One of the
few schools to ever win back-to-back Class A MHSAA Boys Basketball
titles, the Lansing Sexton High School teams of 1959 and 1960,
will be honored through the Michigan High School Athletic Association's
"Legends Of The Games" program at ceremonies at halftime
of the Class A championship game of the 2000 MHSAA Boys Basketball
Finals at the Breslin Student Events Center in East Lansing.
third year, the Legends program promotes educational athletics
by showcasing some of the great teams of past years. At least
23 members of those teams are expected to be in attendance to
receive commemorative plaques and a banner to display at the school
during the ceremony.
before Tom Dempsey made "The Kick;" Franco Harris made
"The Immaculate Reception;" Dwight Clark made "The
Catch;" John Elway directed "The Drive;" and four
years after Willie Mays made his "Catch," Bob Davis
made his own piece in sports history in Michigan.
and wanna-be versions have dotted the landscape in the 40-plus
years since Davis' arching, bounding horn-beater. Many have tried
(Moulton, Smith, Coles, Conlan, VerBeek) to etch their place in
folklore of the MHSAA Boys Basketball Tournament with their last-second
heroics, but there hasn't been yet anything which has replaced...
baseline jumper capped one of the most incredible comebacks in
a championship game, giving Lansing Sexton the 1959 Class A title;
it was the first of back-to-back crowns for the Big Reds, which
became only the second team to win consecutive championships in
the largest enrollment division of the tournament, and earn them
their spot among The Legends of the Games.
The incredibly close-knit
teams, with many players still residing in the greater Lansing
area, will be honored in ceremonies at halftime of the Class A
title game on Saturday. Over 20 members of those teams will be
present or represented in the Breslin Center, just across the
street from Jenison Field House, where those championships were
1959 Big Reds were a true Cinderella story -- a regular-season
record of 9-7, and not a single starter over 6-foot tall. The
tournament run that season included wins over Capital Area Conference
(then Six-A) rivals Lansing Eastern and Jackson in the Districts;
over Benton Harbor and Portage in the Regionals; Adrian in the
quarterfinals, and a blowout 73-44 semifinal win over Grand Rapids
Central to set up a showdown with second-ranked Hamtramck in the
finals, which had disposed of the No. 1 team, Pontiac Central,
in the other semi.
dominated the early going, pulling out to a 43-26 halftime lead.
A full court press did little damage in the third stanza, as Sexton
trailed, 60-45, entering the final eight minutes. The lead was
still 15 with 3:52 to play at 72-57.
Clayton Kowalk's team scored the last 15 points of regulation,
with Davis tying the game with two free throws with nine seconds
on the clock to force an extra period.
Hamtramck took its last lead
in the overtime with Art Reid making one of two free throws with
17 seconds to go.
taking a timeout, Sexton came down court with no set play. Davis,
who had missed a potential game-winning shot a month earlier against
Battle Creek Central, ended up with the ball on the left baseline
with time running out and took the fateful shot, which beat the
horn, hit the rim twice and fell through, giving the Big Reds
the victory, 80-79.
following season, Sexton stayed atop the heap, but this time the
feeling was very different.
1960 game, and season, seemed a little more business-like, but
was very memorable as well," said Doug Herner, a guard on
both teams. "I think repeating in 1960 meant just as much
but in a somewhat different way. Instead of being Cinderella,
we were able to win while being expected to win, which is often
-- and usually -- more difficult."
Sexton squared off against
Pontiac Central in the title game in Jenison, and came away with
a 60-56 victory. The Big Reds finished the season with a 22-1
details can get lost over time, but what is clearly remembered
by players and coaches alike from those teams is the mutual admiration
they had for each other.
was really special the way the team members felt about each other
and it was important the responsibility the coach expected us
to have in order to play," said Herschel Milton, a three-year
center for Sexton. "The coach was a good guide toward our
remember the most fondly our trust, our caring, and our respect
for each other - not just on the court, but every day," said
Art Frank, a forward on both championship teams. "It's something
we still share, even though we don't see each other often. That
feeling still runs deep and always will. Coach taught us to be
a champion no matter what the task."
"I know first hand that
the Sexton team of 1959 was, indeed, a 'family,'" said Bob
Simmons, a team manager. "Genuine friendships and togetherness
developed that cross racial and cultural lines. These friendships
continue to the present. Coach Kowalk established an atmosphere
of discipline, leadership, organization and compassion."
were a team where there were many contributors to its success,
and we were fortunate to be coached by one of the best teachers
in Mr. Kowalk," said Jerry Sutton, a guard-forward on both
title teams. "I could still walk through out offense and
teams can be characterized as hard working, unselfish, and team
concept participants who didn't know the word 'quit,'" said
Davis. "We were friends who happened to be teammates, working
together to achieve our goal."
were no jealousies on the team," remembered Chris Ferguson,
a guard on the 1959 team. "If you were open, you got the
ball. We were a family and everyone worked hard for the good of
Clayton Kowalk knew what he was doing, so we believed in him and
what he was doing and instructing us to do. Therefore, we played
our hearts out for him," said Al Freeman, a forward in 1957-58-59.
"Our team had a great camaraderie between the guys, a family
atmosphere of sorts, and we knew how to hustle. We were smaller
than other teams, but fast down the floor. Coach Kowalk would
say, 'We may be short, but don't sell us short.'"
couldn't have happened to a more dedicated, group of hard-working
young men," Kowalk said in return. "It was togetherness.
A strong family relationship."
to be present at the ceremony are:
- Equipment Manager
Simmons - Team Manager
Rollis - Team Manager
Martens - Trainer - 1959-60
Bill Stuifbergen - Assistant Coach
- Assistant Coach
Rule - Guard - Number
10/11 - 1960-61
Barnett - Guard - Number
12/13 - 1959-60-61
Larson - Forward/Guard
- Numbers 14/15, 32/33 - 1959-60-61
- Guard - Number 14/15 - 1959-60
- Guard - Number 20/21 - 1958-59-60
- Guard - Number 22/23 - 1958-59
- Guard - Number 24/25 - 1959-60 - Represented by son Rob Davis
Al Freeman - Forward - Number 30/31 - 1957-58-59
Otis Davis - Forward - Number 30/31 - 1959-60-61
Art Frank - Forward - Number 32/33 - 1959-60
Milton - Forward/Center
- Number 40/41 - 1958-59-60 -
Represented by son Herschel Milton Jr.
Brian Ferguson - Center-Forward-Guard - Number 44/45
Sutton - Guard/Forward
- Number 50/51 - 1959-60
Nalett - Center/Forward
- Number 52/53 - 1959-60
Chouinard - Guard - Number
22/23 - 1960
Miller - Forward -- Number
42/43 - 1959-60
Barnes - Forward - 1960-61
Clayton Kowalk - Head Coach