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Monday, May 2, 2016

A look back at 1981 Red Devils

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Members of the 1980-81 Brazil Red Devils team that won the regional title are: (front row l-r) Jeff Anderson, Harry Dressler, Casey Crabb, John Thomas, Mitch Lancaster and John Howes. (Back row l-r) Head Coach Jim Buell, Greg Ankney, Joby Crick, Jon Jeffries, Sam Carpenter, Tim Liston, Jeff Buell and Assistant Coach Tim Sanders.

- Brazil squad the last team to win a regional crown -

Back in 1981 the shorts were short and the socks were long, there was no separation between schools in the postseason, no class basketball. But the basketball was still just as hot as today.

There are a wealth of connections between the basketball played in Brazil 22 years ago compared to that of the 2003 squad.

Whether it be the familial connections between the players of the past and members of this year's squad, or those on the court, similarities reign.

In 1981 the Brazil Red Devils were led by seniors Sam Carpenter, Jon Jeffries and John Thomas with junior Mitch Lancaster the lone member of the 1982 class on the squad.

Jeffries is the uncle of this year's Knights leading scorer, senior Logan Whitman, while Lancaster holds the reigns for Northview this year. Assistant coach Scott Buell's uncle Jim Buell was the head coach of Brazil that season so there is plenty of winning experience on the current Northview squad that took home the school's first sectional title since 1988 on Saturday evening.

Back in 1981, Brazil had the same sort of feeling after suffering through a 6-11 streak during the season before reeling off a three game winning streak to close the regular season and another three in sectional action.

"The (1981) team was really a tight knit group, especially the seniors," commented said Lancaster. "We lost a lot of close games early in the season but we had three starters back from a 20-4 season the year before. We won our last few regular season games and got on a roll."

Sectional wins over Clay City, Montezuma and South Vermillion sent the Red Devils into a matchup with a Terre Haute South squad that was, at that time, unbeaten versus Brazil.

Clay City had been the last team to defeat Terre Haute South back 1974, but the Red Devils weren't satisfied just to have a sectional title and six-game winning streak under their belt.

"Nobody really gave us a chance against (South)," said Lancaster. "It was a really good ball game. We really went in with nothing to lose and controlled the second half."

On Saturday, March 7, 1981 the Brazil Red Devils took on a powerful 18-4 Braves squad that had put together a string of five straight regional titles. Few gave 'David' much of a chance against 'Goliath.'

But in the second game of the Terre Haute Regional the Red Devils proved that they were for real after rallying from a 12 point halftime deficit for a 66-64 win over the Braves.

Lancaster provided the final margin when he took an inbounds pass, dribbled the length of the floor and banked home a six-footer to give Brazil the lead. The Braves sent a desperation shot up in an attempt to tie the game, but Jeffries intercepted to send Brazil to the Regional title game.

The 6'4 Carpenter tallied 18 points in the game while sophomore Harry Dressler rang up 13 and Jeffries added 15. Lancaster added five in the victory that sent Brazil up against a powerful 22-2 Cloverdale squad that downed Bloomfield 54-51.

After the emotional battle with South, the Red Devils were charged with taking down the Clovers that featured Jerry Neese, Jim Price, Chad Tucker and Bill Chestnut.

Against Cloverdale, Brazil played with confidence early on, taking a 14-6 lead through one period and a 30-21 advantage at the halftime break.

In the second half, the Clovers made a run led by baskets from Tucker and Chestnut that got Brazil within four points at 36-32, but Carpenter hit a 15-footer from the corner followed by a pair of free throws from Jeff Anderson and one from Greg Ankney to give the Red Devils a 43-34 advantage going into the final period.

In the fourth quarter, Brazil hit seven-of-eight from the line in the final minutes to hold off the Clovers 58-56.

Carpenter scored 16 points in the win while Anderson added 12 and Lancaster 10 and Jeffries eight.

After the sectional title, the Brazil community treated the Red Devils to a special welcome back ceremony that had a bit of an odd twist according to Lancaster. "One thing that stands out in my mind is that we rode into town on a firetruck after the win and at some point there was a fire in town so we all had to get off the truck."

Despite the abrupt end to their chauffeured return to town, the old Brazil Gym welcomed their Red Devils back with enthusiasm.

"I remember that there was probably more people at the pep session (after the sectional win) than there were people at the Terre Haute game," noted Lancaster. "We really filled the old Brazil Gym."

The victory sent Brazil into a matchup in Evansville with the 22-2 Vincennes Alices led by head coach Orlando "Gunner" Wyman.

The Red Devils would battle the Alices tough before succumbing 55-44 to the eventual state champion squad.

Vincennes senior guard Doug Crook poured in 30 points in the win while Lancaster, Jeffries and Carpenter each scored in double-figures for Brazil.

Despite the loss in the semistate, Lancaster feels that his 1981 team and this year's Northview team has had positive effects on the community as a whole.

"This community has really always valued basketball," commented Lancaster. "And these kids have done a great job in bringing the community together. All I know is our community is united right now and that our fans are probably the best in the state. I mean we've already sold over 1,000 tickets before they've actually become available to the general public. That's truly rare I think."

While more than a few similarities exist between the 1981 regional champion Red Devils and this year's Northview squad, fans of the Knights would certainly like to add one more footnote to this story, a regional championship.

Tickets for Saturday's Seymour Regional basketball game are available to the general public today at Northview High School from 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. with ticket prices for all sessions to be $9. There will also be a pep rally tonight in the high school gym beginning at 7:30 p.m. Northview will play New Albany at noon following Bloomington North vs. Evansville Central. The championship game is scheduled for 8 p.m.

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