LETTER: Cloquet's hoop dreams of 1963
Finally with 35 seconds left, the Lumberjacks held a one-point lead and had possession of the basketball. They were not about to slow things down and start playing it safe. Cloquet forced the action down the floor and Mike fired up a medium jumper, the kind he has made a thousand times before. But it was slightly off the mark and bounced off the rim.
There was a mad scramble, more like a soccer scrum, for the loose ball on the floor. Rather than call for a jump ball in the melee, the refs suddenly whistled Gary Welton for a reach-in foul on Dennis Schroeder, the gangly Marshall forward.
Screams from the thousands of fans, both pro and con, nearly lifted the rafters off the venerable arena as Schroeder stepped to the line to shoot one-in-one.
Taking a deep breath to calm himself, Schroeder's first free throw was a bit long, hit the back of the rim and bounced straight up. The ball hung in the balance, along with the state championship as 19,000 people held their collective breath — and fell back through the hoop.
The score was tied at 73! Schroeder nailed the next free throw to give Marshall a one-point lead and with 15 seconds left, Coach Trochlil called a time-out for the last time this incredible season.
The Cloquet team was calm and focused in the huddle. In their mad-dash world, 15 seconds was plenty of time to set up a final play.
Trochlil outlined one they had run many times before: Forrest, who had already scored 29 points in a dazzling scoring display, would bring the ball down court and pass it to Breitbarth, who would go in for a layup, or at least a foul, for the win.
With everything coming down to this last play, Cloquet was confident they would score and win the game.
Boyer and Welton flared to the corners, drawing defenders with them. Meisner raced alongside Forrest ready for a quick pass, while Breitbarth worked toward the basket. Mike passed him the ball as planned, but Marshall was equally determined on defense.
Nefstead and his teammates collapsed around Denny, denying him room to move. This left Forrest open and Denny alertly dished him the ball. Mike fired up a "piece of cake" 14-foot jumper and watched the ball drop into the net — only to bounce back out!
Again there was a mad scramble for the rebound and this time a jump ball was called. With only three seconds left, Denny tried to tip the ball to Mike, who fell to the floor while scrambling for the loose ball. It bounced away from his grasp, taking Cloquet's championship title hopes with it.
The horn sounded. Players looked around in a daze and fans weren't quite sure what had happened.
Was the game really over?
Lavern William Eick