By STU SWARTZ
SPECIAL TO THE GOSHEN NEWS
Covering the boys basketball sectional at Wawasee in Syracuse last week was like opening a scrapbook for this long-time hoops follower.
Fairfield, West Noble and Lakeland were part of this Class 3A derby. They were also in a single-class sectional at East Noble in Kendallville we covered for The News from 1968-91.
NorthWood and Wawasee also added local flavor to the sectional and we often crossed paths with Tippecanoe Valley coach Bill Patrick during his illustrious career.
Special kudos to Wawasee Athletic Director Steve Wiktorowski and his crew for being gracious hosts to this tournament.
Wiktorowski coached the Fairfield Falcons in the East Noble sectional from 1987-91 and among his top players was current Goshen coach Brian Bechtel who tallied 1,019 points for FHS.
Among tournament workers was Kem Zolman, long-time Wawasee girls coach and the father of Indiana girls basketball career scoring leader Shanna Zolman.
Dick Campbell and Bob Riley were among those spotted in the NorthWood cheering section.
Campbell was the last boys basketball coach at Nappanee High School in 1969 and the first at NorthWood a year later after the merger with Wakarusa. He then became the school’s athletic director.
Riley was a long-time successful baseball coach at NorthWood and, now in retirement, is on a committee for the Elkhart County Sports Hall of Fame.
Hal Farmwald was among others cheering on the Panthers. Currently the Goshen High School baseball coach, he is the father of Panther junior guard Tanner Farmwald.
Dave Hamilton, assistant coach at Fairfield, was back in the gym where he was a player for the Wawasee Warriors.
Hamilton scored 207 points as a junior and 204 as a senior for Wawasee, graduating in 1974. He had a high game of 18 against East Noble as a junior. Tom Spear in 1973 and Bob Heady in 1974 were Warrior coaches.
Also in the Fairfield section were Jim Stack and Jerry Garber.
Stack is a 1965 graduate of Goshen High School where he played football and baseball for the Redskins. His son, John, was a junior member of this year’s Falcon team.
Garber is a 1966 graduate of Jefferson High School where he scored 1,196 points for the Tigers who were coached by Jerry Jones during Garber’s first two years, Larry Randall his junior year and Wayne Lambright his senior season.
Troy Neely, Tim Gonderman and Tom Mortola were among supporters of the Lakeland Lakers at the sectional.
Neely, stepfather of current Laker coach Ryan Yoder, scored 1,159 for the Jimtown Jimmies of 1978-80, coached by former Elkhart player Steve Longfellow. Neely later coached the Westview Warriors to Class 2A state titles in 1999 and 2000.
Gonderman, now athletic director at Lakeland in LaGrange, graduated from Northridge High School in 1981. He scored 91 points for Coach Irv Pratt’s Raiders with a high of 10 against West Noble.
Mortola, father of Laker senior standout Spencer Mortola, was once an assistant golf pro at Maplecrest Country Club in Goshen and is now head pro at Cedar Lake in Howe.
Bill Musser, radio voice of the Goshen Redskins in the late 1960s and early 1970s, was seen in the Wawasee cheering section.
Musser, along with the late Jim Pumroy, were broadcasters for WKAM in 1969 when the Redskins captured Elkhart sectional and regional championships with Art Cosgrove the coach and Indiana All-Star John Ritter the standout player.
Among those on radio row for the Wawasee sectional were Rita Price and Bob Berger.
Price is a Hall of Fame broadcaster (WRSW in Warsaw) who has covered girls basketball since the state tournament’s inception in 1976. She will be following the Tippecanoe Valley boys to the Blackford regional.
Berger was an analyst, teaming with play-by-play voice Craig Wallin, for NorthWood boys games on WFRN this winter.
Berger is a 1963 graduate of Nappanee High School and 50 years ago played in a sectional championship game against Goshen at North Side Gym in Elkhart.
Berger scored 195 points as a junior (high of 25 against Columbia City) and 272 as a senior (high of 23 against Ligonier) for Coach Keith Dougherty’s Bulldogs.
Nappanee was 19-4 in 1962-63, losing that sectional title game 74-68 to a 5th-ranked Goshen team which was 23-1 at the time.
Zach Zurcher, NorthWood junior standout, must have gone through a multitude of emotions playing for the Panthers in this sectional.
His father, the late Kim Zurcher, played in this very gymnasium for the Wawasee Warriors. And his grandfather, Vernon Zurcher, was the first coach of boys basketball at Wawasee in 1968-69 after the consolidation of Syracuse, Milford and North Webster.
Kim Zurcher died of cancer in 2004 at the age of 38.
After graduating from Wawasee in 1984, he went on to play at the University of Minnesota under the coaching of Clem Haskins and averaged 7.8 points in 55 games.
Kim Zurcher scored 145 points as a junior (high of 18 against Westview) at Wawasee and 312 as a senior (high of 25 against Goshen), playing under the coaching of former Fairfield player and coach John Wysong who is now an assistant at Northridge.
Vernon Zurcher coached the first three Wawasee teams. His last Warrior squad was 13-8 in 1970-71 with John Hamilton, Jeff Hughes, Dave Elliott, Tim Blue, Russ Mikel and Mark Workman the top players.
Northridge, NorthWood, Westview and Penn all lost sectional championship games Saturday night. That means, for one of the few times ever, our surrounding area will not be represented in regional play.
There’s always next year.