The high school Sam Hoagland proudly represented on basketball courts in and around Johnson County has ceased to exist for 50 years.
Hoagland, who wore the purple of the Morgantown Trojans, isn’t alone.
Former Nineveh players Bruce Lucas and Don Dugan can make the same claim. As can Joe DeHart, a 1954 Trafalgar graduate, and Tim Baird, who, like Hoagland, represented Morgantown.
Rivals at the time, these men are on friendlier terms, united by their love of the game and by the school that absorbed their alma maters starting the 1967-68 school year.
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Now it’s all about the red, white and blue of Indian Creek High School.
Hoagland, the baby of the bunch at age 68, was part of Morgantown’s final graduating class. The other four men squared off against each other as part of the rivalries between Morgantown, Nineveh and Trafalgar in the 1950s.
Each is a walking, talking reminder that boys basketball took place in these parts prior to the opening of Indian Creek 50 years ago.
It was special.
“Hoosiers”-esque, if you will.
All five men, now ranging in age up to 81, treasure memories of capacity crowds shoehorned into quaint gyms.
They remember the elevated sense of anticipation through the week as Friday night’s game approached, and an all-encompassing school spirit that, sadly, began fading away generations ago as society changed and entertainment options increased.
“Those were really good rivalries. A lot of friendships. All the players knew the other players, and everybody just got along good,” Lucas said. “And the game was a lot different than it is now.
“It was a slower-paced style of ball, and the sportsmanship was just different. If you knocked somebody down, you would pick them up rather than just walk off.”
To celebrate Indian Creek’s 50th-year anniversary, the boys basketball team will wear throwback uniforms with NHJ (Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson) on the front of each jersey for a home game.
On Jan. 27, Indian Creek players are wearing purple Morgantown T-shirts with the Trojans’ logo during pregame and halftime warm-ups. Shirts dedicated to the Trafalgar Redbirds (Feb. 10) and Nineveh Eagles (Feb. 17) will follow.
Hoagland, the president of Morgantown’s senior class and student council during the 1966-67 school year, also played basketball for DeHart, the Trojans’ head coach for four seasons in the early 1960s.
“I would run through the wall for that man if he asked me to,” Hoagland said. “He was my coach my freshman and sophomore years in basketball and cross country. I was awfully disappointed when he decided to give up coaching.
“But I could understand it even back then. He was from Trafalgar, and there was a little bit of animosity. We upset them my sophomore year up there on their home court. They had an excellent team in ’65, too. They were really tough.”
Based off tournament accomplishments, Trafalgar was the most successful of the three programs.
The Redbirds won their lone sectional in 1917, but picked up three Johnson County Tournament championships (1922, 1957-58). Morgantown won a sectional in 1956, but never could bring back the nets from the county tourney.
Of the three, it might have been the Nineveh gymnasium that was the most imposing venue for visiting teams.
“I guess Nineveh was the toughest,” DeHart said. “It was a small court and a small gym, and we liked a lot of room to run and work our fast break.”
Asked if the Nineveh court wasn’t the standard 84 feet in length, DeHart turns to ask Lucas.
Lucas assures it was.
“Everything just came in on you at the end of the court, I guess. We always thought it was smaller,” DeHart said.
Morgantown’s proximity made it so that Trafalgar and Martinsville were the Trojans’ most-anticipated games, according to Baird.
“We only played Nineveh one time during my time at Morgantown, but we keyed for Trafalgar every year,” said Baird, who played for Trojans coach Keith Rhodes, a former player at Butler University under the legendary Tony Hinkle.
“We ran a very sophisticated Butler system. The year Milan won the state, I could have gotten to (Crispus Attucks coach) Ray Crowe or any of the coaches that played them and told them to put a man on (Plump) and play a four-man zone.”
Dugan, whose children graduated from Indian Creek, can still rattle off players, coaches and an opponent’s state ranking from his nights as a Nineveh basketball player.
So long ago, yet so yesterday.
“It was highly competitive. They gyms were crowded every time you played, and, to me, it was more exciting that way,” Dugan said. “The atmosphere was pretty wild. The crowd was right on top of you.
Laughing, he added, “I could hear my dad hollering at me every once in a while. He was too close to me, but I couldn’t tell him. I couldn’t talk back to him.”
Games in which throwback uniforms and warm-up shirts will be worn by members of the Indian Creek boys basketball team:
Jan. 27;Morgantown Night (WIC playoff vs. TBD), 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 10;Trafalgar Night (vs. Indianapolis Herron), 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 17;Nineveh Night (vs. Central Christian), 7:30 p.m.