I refer to this tournament as the Newton-Jasper County sectional because for some 40 years, this sectional was composed almost exclusively of teams from Newton and Jasper counties.
THE TEAMS: Newton County was represented by five teams-Brook, Goodland, Kentland, Morocco, and Mt. Ayr, while Jasper County was usually represented by six teams, Rensselaer, Remington, Fair Oaks, DeMotte, Wheatfield and Tefft (sometimes referred to as Kankakee Township).
For a few years, three additional Jasper County teams were in the sectional: St. Joseph Academy, Kniman, and Hanging Grove Township. Both Hanging Grove and Kniman were two-year high schools.
THE TEAM NICKNAMES: Brook Purple Aces, Goodland Bestmen (changed to Trojans sometime after 1936), Kentland Blue Devils, Morocco Beavers, Mt. Ayr Airedales, Remington Rifles, Fair Oaks Cherokees, DeMotte Indians, Wheatfield Red Devils, Tefft Infants (changed to Tigers in 1954), St. Joseph Academy Puma Cubs, Hanging Grove Hornets, and the Rensselaer Fightin’ Iroquois, Indians, and finally — the Bombers— this apparently off hand nickname was in reference to the long range shooting ability Rensselaer developed under basketball coach Slim Bausman, thus Bausman’s Bombers.
Many people wrongly assume the nickname “bombers” was a patriotic reaction to WW ll. That is incorrect; the United States was not directly involved in WW ll until the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
Occasionally, the IHSAA (Indiana High School Athletic Association) would assign a high school from a near-by county to play in the Newton-Jasper County sectional or assign a team from Newton or Jasper County to play in a sectional other than the Newton-Jasper County sectional.
The early years-1923-1935
Clearly, from 1923 to 1935, Brook was the tournament’s best team. The Purple Aces won eight championships, while Kentland won two, and Otterbein, Morocco, and Goodland won one each.
But why was there such a disparity between Brook and the other high schools? Did Brook have better coaching or athletes? Probably not. Was it just plain luck that Brook won eight championships from 1923 to1935? I don’t think so. So, for the answer, let’s look at the obvious physical difference —the gymnasiums.
The first basketball team of Brook High School was in the school year of 1907-1908. At that time there was no gymnasium in which to play, so upstairs halls in some of the downtown stores and the Methodist church basement were used. In 1915, an overall factory in the northwest part of town ceased its business operations. The following year, the town of Brook purchased the huge brick building to be used for public and school events. It came to be known as the Community Building, and it was here that Brook High School enjoyed its first gymnasium. Because of the large seating capacity…several basketball sectionals were held here, according to Memory Lane Basketball written by Allie Odle Stonehill.
The Community Building was located at what is currently the northeast corner of West street and Franklin street. Only a concrete foundation remains where the 60 x 130 ft. building once stood. (On July 25, 1934, the Community Building was struck by lightning and burned to the ground.)
So, by the early 1920’s, and maybe sooner, the boys in Brook had a gym where they could play basketball winter or summer, day or night, and rain or shine! And you can bet that their gym was larger than any other gym in the area. Why? Because they had the space!! And that extra space gave them the opportunity to hone their basketball skills such as dribbling, passing, and playing defense. Having that extra space is a clear advantage over a school that practices and plays in a small gym.
And guess what? That is exactly what the other schools played in—a small gym. Morocco built a new high school in 1922.
Taken from Memory Lane Basketball: “The new high school contained a very small cement basketball court…if you touched the walls you were out of bounds and an errant pass could stop the game to get a ladder and retrieve the ball off the ledge that went part way around the court. A balcony above one side would seat approximately 200 hundred fans
In 1912, Rensselaer built a new high school on the northeast corner of Susan and Van Rensselaer streets. That building was still in use when I was in high school in the mid-1950 ‘s, and I can tell you the gym in that building pretty much fits the description of the one built in Morocco in 1922.
Further proof that Brook had a large gym is provided by the Brook Reporter newspaper following the 1923 sectional championship game between Brook and Rensselaer: “a thousand fans attended the game.” Well, folks, you don’t seat a thousand fans in a gym that only has room for 200 hundred people!
