April 7, 2020
|2/24/2020 1:06:00 PM|
A Hoosier Hysteria temple
JCHS Hurley Gymnasium was the place to be Saturday
Hoosier Hysteria is alive and well in Jennings County, albeit not as vibrant as it used to be.
|The basketball court in the Charles Hurley Gymnasium features a graphic based on Charles Hurley’s actual signature. The handsome scheme was designed by Ty Smith, a Jennings County High School alumnus.—Staff Photo by Bryce Mayer|
|Rider Ruddick pulls back to take a halfcourt shot at halftime of Saturday’s game. The Hayden Elementary School sixth grader’s name was drawn for the chance at the $10,000 prize. He missed but still deserves much credit, according to JCHS Athletic Director Cory Stevens.—Photo by Jeffrey Everroad|
A celebration of hoops was on full display Saturday night as Jennings County High School played its final home boys game of the season. (See related story on page 1B.)
More fans than usual this season were inside Charles Hurley Gymnasium to watch the Panthers. Actually, they were there to watch the Panthers on both sides of the court. That's because visiting Bloomington South has the same nickname as Jennings County.
A big part of Saturday's attraction was the visiting Panthers. Bloomington South is undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the state. Their star is 6-5 senior Anthony Leal, the leading candidate for the Mr. Basketball title and an Indiana University recruit.
Leal did not disappoint, displaying deadly accuracy from 3-point range, something the IU Hoosiers could use this season, and also throwing down a couple of impressive dunks, including a behind-the-back slam after a steal and breakaway.
The fans were also there to see the halftime show where a lucky young lad was chosen to take a halfcourt shot that would have won him $10,000 had it dropped. Alas, it didn't.
Rider Ruddick, a Hayden Elementary School sixth grader, missed his halfcourt attempt by a wide margin, but hitting such long-distance shots is rare even for the most talented basketball player.
Fans entered the contest all season long at $5 a chance. A drawing before halftime determined who would get to take the shot. Obviously, the person had to be present to win and the first entrant drawn, Daniel Stearns, the first name drawn, was not there.
You snooze you lose!
"I give Rider a lot of credit," said Cory Stevens, Jennings County athletic director. "He did a great job under a lot of pressure. Anyone would have been nervous out there trying to hit that shot with a big crowd watching."
The contest netted $675 for the high school's athletic department. Had Rider hit the shot, an insurance policy would have paid off the cool $10 grand.
"We're pretty happy with how the contest went," Stevens said. "We'll probably do it again next year, though we may tweak the arrangement and maybe even have several times where people will shoot from halfcourt."
After the intermission Saturday, Bloomington South picked up where it left off to pad its lead even more. The visiting Panthers' crisp passing, nearly flawless playmaking and torrid outside shooting resulted in a runaway.
Jennings County's crew has nothing to be ashamed of, however. The hosts never gave up and played hard until the end. Chuck Hurley would have been proud of them.
Hurley (1927-2002), of course, is the legend for whom the JCHS gymnasium is named. He was principal at JCHS from its opening in 1968 until 1993. Before that, he was principal at the old North Vernon High School. And even before that, Hurley was a high school basketball coach at Hayden and Marshall Township.
Hurley was the top man at the school when the JCHS gym would be literally packed with fans during the Panthers' most winningest seasons, including 1971-72.
Ahh, what a great season that was. I was a senior student and fan at JCHS then and relished every minute of watching the Panthers then. Jennings County averaged 93.2 points per game, the highest in state history, and that was before the 3-point shot. The Panthers, with Danny Brown, Billy Harmon and Bobby Woods leading the way (each of whom averaged over 20 points a game), were spot-on in following Coach Don Schroeder's offensive-oriented playbook.
The Panthers ended that storied campaign with an upset loss to Madison in the Seymour Regional and a 21-3 record, something Jennings County fans who were there will never forget.
What a great reminder of those years and of Mr. Hurley himself to see the JCHS court, which received a new paint scheme before the start of the 2019-20 season. The court includes large graphics on the north and south sides featuring "Charles W. Hurley" in blue cursive lettering modeled after his signature and "Gymnasium" in red block lettering. A large "JC" logo graces the center. It is a gorgeous design, created by JCHS alumnus Ty Smith, well suited for a bona fide Hoosier Hysteria temple.
While Saturday's game did not quite match the hysteria of that magical season of 48 years ago, it was still a good night for watching basketball in a place so steeped with hoops tradition.
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