louisville, 10,000+ point scorer in the NBA) and Tim Stoddard, who played on North Carolina State’s NCAA champions of 1974.
We can settle on the best teams as we sit around the cafe lunch tables of Indiana. But to have seen them play would have been a real privilege.
Emerson Houck, author
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