Tuesday, August 9, 2016

State Champion

I am a huge basketball fan, so I guess this is in my blood. When I was growing up in Indiana, the single class basketball tournament was legendary. I still remember watching the 1990 IHSAA Championship game when Damon Bailey's Bedford North Lawrence team beat undefeated Concord in front of 41,000 people at the Hoosier Dome. I saw a lot of basketball growing up and of course we had a basketball goal in our driveway. But I am surprised to learn about a family connection to Indiana high school basketball history.
Evansville Press, 15 Mar 1915.
Stumbling on the Thorntown High School yearbooks from 1913-1916 uncovered some new finds on my great-grandfather Edgar Lawrence Jones. In my last post I included pictures and information on Edna Florence Jones, my great-grandfather's twin sister. These were great finds, I had never seen a photo of Edna before. At the time, I had no idea the yearbooks would connect the family to a bit of Indiana sports history. Edgar was a member of the 1915 Indiana high school state champion basketball team from Thorntown High School. Thorntown celebrated the 100th anniversary of the state championship last year.

In a story much like the classic Hoosiers movie about the 1954 Indiana State Champions from little Milan High School, the 1915 Thorntown team were a scrappy bunch who played in a room that wasn't even a full time gym. Local businesses pledged to build the school a real gym (which cost $3000 to build at the time) if the team won the sectional and beat neighboring rival Lebanon, which they did.
Indianapolis News. 8 March 1915.
Edgar does not appear in the 1915 team photo, but he was definitely part of the team. The 1915 Thorntown High School yearbook confirms Edgar's role with the team, and even lists his point total.
Source: Indianapolis Star, 5 May 2015.
Source: Ancestry. 1915 Thorntown High School yearbook.
While Edgar was not a star, he did earn his place as the captain of the White team in a preseason series of games Coach Chester Hill used to identify potential players for the 1915 squad.

In the May 2015 news article appearing in the Indianapolis Star recalling the 1914-1915 team, local historian David White noted "Thorntown played most of its home games...on the third floor of the grade school, in a large room that was also used as a science lab." In the article, 1943 Thorntown graduate Marvin White said "The ceiling was low, if you shot it too high, the ball might hit the rafters. We had an old hardwood floor and in the wintertime when it was freezing it would get a little uneven. The Thorntown players knew you had to pass the ball in the gym instead of dribble. I remember a team from Sheridan came over to play us and the coach swore after the game that he'd never come back to play us in that gym." And this was the gym that was built after the team won the championship in 1915.

I'd like to think Edgar played a key role in the sectional game between Thorntown and Plainfield (won by Thorntown 43-14). The 1915 yearbook notes "this game was played by the subs", with Thorntown's main stars Smith and Hall sitting out.
Source: Ancestry. 1915 Thorntown High School yearbook.
Bringing the State Championship to Thorntown led to the construction of a new gym, which was described in great detail in the yearbook.

As many athletes know, championships aren't made overnight, and in the case of the 1914-1915 Thorntown squad, the seeds for success were planted in the 1913-1914 season. Edgar was mentioned again in the 1914 yearbook as part of the starting five for the junior squad, which finished second in the inter-class games. The juniors would form the core of the 1915 state champions the next season.
Source: Ancestry. 1914 Thorntown High School yearbook.
The 1914 team lost in the third round of the State Tournament, losing 16-21 to Rossville.

I am proud of this connection to Indiana basketball history and look forward to sharing this with the kids as they get older. Before I leave this story for more finds from the Thorntown yearbooks, I will have another post with statewide news articles on the 1915 Thorntown basketball team.

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