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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / The Grueling Truth's Top 10 Sports Lists / Top 10 Greatest IHSAA Boys State Basketball Championship Games in History

Top 10 Greatest IHSAA Boys State Basketball Championship Games in History

A bunch of down-to-the-wire barn-burners
Publish Date: 05/10/2024
Fact checked by: Mark Lewis

Hoosier Hysteria

Once upon a time, the Indiana High School Basketball tournament was the biggest thing going on in the state of Indiana. That has changed now with the advent of class basketball. Today we will look at the greatest single-class State championship games of all time.


10) 1977 EC Washington vs. Carmel

Carmel proved a big school can be a Cinderella story as they lost 7 games during the season and Head Coach Eric Clark was under tremendous pressure heading into the state tournament, and it was felt through the entire community. But then the Greyhounds got hot! They headed to the Final Four, where everybody knew they had the talent, but nobody thought they could win it.

They won the morning game and had to come back and play again that night with a shallow team of five main players. Their opponent was the heavily favored and very talented East Chicago Washington.

The championship game was a battle from the start. Early in the fourth quarter, Carmel went up by 10 points, and it looked like the upset was going to happen, but Washington would not die and fought back and took the lead by one point with just 11 seconds left. A jump ball was called, and Carmel’s Bart Burrow caught it and threw it to Jon Ogle down the court, who scored. Washington took a last-second shot but missed, and in true Hoosier Hysteria fashion, Carmel won the state title.

Video: 1977 IHSAA State Championship: Carmel 53, East Chicago Washington 52

1977 IHSAA State Championship: Carmel 53, East Chicago Washington 52

9) 1990 Bedford North Lawrence vs Concord

Thanks to Damon Bailey over 41,000 packed the Hoosier dome for what would be a memorable clash between two very good teams. Bedford North Lawrence won their first State Championship, 63-60, over top-ranked and previously unbeaten Concord.

Bailey capped his storybook career with 30 points in the title game, including his team`s final 11 in the last 2 1/2 minutes of the game. He broke the state scoring record two weeks earlier and finished his career with 3,134 points. On this night Bailey became one of the biggest legends in the annals of the Hoosier state.

Video: 1990 IHSAA State Championship: Bedford North Lawrence 63, Concord 60

1990 IHSAA State Championship: Bedford North Lawrence 63, Concord 60

8) 1969 Indianapolis Washington vs Gary Tolleston

Nearly 15,000 fans packed Butler University’s Hinkle Fieldhouse and saw a thrilling Gary Tolleston battle and surge in an intense title match before succumbing to the heavily-favoured Continentals 79-76. The talented Blue Raiders overcame a major deficit to close within three points of Washington in pursuit of their second title in three years. Henry Goodes and Donell Baity led the Northern visitors with 27 and 20 points respectively, but the northern visitors scored 47 points in the last half to give the eventual champions one of their toughest tests this season.

McGinnis and Downing were the stars of Indianapolis’ offense, connecting on 14 of 36 attempts as McGinnis established himself as point leader with 35 points and 27 rebounds while teammate Downing chipped in with 20 points. McGinnis’ 1,014 points during 31 games this season set a new season record average of 32.7, while his 128-point tournament output erased Evansville North’s standing record of 128 points.

Ford led with 20 points at the start of what appeared to be another Bill Green romp session, as his team took control and built a commanding lead of 48-30 early in the third quarter. But then Gary made its move. Clever ball handling, some thefts and misplay by the Greenmen narrowed the margin to three points, but their effort fell short, with time playing a major role. Statistics-wise, the Naptowners held several advantages over Tolleston; notably their 75-42 victory on the boards, but their 24 errors to six proved nearly decisive.

Each team could name only three players in double figures. McGinnis and 6-9 Downing had Wayne Pack as their biggest assistant, contributing 13 points at the guard position. Pack’s nifty play in the closing minutes effectively secured victory for Washington. Coach Jim Daley’s Raiders entered the contest with a 281-record, and it was big 6-3 Vern Williams who broke into double digits with 10. From the floor, Washington hit 32 of 79 shots .406 shooting while Tolleston only managed 29 of 83 attempts for.349.

