Yesteryear Champs

Local high school basketball roots date back to 1903-04, when the first high school basketball team in Manitowoc took the court.  The players wore trousers similar to football moleskins to protect themselves during this rough game.

Over the next several decades, Manitowoc area basketball leagues grew, uniforms changed (everyone remembers those iconic short shorts, right?), and women’s leagues became popular as well.  With the Wisconsin State High School Boys Basketball Tournament this weekend, let’s reflect on a previous state title won by Lincoln High School in 1968, almost 50 years ago.

The Ships secured the state title after beating Beloit in the finals, 63-51.  The team finished their season 26-0, becoming only the fourth team in the state to earn the distinction of a perfect season.  Coverage of the game by the Manitowoc Herald-Times stated, “Manty put away the title trophy with exceptional play and a zone of defense which virtually rusted the Purple Knight armor in the second half and made believers of the 13,113 fans in the stands and a much greater number perched before their little square boxes at home.”

Led by Coach Ed Fleener, the team consisted of the following students: Tom Haag, Pete Hansen, Rocky Jiroch, John LeClair, Pat Mertz, Mark Miller, Mike Muchowski, Ron Nesper, Dick Rosinsky, Bill Sepnafski, Vic Trastek, and Pat Walsh.  Leading scorers for the championship game included Pete Hansen with 21, Tom Haag with 12, and Vic Trastek with 12. 

The Manitowoc Herald-Times praised the team of 12 boys for their conduct in Madison, “The boys also left something in Madison – a little of themselves.  The manner in which they conducted themselves was beyond reproach, both on and off the court.  This was brought out on the trip home.  With windows rolled down, they waved to everyone who turned out to greet them.”

After enjoying breakfast and a tour of the Capitol with Wisconsin State Governor, Warren P. Knowles, Lincoln High School Boys Basketball coach Ed Fleener and his state championship team arrived home to a large celebration in the afternoon on Sunday, March 17.  The Manitowoc Herald-Times reported the motorcade to be four to five miles long.  One of the largest groups that waited for the team to pass on their way to Manitowoc was the Franciscan Sisters of Holy Family College, holding a banner 15 feet long to congratulate the team.

Approximately 5,000 people awaited the arrival of the Lincoln High School team.  The crowd was entertained by Lincoln High School cheerleaders and band, along with the Manitowoc Marine Band.  The coaches, team members, and program officials stood on a make-shift stage in front of the Mikadow Theater for the welcoming ceremony.  The Manitowoc Herald-Times reported that during the ceremony, Manitowoc Mayor Robert J. Rand read a telegram from the governor of Wisconsin congratulating the Lincoln Ships on winning the state title.

State Championships are exciting times for Wisconsin basketball teams and a testament to the hard work and dedication of student athletes.  Congratulations on great seasons to all of the local basketball teams!