In 1930, Morocco lost its road game to Rensselaer, who by that time, was practicing and playing on a large court in the newly built Rensselaer Armory. Morocco’s newspaper stated, “Morocco’s loss is attributed to having to practice in a small, which throws them out of line.”
By the late 1920 ‘s, larger gyms were being built and Brook was starting to lose their advantage. Remington built a new gym in 1928, and a new armory was built in Rensselaer, which contained a large basketball court and was used by Rensselaer High School. The WPA built a new gym in Brook in 1936, in Mt. Ayr and Morocco in 1937, and at Rensselaer High School in 1939. Also, by 1935, another team was awakening from its’ slumber, and for the next 27 years would challenge Brook for supremacy in the Newton-Jasper County sectional!
NOTABLE COACHES: Virgil Robbins (b 1902 d 1976) coached at Brook from 1932 to 1945, winning four sectionals and at Kentland from 1951 to 1954 winning two additional sectionals. He also coached at Morocco, Mt. Ayr, and for a year or so, was assistant at St. Joe. Virgil is a member of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.
On May 2, 1961, tragedy struck the Robbins family. While driving west on SR 114, about a half mile west of SR 55, Virgil Robbins swerved into the passing lane to avoid rear ending a slow moving vehicle, and in so doing, had a head on collision with a car traveling east. Virgil’s wife, Gertrude, age 61, was killed instantly and Virgil and two other people were injured.
Fred Jones coached at Wheatfield from 1954 to 1970, a total of 17 consecutive years. Fred’s widow, Rosemary, nee Longstreth, remembers her husband as a “serious, tough, no nonsense coach who loved the kids and the players. His devotion to Wheatfield simply cannot be matched.”
Coach Don Utter graduated from Purdue where he was a reserve on the 1940 basketball team. Don began coaching at Remington in the school year of 1940-41. Dean Putt was a senior on the Rifle’s basketball team that year and said, “Don was a great coach. We had a good team and we beat Rensselaer on their home court. We had high hopes of winning the sectional, but it didn’t work out.” Don Utter won two sectionals at Remington. He also served as Principal and attained the rank of Captain in the National Guard. Don Utter was a gentleman’s gentleman. He passed away in 2018 at the age of 101.
William (Slim) Bausman coached at Rensselaer from 1935 to 1942. In 1935, after years of mediocrity, Rensselaer began to show great improvement under Coach Bausman. Fan support was building, and the hometown newspaper excitedly proclaimed, “for the first time in years, we have hope for a sectional championship.” From 1935 to 1942, the Bombers won four sectionals in eight years under Slim Bausman. He left Rensselaer in the fall of 1942 and became an assistant coach at Purdue.
The Bombers went on to win nine more sectionals by 1962. And now you know which school was awakening from its’ slumber to challenge Brook for supremacy in the Newton- Jasper County sectional----------Rensselaer!!!
Sectional Champions 1923-1962
Site Year Champion
Brook 1923 Brook 15, Rensselaer 14
Brook 1924 Otterbein 18, Brook 6
Kentland 1925 Brook 33, Remington 28
Brook 1926 Brook 22, Morocco 9
Goodland 1927 Kentland 25, Goodland 24
Remington 1928 Goodland 28, Remington 26 Double OT
Rensselaer 1929 Brook 24, Goodland 12
Goodland 1930 Brook 18, Goodland 11
Remington 1931 Brook 28, Morocco 27
Brook 1932 Brook 24, Goodland 13
Rensselaer 1933 Brook 45, Goodland 30
Kentland 1934 Morocco 28, Kentland 27
Goodland 1935 Kentland 46 Morocco 17
Remington 1936 Rensselaer 26, Goodland 21
Morocco 1937 Goodland 36, Kentland 4
Morocco 1938 Rensselaer 45, Goodland 30
Rensselaer 1939 Rensselaer 34, Brook 19
Rensselaer 1940 Brook 35, Rensselaer 29
Morocco 1941 Rensselaer 34, Demotte 24
Morocco 1942 Brook 36, Mt. Ayr 24
Rensselaer 1943 Remington 37, Wheatfield 34 OT.
