Greenwood Christian, Greenwood girls to play in Hoosier Gym doubleheader

Late Thursday afternoon, members of the Greenwood girls basketball program will sample a slice of yesteryear like none other.

First-year Woodmen coach Bill Torgerson, who has never been to Hoosier Gym, figures to be as wide-eyed as his players while looking around the historical Knightstown venue.

The girls doubleheader, entitled the Border War Classic starts with Greenwood Christian Academy playing Tri County (Michigan) at 6 p.m. Greenwood plays the nightcap against Walled Lake (Michigan).

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Hoosier Gym remains a popular tourist and playing destination because of its connection to the movie “Hoosiers.” Used by the Knightstown High School boys basketball teams from 1921-66, it has a seating capacity of 725 and a length of only 72 feet (12 feet shorter than what today’s players are accustomed to).

In 1985, the gym went Hollywood by serving as the home court of the fictional Hickory Huskers in “Hoosiers.”

“I was in high school when that movie came out,” said Torgerson, who came to Greenwood after living in North Carolina the past 11 years. “One of the reasons I came back to Indiana is for the gyms, and it’s always neat to be on a movie set.

“I was thinking about coaching down on the floor and there’s that tall wall behind you. Another question I have is, ‘What are the locker rooms like?’”

Basically the same as in the movie, said Bob Garner, the Hoosier Gym events coordinator and a reserve player for the 1965-66 Knightstown squad that played the school’s final games there.

Keeping Hoosier Gym as it appears in the movie has helped it attract high school teams from as far away as Mississippi wanting to play there (rivals East Webster and Pontotoc played a girls/boys doubleheader there, with both junior varsity and varsity teams on Dec. 22).

This basketball season alone, Hoosier Gym is hosting 106 basketball games — 80 of those high school matchups.

“It’s phenomenal,” Garner said. “Everyone thinks ‘Hoosiers’ is a basketball movie, but it’s a life-story movie that includes basketball. We’re going to have 70,000 visitors (in 2017), and that’s 31 years after the movie came out.

“It never ceases to amaze me about how people react when they first see the place.”

Greenwood Christian Academy girls coach Alan Weems looks forward to the experience for everyone involved in his program.

His current players were still years from being born when the movie came out, but Weems said they understand the charm and magnetism the building possesses.

“The kids know what it is and are excited,” he said. “It’s a little different format for us. The short court affects your defense more than it affects your offense. You have bodies in a smaller space, so the offense has an easier time adjusting.

“But there’s no negative to this. Any time you can give kids a different experience, it’s a positive.”

Hoosier Gym history

Nov. 25, 1921: First game played as Sulphur Springs defeats Knightstown, 11-10.

Dec. 2, 1921: Knightstown defeats Indiana Deaf, 20-18, for first victory.

1957-58 season: Knightstown wins the first of its two single-class sectional championships (the other was in 1986-87 in the school’s current gymnasium).

1965-66: Final season being used by Knightstown teams.

1985: “Hoosiers” filmed.

Dec. 5, 1998: ESPN on hand as Muncie Central defeats Milan, 69-46, in rematch of classic 1954 state title game that inspired “Hoosiers.”

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Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at mbeas@dailyjournal.net.