By Hey still has that gleam in his eye when he talks about North Side basketball.
The longtime coach still has that jolt and jump go through his body when a story about his 1965 state finalist team pops into his head.
“For three quarters of that state final game, we controlled the rim,” the 88-year-old former North Side coach exclaimed first talking about the team this week. “It was nip and tuck right until the very end of the game!”
Until last Saturday, March 20, 1965 was the biggest day in the history of the school's boys basketball program. Although it was just over 52 years ago, it was that day that the then-Redskins last played for a state title, falling 64-57 to Indianapolis Washington after knocking off top-ranked Gary Roosevelt earlier in the afternoon.
As the now-Legends prepare to travel back to state, memories of the 1965 season have been rediscovered in the minds of some of the most important pieces in those games over a half-century ago.
“That series of weekends will forever be indelibly imprinted in my brain as one of the highlights of my life,” said Mark Henry about the run to state.
Back then, the championship game was played at Butler Fieldhouse. North Side's top player in 1965 was senior Dave Moser, who remembers the experience fondly.
“It was a real thrill to be there and play,” Moser said. “It wasn't like we had an easy road to get down there. We felt confident that we could do it, but we never felt like we had any cakewalks.”
Like this year's team, the 1965 Redskins did not even win their own conference despite playing for a state title. North finished 16-4 before advancing into tournament play. What followed was eight straight wins that sent Hey's team to the state finals, but not without some roadblocks and high hurdles, including a pair of 7-footers from Garrett. But the Redsksins, led by Moser and the team's leading scorer Mike Bedree, persevered.
With 6-foot-8 senior Mike Sibert inside, the Redskins flourished behind a lineup led by Moser with fellow guards Henry, Bedree, Steve Buhlman and Greg Crawford.
“We were small and we were smart and boy was Dave Moser a good player. I've never seen anything like him (since) then,” said Henry, who later played at Michigan. “He was always in the right place at the right time, always made the right pass and always made the shot that needed to be made.”
The state finals, then played between four teams with afternoon semifinals and an evening championship, was a big deal for the community. North Side's first test was Gary Roosevelt, which had beaten North Side in 1955's state semifinal.
“They were the No. 1 team in the state and they could all dunk the ball, although that wasn't allowed at that time,” Hey said. “My guys were focused, they didn't win the city but at tournament time, they were ready.”
Although North came out victorious 74-65, the game was not without its downside. Moser, who would go on to be an Indiana All-Star and play college ball at Davidson, hurt his back in the day's opener while scoring a game-high 24 points. Bedree scored 20 in the semifinal and Henry added 15 points.
“That afternoon, I basically laid on the bed with hot pads from the time the game was over until the night game,” Moser said. “I wish I had a little more time to recover. I really feel like it was a game that we should have won. When you are at that point, you just try to do the best you can.”
Facing Indianapolis Washington in the final, some exhaustion from the first game, as well as limited ability from Moser, slowed down the Redskins. Yet, they still led by seven points at halftime, but had yet to face the vaunted press of Washington. After a back-and-forth second half, North Side trailed by two with 33 seconds to play when Roosevelt missed a foul shot that could have extended the lead. Henry, seeing a teammate streaking up the court, launched a pass that was intercepted. Another turnover on the next possession from Henry and the Redskins saw their deficit swell to seven points in the closing half minute of the game before falling.
“I single-handedly lost the game for us and I'll never forget it,” said Henry, who was one of two juniors on the team.
“We say that maybe he was gambling with the pass,” Hey said. “They were giving us the pressure too, so it wasn't meant to be that way. All of the little bumps in our lives can make us be stronger.”
Despite being limited, Moser scored 14 points and Henry scored 12, while Bedree led the team with 15. Billy Keller, who went on to play for Purdue, scored 25 to lead Washington.
The experience was one that all three men can look back on fondly. And Henry, for one, is more in awe now of their accomplishment in playing for a state title considering it took the program 52 years to return.
“I'm stunned,” Henry said of the 1965 team being the benchmark at the school until this season. “The old phrase is 'the older I get, the better I was,' and to me, I just felt we were just fortunate to be in that situation and achieve that.”
The team received a heroes welcome when they returned to Fort Wayne the day following the state championship, with a parade of fans and family members celebrating the runner-up finish. The team was honored in the gym with the players parents joining them on the floor as they were recognized with their runnerup trophy and special banner.
This year's team will now try and make March 25, 2017 the most important day in the history of the program and give North Side its first state title after coming so close in 1965 and 1955.
“Shabaz has done a tremendous job with that team,” Hey raved. “He's had a few bumps that bugged him a little but but sometimes that is what the Lord does to make you shore up. I think they are going to be very prepared; we've had two good chances, we hope the third time is the charm. “
1965 North Side Redskins roster
Coaches: By Hey, Tom Bolyard, Willie Doeherman