Video: 1969 IHSAA State Championship: Indianapolis Washington 79, Gary Tolleston 76

1969 IHSAA State Championship: Indianapolis Washington 79, Gary Tolleston 76

7) 1996 New Albany vs Den Davis(OT)

Ben Davis ended an incredible 1996 IHSAA Boys Basketball State Tournament by defeating New Albany 57-54 in double overtime March 23, 1996 at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis to become the first repeat state champion since Marion in 1987. Senior Jeff Poisel capped off a remarkable performance with a buzzer-beating three-pointer that gave Ben Davis victory before an electrifying crowd of 21,748 at RCA Dome.

Poisel’s sixth three-pointer of the game broke a state championship game record set by Merrillville’s Joe Stavitzke in 1995, when he hit five threes during their 58-57 loss to Ben Davis.

Video: 1996 IHSAA State Championship: Ben Davis 57, New Albany 54 (2OT)

1996 IHSAA State Championship: Ben Davis 57, New Albany 54 (2OT)

6) 1992 Richmond vs Lafayette Jefferson

Red Devils Head Coach George Griffith led the foundation with state finals trips in 1985 and 1987 when they were beaten by the Marion Giants, who won all 3 State Championships from 1985 to 87. In 1992 they broke through, but it was not easy.

The state championship itself was clinched on March 28, 1992, at the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis with an overtime victory of 77-73 over Lafayette Jeff. Earlier in the day, the Red Devils edged Jeffersonville 94-92, also in overtime, becoming the first team in tournament history to win both games in overtime. So make no mistake, it was not easy and if you change one play in each game history would be rewritten, it was that close.

With 14.5 seconds left in regulation, Woody Austin nailed a heroic 3-pointer to send the final to overtime. Austin would go on to have an outstanding career at Purdue, but with one shot, he became a legend in Richmond forever.

Video: 1992 IHSAA State Championship: Richmond 77, Lafayette Jefferson 73 (OT)

1992 IHSAA State Championship: Richmond 77, Lafayette Jefferson 73 (OT)


5) 1994 South Bend Clay vs Valparaiso(OT)

On March 14, 1994, Clay High School rallied from being 75-67 down with 58.4 seconds left to force overtime and then stunned No. 1 Valparaiso 93-88 for the 1994 Indiana high school state basketball title.

Tom DeBaets’ Colonials won and finished the season 27-2 to become the first South Bend school to capture a state basketball championship since SB Central Bears brought back the trophy in 1957. Central’s 1953 crown remains as the sole other South Bend state champion.

Video: 1994 IHSAA State Championship: South Bend Clay 93, Valparaiso 88 (OT)

1994 IHSAA State Championship: South Bend Clay 93, Valparaiso 88 (OT)

4) 1961 Kokomo vs Indianapolis Manual (OT)

The 1961 Championship Game was played between Kokomo and Indianapolis Manual at Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse. The crowd numbered nearly 15,000, with about 6,000 of those fans calling Kokomo home.

A couple of legends led Manual in Tom and Dick Van Arsdale. They were twins who would later be named co-Mr. Basketball and inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.

The Redskins led 13-12 after one period and 35-28 at the halftime break. Kokomo rallied back to bring it within one at the end of the third quarter, 43-42. The game’s final eight minutes would prove to be a complete barn-burner as Kokomo and Manual battled for the State Championship.

With 24 seconds left in the game, Kokomo had cut the lead to 62-60 after Goose Ligon hit one of two free throws. After a series of jump balls, Kokomo’s Richie Scott hit a shot from the corner to tie the game at 62. Scott later missed free throws that would have won the game in regulation. Instead, and to the delight of the non-partisan fans watching and listening to the game, it was going to overtime.

Overtime would also prove to be an epic battle as Kokomo’s Babe Pryor and Manuel’s Dick VanArsdale traded baskets. Ronnie Hughes hit a big basket to make it 66-64 in favor of the Kats. VanArsdale responded, and the game was tied at 66 with just 19 ticks left. Hughes got the ball and was fouled by Manuel’s Armen Cobb with three seconds left. Hughes sank both of the pressure-free throws–to make it even worse for Manual, the first one bounced on the rim three times before going in–to give Kokomo a 68-66 lead. Manuel’s desperation shot at the buzzer missed. Kokomo had won the state title.

Video: 1961 IHSAA State Championship: Kokomo 68, Indianapolis Manual 66 (OT)

1961 IHSAA State Championship: Kokomo 68, Indianapolis Manual 66 (OT)

3) 1978 Muncie Central vs Terre Haute South

The tournament was delayed almost three weeks because of winter storms, but the tournament and championship games were well worth the wait!

