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CITY BEAT: STEPHEN DECATUR HIGH SCHOOL’S 1962 STATE CHAMPIONSHIP WAS SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT

Paul Osborne
Editor/Publisher

     I’ve written a lot in the past several print editions about the search for memorabilia from the Decatur High School/Stephen Decatur High School’s existence and success — especially on the basketball court.
     Thankfully,  trophies, plaques and other items from the high school’s past have been located and are being processed and inventoried so they will be safely kept and displayed.
     However, one trophy was never “lost” and has appeared at class and team reunions over the years.
     The 1962 State Basketball Championship trophy was, and is, a source of pride to many in the community — and beyond.
     With all of the discussion and comments about DHS/SDHS trophies I started thinking about that 1962 championship, the players and coaches — and a lot of the history surrounding that championship title and its lingering impact on our area — when high school teams had one class and Decatur played the best of the best to win the title.
That’s the reason this week’s “Scrapbook” (pages 4 and 5 of print and online editions) is about that championship title.

     • AS I wrote a few years ago about that major sports event in our city’s history, I clearly remember watching Stephen Decatur High School’s Ken Barnes standing at the free throw line with the opportunity to beat Chicago Carver in the state basketball championship game at Huff Gym in Champaign.
     The score was tied at 48 with only six seconds left and Barnes was fouled and he was going to shoot two free throws.
     I was not in Huff Gym but was watching the game on a small black and white television and I remember thinking that Kenny looked like the calmest person in the whole state before he was given the ball and eyed the basket.
     He made the first (he missed the second) but one free throw was all that was needed for the Reds to win the game and the school’s fourth state championship — its first under the “Stephen Decatur” name.
     A few months after the championship victory I saw Barnes in a hallway at Millikin University where both of us were attending an informational meeting involving many area young people.
     I asked him about what was going through his mind when he was standing at the free throw line, knowing that a made free throw would win the state championship?
     He replied that all he was thinking about was he needed to make at least one of the baskets.

     • IF I REMEMBER correctly, all of the members of that 1962 championship team went on to college and graduated with degrees ranging from bachelor to doctorate. It was a special team.
     Forty-five years later, the SDHS Class of 1962 held a reunion in Decatur.
     I was Decatur’s mayor then and I was invited to say a few words and present a mayor’s proclamation to the class and team at the reunion.
     I have to admit that one of the most enjoyable presentations and proclamations that I did during the years that I was mayor, was being a part of celebrating that class and team in 2007.
     I enjoyed listening to the friendly conversation and jokes between classmates and teammates and, as I looked around the room I saw other familiar faces of people in that class who were very successful in our community and beyond.
     It was a great evening and a cherished memory in my heart.

     • I HAVE A lot more copy on some of the members of that team in this week’s print and online editions of the Tribune.

     • JACK Sunderlik, one of the players on that 1962 Champion-ship Team was the one who contacted me several weeks ago from his home in Springfield and asked about the existence/location of all the championship trophies DHS/SDHS had won.
That started a lot of contact with me from various sources about the location of the trophies and other items — and I have printed a lot of those comments in this column over the past several editions.
     After I reported last week that the trophies had been found, I received the following message from Denise Swarthout, Chief Communications Officer at Decatur Public Schools:
“Here’s an inventory of the trophies that are now here at the Keil building, as well as more that are still in storage at Stephen Decatur:

At Keil Building from DHS/SDHS:
1931 State Championship
1936 State Championship
1945 State Championship
1962 State Championship

1912 4th in State
1937 2nd in State
1951 4th in State
1960 4th in State
1964 3rd in State
1966 4th in State

Still in storage at SDSM:
8 gold basketball trophies from regional/conference championships
Are you aware of any other trophies that are “missing” (we have many in storage that have not been catalogued).”

     Denise has been a lot of help in providing “trophy” information and I’m so happy that the “trophy hunt” resulted in good news — the trophies are safe.
     Thanks to all who helped find them and bring them back to the forefront of the DHS/SDHS memory bank.

2 Comments

  1. Rick Lewis on January 17, 2024 at 4:30 pm

    Thank you Paul for Publishing this. Jack Sunderlik and i have been friends for a long time . I went to the New Stephen Decatur from 1977-1981 and i was the Basketball Manager for Jack and also Reese Binger. Thank you again for all you do.

  2. darrell smith on January 17, 2024 at 7:13 pm

    do you know what happened to all of the pictures of the all staters and others that used to hang in the lobby of kitner gym.i graduated from Eisenhower.in 59.my uncle claude smith was a all state football player there ,i think in 1929.i worked at staleys and i know a few guys that worked there were all state players at decatur high and had their pictures hanging there also. I also know these all staters havent been inducted into the decatur athletic hall of fame

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