The dreams of success resonate through every high school across this great country of ours. Young children growing into young adults all hoping to capture the education necessary to be successful in their chosen walks through life. Small school, large school, city or rural, each student embraces their high school life with differing goals and aspirations, with each and every person working toward their own vision of success. However, for smaller schools, success in organized group activities, like marching band, athletics, choir, and other extracurricular activities, is often quite limited due to the sheer numbers, or should I say lack of numbers, of students. Let’s face it, a marching band of ten members has little chance of competing with a band of marching 100 students.
My point is, that there have been many events in history where the little school has excelled. In fact, in the smaller team-based events, every once in a while, we see situations where the tiny David has bested the mighty Goliath. In Indiana basketball, one simply needs to look back at the 1954 Milan Miracle, when tiny Milan, defeated two of the state’s largest schools, first Crispus Attucks, and then Muncie Central, for the state championship. If you didn’t know Indiana basketball history, one only needs to refer to the blockbuster movie “Hoosiers,” which depicts this incredible feat in amazing technicolor.
Well, I just happen to be quite close to one such David-Goliath type scenario, at my High School Alma Matter in 1973, and I am hoping to see such a Milan-Miracle reoccurrence happen again in 2022.
When the Milan Miracle team won the state championship, Indiana High School basketball was a one class system, which clearly favored the largest schools. It stayed a one class system until 1998, when the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) decided to split this one large class into four classes, all defined by school enrollments. The reason…what is almost always the reason…money. The IHSAA was experiencing a significant decline in attendance which meant loss of revenue. It was thought this was because the David’s no longer could compete with the Goliaths’. So, four classes, now five and six classes, depending on the sport and state, were born.
However, this message is about one small David sized school that has a whole lot of basketball heart and love; The Edinburgh Lancers. My Alma Matter is the #345 in the state in attendance out of only 406 schools. The Lancers have 240 students enrolled compared to 641 enrolled in the next largest school in the county and usually amongst the smallest schools in their conference. These are the numbers today and are basically unchanged since my years at EHS in 1971-1975.
But in 1971 – 1974, the Lancers were a pretty darn good team. The 1971-1972 and 1973-1974 teams had very good seasons, by a small school standard and challenged both conference and county opponents throughout their respective seasons. But in 1972-1973, the Lancers was one of the best teams in the state. The press called us the cardiac kids as we won nearly every game and most of them were quite close. This team was a great group of perfect characters. A great overall player, a great rebounder, a couple of great slashers, good ball handlers, and a really good outside shooter. We had clinched at least a tie for the conference championship and only had to beat Hauser to win the title. What then transpired, in tiny Hope Indiana’s gymnasium that night, was the longest game in the state of Indiana that year – a 4 overtime classic. When the dust cleared, we were the new conference champs beating Hauser 77-76.
Then onto the sectional. In Indiana’s one class system, the Columbus Bulldog hosted sectional was always one of the toughest sectionals to win as it had been dominated by host Columbus since its inception with the Bulldogs winning 97% of these championships. We received a first-round bye and were slated to play our first game in the second round. Ironically, we drew Hauser in the first game of this sectional which meant a rematch of the 4-overtime thriller that had occurred just one week prior. Well, we handled Hauser, this time in regulation, winning 65-58 and then awaited the winner of the Columbus East-Southwestern contest which immediately followed our second-round victory. Southwestern won that contest which set-up the championship game between our rival Southwestern Spartans and the Lancers. We won that game handily 67-38 and were crowned Sectional Champions for the first time since 1955 and the last time in the single class system. What a marvelous feeling that was!!! I remember us storming the court and all the jubilation of this incredible victory. I also remember one of the Columbus school officials coming onto the court to tell my father (he was our schools superintendent at the time) that our fans were not supposed to act like this. I remember my dad saying to this official “we don’t get to practice winning the sectional every year, like you folks do, so let them celebrate – they are not hurting anything!” He was right – we were civilized and respectful and boy we had a great time celebrating what this team had just accomplished!!!
We advanced to the Columbus regional and, for the first time ever, we were one of two teams, from the same county (Johnson), to ever participate in this regional. We were pitted against long time powerhouse Bloomington South with the winner advancing to play the winner between regional favorite Franklin or underdog Greenfield Central. The stadium was filled to the rafters and the sold-out crowd was full of anticipation for these sure to be thrilling games. There must have been 90% of the crowd buzzing in excitement for a potential David and Goliath, Johnson County, match-up potentially between Franklin and our Lancers (Edinburg). Franklin easily defeated Greenfield Central by 29 points, in the first game, yet nearly everyone stayed for our game. The crowd was hoping to see little Edinburg-David, enrollment 240 student, tackle big bad Bloomington South-Goliath, enrollment 1800 students, hoping that David would be victorious and set-up an all-Johnson County championship. It was an extremely hard fought and very tight battle, but in the end, we never could quite get control of the game, and unfortunately this great and incredible run had ended, as we fell to Bloomington South by 4 points, 69-65. Wow-what a season and what a great team. To see our entire community, dare I say entire county, and those neighboring counties, pull together, all rooting for us – it was truly a marvelous site and experience. MEMORIES FOR A LIFETIME!!!
The following season we had a pretty good team but not quite the caliber of the champs from the previous year. We had some great guys and players and we won as many games as possible but just weren’t quite the force that the cardiac kids were. However, we did beat them at one thing. We had a marathon game against Brown County, at home one particular weekend, that took overtime to resolve. We too ended up having the longest game in the state as this game also went into multiple overtimes. But our game went a bit further than theirs, as we played 5 overtimes against conference foe Brown County, with a final score of 105-101. Wow little ole Edinburgh with the longest game in the state, two years in a row!!!
This year the Lancers have one of the best teams in the state, in their class. Rated in the top ten all season, and in the top 5 for most of it, Edinburgh heads into their own sectional hoping to make a long run towards the state finals. This team is very similar to that 1972-1973 team, great shooters, rebounders, and ball handlers and they seem to have great chemistry. I wish them the very best because no community is as deserving of another champion, as much as Edinburgh.
Had class basketball existed in 1972-1973, there is no doubt in my mind that those Lancers would have certainly battled for a state championship, and they likely would have won. Here’s hoping that this years Lancers can make a very deep run into the tournament…and maybe, just maybe, they can emerge victorious and make a real run at a state title. Regardless, they are a great team, with great teammates, playing for a great school, and a great community. I’m so happy that we can again all proclaim; Hail Hail to the mighty Lancers!!!