It’s not unusual for Drew Glentzer to walk through the Edinburgh Community High School gymnasium on a winter Saturday morning and hear the following:
“One ... two ... three ... Lancers.”
In the facility’s east tunnel will be a collection of elementary-age students, boys unwilling to wait until their high school years to break huddle and run onto a hardwood surface that to them borders on sacred.
The sensation of adulation raining down from all parts of the quaint, 2,080-seat octagon must come later, however. The facility during such mornings is nearly empty.
They come in all shapes and sizes, those Johnson County gymnasiums. Here is a brief history of the seven facilities still utilized for boys varsity basketball games:
Melvin Vandermeer Gymnasium
First game: Center Grove defeated Greenwood 52-46 on Jan. 5, 1996.
First game: Center Grove defeated Union Township 54-48 on Dec. 14, 1954.
First game: Edinburgh defeated Mooresville 52-46 on Nov. 15, 1958.
First game: Franklin lost to Center Grove 58-49 on Nov. 21, 2007.
First game: Greenwood lost to Whiteland 74-72 in overtime on Dec. 18, 1971.
First game: Indian Creek defeated Eminence in November 1967.
Glenn Ray Gymnasium
First game: Whiteland defeated Clark Township 60-29 in November 1958.
“All the little kids here love it. This year our HBA (Hoosier Basketball Association) sixth-grade team won their league, and I let the kids cut the nets down,” said Glentzer, who is midway through his third season as the Lancers’ boys varsity basketball coach.
“The gym has such a cozy feel to it. Everyone is on you, and I really do think it gives us an advantage. Our kids play in front of 2,000 people every time.”
In Indiana, gymnasiums through the much of the 20th century were integral parts of a community’s fabric.
Today, few areas embrace this concept as tightly as Edinburgh, a town of about 4,600 residents that has managed to maintain a sense of status quo in terms of population, rural tranquility and passion for hoops.
It’s a big deal when the Lancers play at home. Always has been.
“I’ve been going there for so many years,” said Jackie Smith, 62, a 1968 Edinburgh graduate now in his 31st season of operating the clock at Lancers home games. “When I was in second grade, they opened the gym even while they were finishing up construction and let us walk through it. It was so big compared to the old gym, and it was sunken. Those were the two things that stood out to me. My first time there as a fan was in third grade.”
Smith said he still feels a certain adrenalin rush when arriving at the gymnasium. Some of the truly special moments of his life have taken place there, a sentiment shared by numerous longtime Edinburgh residents.
If only those walls could talk.
A new era
The 1950s were a time of change for basketball in Edinburgh. On May 1, 1956, the moniker “Lancers” was voted in for Edinburgh High School sports teams, beating out two other finalists — Highlanders and Scotties.
Black and white became the schools colors, a bold replacement for maroon, which to that point served as both the team’s dominant uniform color and nickname.
Next on the agenda would be construction of a gymnasium suited to supplant the old high school’s gym, which had been utilized for varsity competition since the 1925-26 season. Cramped with steel girders partially obstructing the view of some spectators, the old facility had more than served its intended purpose.
A new gym would be built a few long bounce passes south of school grounds. The price tag: $521,948.
The final varsity game played in the old Edinburgh gymnasium took place Feb. 7, 1958, against Morgantown. Its most famous tenant, the 1950-51 squad coached by Harold Hickman and featuring seniors Terry Stewart and Dean Fish, went on to twice cut the nets after winning the Franklin Sectional and Greensburg Regional.
The buildup before the first game played in the new gym might have been as impressive as any game played there since.
Commencement exercises for the Class of ‘58 took place there. An August evening was set aside to officially dedicate the building, which also housed the school’s industrial arts and home economics departments. Tours were provided. State and local dignitaries, including IHSAA Commissioner L.V. Phillips, were among the invitees.
The buzz was inescapable. Edinburgh loved basketball and was getting a new gym in which to love it.
Finally, after much anticipation, it would be game time. On Nov. 15, 1957, senior forward Ronnie Richards scored 22 points and sophomore guard Arlis Stapleton added 12 for the Lancers in a 52-46 victory against Mooresville.
Lancers fans rejoiced, every one of them knowing the evening was the beginning of something big.
Not surprisingly, the community turned out en masse for the gym’s first game. It’s been remarkably consistent in its support in the years since.
“It gives you that sense of pride and shows how important basketball is to our town,” said Glentzer, a 1990 Indian Creek High School graduate who as a teenager attended open gyms at Edinburgh during the summer months. “We’re a ‘Hoosiers’ type town where we’ve got the coffee shop down the street and a barber shop a few doors down. Everyone is excited about the next game.”
The past few seasons have been downright fever-pitch.
After posting a 12-9 record in 1998-99, Edinburgh endured nine consecutive losing seasons before rebounding for a 12-12 winter in 2008-09. Curt Chase’s final season as coach (2009-10) produced a 17-8 squad responsible for the program’s first sectional championship in 37 years. The 41-year-old Glentzer already has become something of a legend in his brief tenure having gone 51-9, including last season’s sectional and regional titles.
Smith claims the greatest game he’s seen in the gym was in 1974 — Brown County’s 107-101 victory against Edinburgh in five overtimes.
Atmospherically, it would be difficult to top when Waldron and Hauser made it through town on their way to Class A state championships in 2004 and 2006, respectively. Waldron played a regional here, Hauser a sectional. In both cases, additional bleacher seating had been made available, boosting the gymnasium’s capacity to 2,500. Both times every seat was filled.
“I am not a fan of the cookie-cutter gyms. In Indiana, people talk about ‘Hoosiers,’ and this gym reeks old-school basketball,” Edinburgh athletics director Tim Jordan said. “It’s a throwback, and I love it every time I walk into it.”
Here to stay
The Edinburgh gym is impressively preserved. Large colored posters honoring each of the school’s senior girls and boys basketball players line a portion of the east wall. Banners devoted to championship teams as far back as coach Billy Webb’s 1929 county tournament titlist are fixtures on other walls.
Swaying gently above the east basket are large Final 4 banners. One is dedicated to Edinburgh’s 2011 softball squad, the other to the 2012 boys basketball team that advanced all the way to the Southport Semistate before falling to eventual state champion Loogootee.
It’s a town that never forgets.
“The sense of pride runs so deep here and runs through so many age groups. We’re all in this together,” Glentzer said. “I remember leaving Edinburgh for the semistate last year and seeing a sign that said, ‘Town closed.’ It’s true. In your mind you’re thinking, ‘Nobody’s here.’ Our kids when they play in this gym are like, ‘We can’t let these people down.’ They know how important it is for them to compete, and I think that’s why our program is where it is.”
Don’t expect Edinburgh to join the cookie-cutter fraternity anytime soon when it comes to its basketball venue. The current gymnasium remains such a vital part of the town that mere mention of something newer would be frowned upon by most residents.
“I would think that place would have to have geese living in it or something so structurally bad for there to be a change,” Jordan said. “I can’t see that gym going bye-bye anytime soon.”
Everybody now, “One ... two ... three ... Lancers.”