joyed having the parents of the players present. But he drew the line at the last demand, and our Milford girls were permitted to attend.
Game day arrived and we took the longest sportsrelated bus ride of the year to Des Moines. We suited up in the nicest dressing room that we could imagine and wandered out onto the court where we looked at a gym that we could only dream about. The floor and adjacent area was so large, one did not have to have much imagination to see there was a haze in the hall. There was a massive ceiling that made me wonder if we were playing in an aircraft hangar renovated from B-17 storage and repair of World War Two.
Our opponents at the other end of the floor were doing all the highly trained pre-game drills and seemed to be trying to intimidate, or at least impress us; but somehow they did radiate an aura of “Ain’t we the most gracious hosts to play these ‘hayseeds’ and let them on our court!”
Perhaps we Milford lads enjoyed this image of being the “country cousins” going to town (sort of in the Ma and Pa Kettle mode, which was popular at that time) and helped them by wandering and ambling around and looking at the immense place, speculating on how many hay bales or farm tractors you could store in a place like that. If we got ourselves to shoot organized lay-ups in two lines that’s about as organized as we ever got before any game. We’d simply grab a rebound and go shoot a shot of our own selection. I often thought, and still do, if teams with all the fancy drills like that paid more attention to fundamentals and less to showmanship, they’d have a better team.
Game time: We pulled ahead and I think we held an 8-10 point lead with about 3 minutes left to play. At about this time, it became evident that it had sunk into the Des Moines guys that they might lose. Their coach had become more and more animated, along with being more red-faced. The tone of the game quickly changed to one more resembling rugby, with all the slapping, clawing, pushing, bumping, and in one case, tackling. The noise level was unbelievable for such a comparatively small crowd. Our reserves and fans were hollering at the refs to do a better job and at the same time attempting to verbally encourage us. And the Des Moines bunch was attempting to motivate their players to do more and not let the “hayseeds” win the game. Of course, the loudest voice in the auditorium was the opponents’ coach.
The referees had lost control of the game. As I recall, Ron Otto suffered the most with claw marks and red welts. He was a very good ball handler and so the opponents thought they had to get rough with him to get the ball from him (and that is true—you could not take the ball from ol’ Otto without getting physical. I know. I played against him on occasion in our haymow “league”) and of all the times there should have been a foul called, I think he only ended up on the free-throw line once. That was about the same with everyone of us though, except the Des Moines fellows. If one of us fouled, rest assured the Des Moines guy got to the freethrow line. However, being familiar with “haymow” type ball playing from hours of playing in Neasham’s (and other’s) haymows, we didn’t do too badly.
We ended up winning the game by three. And I have to say I would have hated to have been in the Des Moines players’ locker room afterwards. Their coach had been yelling and screaming and stomping up and down the sidelines, waving his arms, with spit flying out of his mouth—actually flailing his arms. (I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had dislocated a shoulder while the game was still being played.) There were times I thought he was going to keel over with a stroke or heart attack. Anyhow, we gained a lot of insight into a different technique of coaching. I never heard anything about that coach “kicking the can” so I guess he got over it.