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Milan’s 1954 basketball team celebrates 65th anniversary of hoops miracle

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - It is considered one of the greatest moments in Indiana sports history: the Milan Miracle.

Sixty-five years ago, the unlikely underdog story unfolded in front of 15,000 fans. In the 1954 state basketball championship, the Milan Indians upset Indiana powerhouse Muncie Central on a last-second shot. The school had an enrollment of only 161 students, and their team's victory became an inspiration to small town teams everywhere.

Legend has it that the story even inspired the 1986 movie Hoosiers.

On Saturday, the team will hold a reunion to celebrate the victory that changed their lives. Ahead of the reunion, members of the team spoke with CBS4 at Hinkle Fieldhouse, where the championship game was played. While many things there have evolved over the years, the players say some things will never change.

"I think it just brings back fond memories," says Ray Craft, the game's leading scorer. "You walk in here, you think about the last shot, you think about the 15,000 people."

Teammate Roger Schroder says, to this day, it's still unbelievable.

"We should start this with once upon a time because it’s almost like a fairy tale," he said.

It is a fairy tale about a small town team playing on the biggest stage in Indiana basketball. Most people from Indiana know the story. Some people could likely tell you every play of the game, but only a handful know how it sounded and felt when Bobby Plump's last shot went through the net.

Plump says there's one question people still ask: "What went through your mind when the shot went up?"

"Nothing," says Plump. "Truly, nothing.  If you think, it’s too late. You just react."

He certainly remembers what happened afterwards.

"The buzzer went off and pandemonium. I’m telling you, we must have been on the floor an hour and a half after that game."

It gave the small town Hoosier kids more than they could imagine. Nine of the ten players that dressed for the game went to college. Many of them received scholarships.

"By our background we eliminated the person that says, 'Well, I couldn’t do that,'" says center, Gene White. "We lived it."

The real inspiration may also be the bond created between friends. They haven't missed a reunion 64 years in a row.

"You think, 65 years that’s when people retire and we’re still going through things, and it will continue that way," says Schroder.

He added that basketball was more than just a game to him. It changed his life.

The same could be said for Bobby Plump.

"It broadened my spectrum," says Plump. "I was a shy, bashful kid in high school. I really was. It was hard for me to talk to people I didn’t know. I finally realized through all of this that people are just people. That’s hard to understand when you live in a town of about 75 people, and there aren’t many chances for interactions."

The game also had a significant impact on the town of Milan. A museum was created there to commemorate the championship season.

On Saturday, the museum board plans to make an announcement about a new step to preserve its future and keep it in Milan.

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