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2/14/2013 9:42:00 AM Email this articlePrint this article 
LHS to honor past champs at gym's final game
LAWRENCEVILLE - Lawrenceville's championship basketball teams will take center stage in the old gym one final time Friday night.

Prior to what is scheduled to be the final game in the gym, Lawrenceville's state champions from 1972, 1974, 1982 and 1983 will be honored. Many players from all four squads are expected to be on hand as is Ron Felling, the man who guided the Indians to all four titles.

The Indians (5-20, 2-8 Little Illini Conference) will entertain Olney (14-13, 5-5 LIC), with the junior varsity game slated to tip off at 6:15 p.m.

"There was a lot of blood, sweat and tears that went into it," Felling said of his 16-year stint as Indians' coach, during which time the team won 388 games, lost 77 and claimed 12 regional titles, seven sectional championships and reached the state finals five times. "There was a lot of hard work on the part of a lot of people. The happy times were the ones in which we were successful. It was neat to see the community come together behind the team. It seemed like everything was alive and happening in Lawrenceville during those years."

Felling is expected to be accompanied onto the court by former All-State players Rick Leighty, who was a member of the 1972 and 1974 championship teams, Jay Shidler, who was a player on the 1974 champs, Doug Novsek, a star on the 1982 team, and Marty Simmons, who played on both the 1982 and 1983 state champions. All four players have had their jerseys retired by the school.

Lawrenceville began playing basketball in 1908, according to LHS principal Paul Higginbotham, and the Indians made seven trips to the state finals before Felling took over the program in the fall of 1967.

However it wasn't until 1972 - the first year of two-class basketball in Illinois - that the Indians claimed their first state title. LHS had a good regular season, winning 16 games while losing eight, before going on a nine-game run in the post-season to finish 25-8. It ended with a 63-57 conquest of Mounds Meridian in the Class A championship game.

Two years later, the Indians were back in Champaign, seeking a second title. The Indians coasted through the regular season with a 22-3 record, including a perfect 14-0 run through the rugged North Egypt Conference.

LHS carried an 11-game winning streak into the tournament, then reeled off eight post-season victories to finish with a 30-3 mark. The 54-53 win over Ottawa Marquette in the championship game concluded the first 30-win season in school history.

Title No. 3 for the Indians came in 1982, when Felling and his players started a legendary two-year run that saw them win 68 games without a single loss.

The 1982 team had some close calls - winning by a single point against Danville in a season-opening tournament and by two points against a team from Detroit in a game played at Lincoln Trail College. LHS also had to rally from a seven-point deficit in the fourth quarter of the regional championship game against Mount Carmel at Mount Carmel to keep the run alive.

Once in Champaign, the Indians downed Benton (75-62), Herscher (47-45 in overtime) and Monmouth (67-53) to finish 34-0.

Lawrenceville's final championship squad, in 1983, was its most dominant. Lawrenceville cruised through an undefeated regular season with an average margin of victory of almost 32 points a game. Only once during the regular season did a team come within single digits of the Indians, and on only two other occasions did a team come within 20. LHS won 13 games by 30 points or more, and six times they defeated a foe by 40 or more points. One of those wins was by a whopping 58 points.

Lawrenceville rolled through the regional, winning by an average of 55 points a game, and had an easy time in the sectional and supersectional, as well.

Only when LHS reached the Assembly Hall was it challenged. The Indians capped the 68-0 run by defeating Chicago Providence-St. Mel (56-54), Havana (54-50) and Flanagan (44-39) to bring home the fourth state championship.

Felling is looking forward to the reunion.

"It might be the last time I see some of them," he said. "You never know what the future holds. I'm sure it's going to be a great time. I just wish we had more time to spend together."


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