Morocco 1944 Mt. Ayr 38, Goodland 24
Rensselaer 1945 Remington 51, Demotte 45
Morocco 1946 Rensselaer 40, Brook 19
Rensselaer 1947 Rensselaer 53, Morocco 50
St. Joe 1948 Brook 50, Mt. Ayr 40
St. Joe 1949 Rensselaer 49, Wheatfield 26
S. Joe 1950 Wheatfield 59 ,Remington 39
St. Joe 1951 Rensselaer 69, Kentland 43
St. Joe 1952 Kentland 58, Morocco 55 OT.
St. Joe 1953 Brook 61, DeMotte 46
St. Joe 1954 Kentland 57, DeMotte 45
St. Joe 1955 Goodland 66, Brook 58
St. Joe 1956 Morocco 65, Rensselaer 58
St. Joe 1957 Rensselaer 73, Wheatfield 48
Kentland 1958 Rensselaer 49, Brook 47 double OT.
Kentland 1959 Rensselaer 59, Wheatfield 45
Kentland 1960 Goodland 61, Kentland 38
Kentland 1961 Rensselaer 82, Wheatfield 71
Kentland 1962 Fowler 66, Kentland 63
St. Joe 1962 Rensselaer 43, Remington 42
the IHSAA yearbook shows Kentland only scored 4 points in its’ loss to Goodland in the 1937 championship game. This may be an error.
Championships by school from 1923 to 1962: Rensselaer 13, Brook 12, Kentland and Goodland 4 each, Morocco and Remington 2 each, and Mt. Ayr, Otterbein, Wheatfield, and Fowler 1 each.
In 1962, the IHSAA assigned a sectional to Kentland and also a sectional to Rensselaer (played at St. Joe) The tournament structure that had held the two counties together in one sectional for some 40 years was crumbling under the weight of the coming statewide school consolidation, and by 1970, Goodland, Brook and Kentland became South Newton; Morocco and Mt. Ayr became North Newton, while Fair Oaks, DeMotte, Wheatfield, and Tefft became Kankakee Valley. Remington joined Gilboa and Wolcott to form Tri-County, and Rensselaer---well, Rensselaer is still Rensselaer, and frankly — I like it that way!
Memories of St. Joe
Pete Gentry played on Brook’s 1948 championship team and said, “the fans at St. Joe were just crazy fanatical! Everybody was yellin’ and screamin’. And to top it off, everybody booed the big school—Rensselaer!”
Rensselaer star guard Dale Dewees played on the varsity for three years. When asked about the booing, Dewees just smiles and good naturedly says, “We never let it bother us. We just played the game.”
Carl Curran, Kentland Blue Devils, class of 1953, will never forget playing the Morocco Beavers in the 1952 championship game. Kentland was behind one point with six seconds left in the game. The Beaver’s had the ball out of bounds. When they went to inbound the ball, Kentland’s defense had the four Beavers nearest the ball covered, so the inbounder threw a long pass meant for a teammate down court near the Kentland basket. Curran was able to intercept the pass and drive toward the basket where he was fouled before he could get a shot off. Curran was awarded one free throw and tied the game. The Blue Devils won in overtime. It was their first championship since 1935.
1948 Demotte graduate Irene (Muraida) Evans was a yell leader. She has wonderful memories of St. Joe not only about the sectional, but also about how her personal life intertwined with the college. Her brother, John, studied two years for the priesthood at St. Joe, and she had many friends there. Mrs. Evans is a retired teacher.
For me personally, attending the sectional at St. Joe and sitting in the huge fieldhouse embodied the excitement, dreams, hopes, and disappointments of fans and players alike. It was one of the most exciting and enjoyable things I have ever done.
I urge everyone to take an interest in, and support your local high school basketball team. You will have wonderful memories that will last a lifetime!
Thanks to the Rensselaer and Brook Libraries, Larry and Becky Lyons, Carl and Suzy Curran, Memory Lane Basketball, Hoosier Hoops, Indiana High School Basketball, New and Old, Glory Days, Jasper County Historical Society, Barbara Misch, Kentland Museum, Nancy Prue, Mrs. Schultz, Ms. Babcock, Richard Miller, Beth Basset, Marsha Gratner, Dean Putt, Bob McKee, Brian Chamness, Vintage Views, Arlene R. Potts, Greg Whaley, IHSAA and Morocco Alumni website—and everybody else I carelessly forgot to mention!