Muncie Central (27-3) won its sixth State Title by edging Terre Haute South 65-64 in overtime. During the title game, Jack Moore, a 5-foot-9 guard, was the star of the game for Muncie, scoring 27 points, including all three of his team’s points in overtime.

The game’s most dramatic and memorable moment came at the end of regulation as Terre Haute South’s Rich Wilson hit a mid-court shot at the buzzer to tie the game and send it to overtime. In the overtime, Jack Moore was the difference as Muncie held on to win an absolute classic.

Video: 1978 IHSAA State Championship: Muncie Central 65, Terre Haute South 64 (OT)

1978 IHSAA State Championship: Muncie Central 65, Terre Haute South 64 (OT)

2) 1982 Gary Roosevelt vs Plymouth

Plymouth was not a small school with around 700 kids, but they were the last school that small to win a State Tournament in the one-class system. Scott Skiles became a Hoosier legend on this particular Saturday afternoon.

Skiles scored 30 in the semifinal to lead Plymouth past heavily favored Indianapolis Cathedral, 62-59. Next up came the task of beating Gary Roosevelt and Roosevelt was stacked! With the services of Renaldo Thomas, Anthony Stewart, Ronnie Bradley, and Winston Garland, Roosevelt was the best team in the state in 1982.

The Panthers’ star power, however, didn’t translate to winning the State Title as Plymouth (28-1) and its own standout, Scott Skiles, prevailed in a 75-74 double-overtime shootout at Market Square Arena. Skiles finished with 39 points, one point shy of the record for the highest-scoring total in a state championship game. Thomas scored a team-high 19 points, Stewart had 18, Bradley added 14, and Garland contributed 10.

A lot of people forget the one glaring stat from this game was Plymouth’s free throw advantage of 38-16, which looks a little shaky, to say the least. But on this night Scott Skiles was a man-child who would refuse to let his team lose. Hindsight is always 20/20, but looking back was it really that big of an upset? Sure Roosevelt had multiple division-one players, but Skiles was hands down the best player on the court that night, and he would prove that later on when he starred at Michigan State and led the Spartans to the Sweet 16, losing controversially to Kansas in Kansas in 1986. Skiles then went on to an NBA career that would last a decade and then became a coach in the NBA.

Video: 1982 IHSAA State Championship: Plymouth 75, Gary Roosevelt 74 (2OT)

1982 IHSAA State Championship: Plymouth 75, Gary Roosevelt 74 (2OT)

1) 1954 Milan vs Muncie Central

It’s a game so great they based a movie on it. I don’t think there is much left to be said about it. Milan controlled the first half and led by 8 points at one point left. Star guard Bobby Plump hit the game-winner, but Ray Craft carried most of the scoring through the game.

Video: 1954 IHSAA State Semifinal #2: Milan 60, Terre Haute Gerstmeyer 48 (Silent Film)

1954 IHSAA State Semifinal #2: Milan 60, Terre Haute Gerstmeyer 48 (Silent Film)

Honorable Mentions!

1913 Wingate vs South Bend

As the two finalists took to the floor before 3,000 spectators for their game, South Bend boys were welcomed with thunderous applause, while Wingate received only “cool and indifferent.” The start of the match was slow as both teams focused on defense more than offense. Early in the fourth quarter, Wingate held a 13-12 lead before South Bend tied it with a free throw to send it into overtime.

Like Rochester, whichever team scored two points first would emerge victor; South Bend made their mark with another free throw. After eight minutes of scoreless football, something extraordinary occurred: Wingate forward Forest Crane eluded his defender and hit the winning field goal! With that shot, the crowd went wild with excitement for Wingate. The Indiana University Booster Club awarded them with the tournament trophy, commending their endurance, “superb physical condition,” as well as their sheer pluck and aggression.

1949 Jasper vs Madison

At the start of the 1948-49 season, Jasper did not look like they would be close to making it to the state finals as they started the year out slowly. They came together at tourney time. Entering the tournament they were just above .500 at 11-9. They won 10-straight in the tournament, which culminated in a one-point championship game win over the Madison Cubs. All 10 players for Jasper either played college basketball or were offered a scholarship, and all 10 earned a college degree, which O’Neill was fiercely proud of.

Madison entered the game as one of the best teams in the state and was the overwhelming favorite. Even though the game was close throughout, Jasper got off to a quick start and held a lead throughout the entire game. Madison star Dee Monroe put up one of the greatest performances in State Finals history, scoring 36 points but it was not enough as Jasper held on to a 62-61 victory.

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