It seemed like a long time since there had been a sectional title in northern Clay County. But Northview's victory Saturday night at Plainfield against Terre Haute South erased the barren years.
As the final buzzer sounded, several thousand jubilant Clay County fans swarmed the court, jumping up and down, many in tears as they hugged one another in triumphal exhilaration.
It was pure, vintage Indiana March Madness. Before the Northview consolidation, Brazil, Staunton and Van Buren High Schools sometimes played against each other in the post season along with Rosedale, Montezuma and Rockville.
The rivalry was unmatched. Brazil was always Goliath to the smaller schools but felt like David to Terre Haute teams that they occasionally faced on the courts.
The consolidation took away the names of the three northern schools but it didn't break the spirit of small town pride. And it definitely didn't kill the love of the game of basketball in this little Hoosier community.
Changes occurred over the years and various teams were moved into different sectionals. But the history and tradition of basketball remain deeply rooted in Clay County. They intertwined with the revitalized energy of fresh blooms. New life transcended from the prolific ancestral soil.
The blended hybrid that is Northview carries red, yellow and blue blood in its transplanted heart of students and fans who remember the Brazil Red Devils, the Staunton Yellow Jackets and the Van Buren Blue Devils. The 2004 Northview boys basketball team has many connections with Brazil, Staunton and Van Buren schools of the past.
Coach Mitch Lancaster graduated from Brazil High School and married Nona Kennedy, a Staunton alumna. Mitch's parents, Bob Lancaster and the former Julia Bennett both graduated from Van Buren.
All of the schools were talented enough to win basketball sectionals. Because of changing sectional placement, however, they did not always compete against each other. Van Buren won the Greencastle Sectionals in 1979, 1980 and 1981.
Staunton won several sectionals. They took the Brazil post season tourney in 1958. Jim Buell played on that team.
In the Brazil sectional in 1975, Staunton beat Rockville in the first game and Brazil in the second. They won the final game by defeating Van Buren for the championship. Tony Trout played for that Staunton team. It was coached by Jim Buell.
Trout was also a player and Buell the coach at Staunton in 1977 when they won the Terre Haute sectional. That was the only Terre Haute Sectional, played at Terre Haute, won by a Clay County team.
Over the years, Brazil had a number of post season wins. Brazil won sectionals in 1971, 1973, 1974 and 1976. Bob Lancaster coached all of those teams.
In 1981 the Brazil basketball squad went to the Sweet 16. It was coached by Jim Buell. The team went into the post season with a 9-11 record.
They faced county rival Clay City in the first round of the South Vermillion sectional. After beating Clay City, Brazil won the second game against Montezuma then captured the title by defeating host, South Vermillion.
In regional play Brazil first faced Terre Haute South. With the game tied, Brazil junior point guard Mitch Lancaster sank a basket with one second to go. South tried a court long desperation shot which missed as the buzzer sounded giving Brazil the victory 64-62.
The Red Devils later defeated Cloverdale to advance to the Sweet 16. That was Brazil's first Regional win since 1959. The squad lost in the first round of the Evansville Semistate to the Vincennes Lincoln Alices who eventually won the state title. Besides Lancaster, another player on the '81 Brazil team was shooting guard Jon Jeffries.
Northview won their first sectional in 1988. That team was coached by Jim Buell. And now with their second Sectional win the Northview Knights will head to the Seymour Regional on Saturday.
They'll not only take the hope and hearts of their school and community, they will also take years of pride and history.
The Knights head coach, Mitch Lancaster, who made the winning shot in 1981 for Brazil, is the son of Van Buren graduate Bob Lancaster who coached four sectional wins for Brazil.
One Northview assistant coach is Tony Trout who played on winning Staunton sectional teams in 1975 and 1977. Another assistant coach is Scott Buell, the nephew of Jim Buell.
And one of the many star athletes on this years Northview team is Logan Whitman whose uncle, Jon Jeffries, played for the Brazil Red Devil Regional winners in 1981.
Whether they win or lose this Saturday, the players and coaches of the Northview Knights will have the love and pride of their school and community with them as they add to the gallant history.