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Basketball fever hits area in big way

By Staff | Mar 23, 2009

Everybody in Buccaneer Country was pretty excited all week with the Blue Earth Area girls team winning the section and heading to the big dance, the Girls Basketball State Tourney.

Everyone was buzzing with the news that this was the first time – ever- that BEA (or Blue Earth before that) had a girls team go to the state tournament

One sports fan told me after the game this completes the state tournament rotation. Now every single BEA athletic team has gone to a state tournament.

Of course, another fan pointed out it has been a year or two since the boys basketball team has gone to state. Actually it has been 53 years.

It was the 1955-56 season.

Coach Bill Holte and co-captains Darryl Germann and Bruce Cherland led the squad to a 15-5 season record, going 8-1 in tournament play.

They captured the runner-up title and trophy at the State Basketball Tournament.

The season was memorable for another reason. It was the first time the local team played in the new Lee R. Pemberton auditorium.

That first game in the new gym was a losing effort, one of the five losses on the year. Their record at home was 8-2.

They won their first three games, then lost to Fairmont. But they defeated St. Peter, the eventual conference champs that year.

The Blue Earth Buccaneers rattled off seven straight wins, before losing a game to Albert Lea.

The Bucs lost to Minneapolis Roosevelt that year, in a game played in Williams Arena. They also lost to St. James.

Blue Earth started District Tournament play with a 64-45 victory over Trimont, followed with a win over East Chain 71-43.

The win moved them to the District finals against Fairmont, a team they had lost to earlier in the year. This time the Bucs prevailed 65-55.

In the Region Tournament (no section designations in those days) the Bucs beat a favored Mankato team 62-53. Next they faced Luverne for the championship and a trip to state. Blue Earth won 68-57.

At the state, the Buccaneers defeated their first opponent, Glenwood, 53-43. In the semi-finals they faced Winona and came away with a close 62-57 win.

That sent them to the championship game, where they had to face the Minneapolis Roosevelt Teddies, a team they had lost to earlier in the year.

Although they gave it their all, the Bucs were no match for the famous basketball ‘machine’ of Roosevelt, and they lost 101-54.

Still, they took home the second place trophy, and two all-tournament players – David Abel and George Dean.

Other members of the squad included 6-foot-5 Al Henke, Tom Prescott, Don Chilson, Wendell Dobson, Phil Piper, Terry Armon, Don Gartzke, Bill Murphy and Jim Schneider.

Four of the squad members have died, but Blue Earth resident Terry Armon hopes five members can have a reunion during this 2009 state tournament trip. They have made plans to get together before the game.

Another interesting note on the winter of 1956.

The Buccaneer wrestling team went to the state tournament at that same time, and won it.

So in 1956 the Bucs had the second place boys basketball team, and the first place wrestling team in the state.

Buc fans must have had a great time that winter.

The wrestling team included members Dave Frank, Bradley Hooper, Gary Olsen, Jerry Fuller, Alfred DeLeon, Monte Peterson, Edward Bleess, John Breen, Dave Sohn, Jim Reifsteck, John Murphy, Ronald Weise and Albert Russ.

Eight Bucs went to state as individuals that year, and Sohn, Reifsteck and Russ were state champs.

The team overall was 11-2, with their losses coming at the hands of a couple of high-powered Iowa teams.

Hal Schroeder of Blue Earth remembers that 1956 state basketball tournament. It was his second year of teaching at Blue Earth.

He ponders how many folks who were at that tournament made the trip up to the Target Center on Wednesday night for the Bucs first state basketball appearance in 53 years.

We imagine there were a few. Including several players from the last Buc basketball team to head to state.

Armon reported after the game there were four members of the 1956 team who were in attendance at the girls state tournament game on Wednesday night.

So were a lot of other fans. They all saw a good game. Although the outcome may not have been the one hoped for, everyone expressed a lot of Buc pride in these girls, who played with a lot of guts, and a lot of heart.