INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – March 29, 1980.
Perhaps the best day of Indiana high school basketball ever. If not, the wildest.
“It was kind of an unusual collection of teams,” longtime Indiana sports writer Mike Lopresti said. “Broad Ripple because of the Indianapolis nature, Marion because of the big name and New Albany because of the unbeaten record. Andrean was the unknown quantity.”
Lopresti had a front row seat at Market Square Arena to the semi-states that afternoon covering them for the Richmond Palladium-Item.
Game one featured perfect New Albany against Andrean, led by junior Dan Dakich.
Indy radio host and author, Kent Sterling was a senior at New Albany and was in the stands cheering on the Bulldogs.
“They looked like a potential state championship team,” said Sterling. “They went up 18 in the second half and then Dan Dakich got hot and really hot and brought Andrean all the way back.”
The Fighting 59ers were down one when Mike Paulsin was fouled as time expired. The senior had two free throws for the win.
“I remember watching the New Albany players, especially the guy that fouled that guy just flat out in tears, weeping as he watched what he thought were going to be the two free throws that ruined the dream that really started for that team as sixth graders,” Sterling said.
Paulsin missed both, keeping the dream alive for New Albany.
“It was elation. We thought what a great game that is. Everybody’s jumping up and down, having a great time,” said Sterling. “Those free throws rattled around the rim and rattled around the rim and just escaped. It was kind of meant to be.”
It was a tough act to follow, but the second semifinal between Marion and Broad Ripple did just that.
The Giants’ Jeff Todd tied the game with one second left. His teammate Joseph Price called timeout, thinking Marion was still down. That gave the Rockets time for one last play.
A 57-foot game-winner from Stacy Toran.
“Unbelievable,” said Broad Ripple coach Bill Smith in a 2014 interview. “All I can say is, it was God’s will.”
“15-thousand jaws hit the floor there,” Lopresti recalled. “You saw him turn and it was a heave, more than it was a shot. A basketball equivalent to a ‘Hail Mary’ is what is was and the thing just banked in.”
The miracle shot set-up that night’s final between New Albany and Broad Ripple.
The Rockets were too quick and athletic and the Bulldogs had no answer for King Duke and Jeff Robinson.
“Nothing went right for New Albany,” Sterling remembers. “Jack Ford the coach for New Albany, turned around — he was always very interactive with the fans — and he was just kind of like, ‘what do I do?’”
Broad Ripple won, 73-66 to become the first IPS school to claim state since Washington in 1969 with George McGinnis and Steve Downing and the last until Tech won it all in 2014 led by Trey Lyles.
“It was a we, us and our situation and we won the tournament,” Smith said. “It takes all the school, the community, the city. That was a great thing to be representative of the city of Indianapolis.”
The memories may have faded a bit, but the greatness of that one Saturday in March has not.
“Certainly the best afternoon session I ever saw,” said Lopresti. “Two games that are decided with no time left on the clock, you can’t get much better than that.”
“The day session games made that a tremendous day of basketball,” Sterling said. “I don’t remember two games back-to-back ever being more exciting than that at any level.”