The 'Greatest District DL Finish'
It was the team which wouldn't die, one which played to the end no matter the score.
It was that type of attitude that paid off for the 1962-63 Detroit Lakes boys' basketball team, which netted the District 23 championship with a historical second-half in the title game against their biggest rival in the Moorhead Spuds.
Last weekend, the majority of that District 23 championship team met up again for the 1964 Detroit Lakes class reunion to go over old times -- and an exciting junior season which highlighted their prep careers.
With the exception of Bill Hawkins and Pete Lysaker, the remainder of the team were able to meet again.
The team included seniors Jim Lee, Pete Lysaker, Bob St. Marie, Glenn Frederickson, Bob Philstrom, Dick Schneider, Byron Larson and juniors Pete Irvine, Eddy Larson, Jon Boisclair, Mike Rohde and Bob Lee, and sophomore Bill Hawkins.
The lone sophomore was Hawkins.
It was a team well-balanced with decent height of the 6-3 Boisclair and 6-3 Eddy Larson, with speed in guards St. Marie, Rohde and Irvine.
But it was the work ethic which supplanted talent and skill.
"We just worked hard all the time," said Irvine, who is now a District Court Judge in Detroit Lakes now. "We started that season with no expectations, with only Jim (Lee) and Bo b (St. Marie) returning as starters. We lost all of our big guys from the year before, so we didn't know what to expect."
What DL head coach George Hanson employed matched the skill sets of each player -- a quick, high-intensity full-court game, which featured a man-to-man pressure on the ball.
"We were not intimidated by anyone and we just played hard all the time," Irvine included.
St. Marie and Lee led the way offensively with 344 and 258 points, respectively, but the junior class had a mighty helping hand putting the ball in the bucket.
Eddy Larson contributed 225 points, while Irvine dumped in a total 195 points.
The Lakers played for the right to vie for the Resort Region Conference championship against the Spuds in front of a record crowd of 2,800 fans inside the DLHS gym (now the Ralph Anderson Gymnasium).
DL smoked Moorhead 60-41 to lay claim to their 10th conference title with a 7-3 league record and their first since 1960.
But of the 24 games the Lakers played that season -- in which they finished 16-8 overall -- not one game was as big as their 45-40 win over Moorhead in the District 23 championship, which was held in the Concordia College Fieldhouse.
The victory gave the Lakers their first district championship since 1960 and their 10th overall at that point in time.
But it wasn't the fact they beat Moorhead -- as the conference title game proved -- it was how they did it.
In 1963, there wasn't a class system, all schools were in the same one.
Perham was actually the big dog in the district, with a front line of players in the height range of 6-5, 6-5 and 6-3.
But Dilworth pulled the major upset of the Yellowjackets, as DL downed Lake Park 47-36 to each advance to the semifinals.
Dilworth, which was on a 10-game winning streak, gave the Lakers a tough battle, but DL pulled away in the fourth quarter to win 57-53, with the help of going 13-16 at the free throw line.
That set up the festivities at Concordia, as a caravan of cars could be seen plodding on Highway 10 from DL to Moorhead.
The Spuds were a different team than the one which was whipped on in DL, taking a 31-19 halftime lead.
"At the start of the second half, Jon threw the ball into me and I said 'I think we should get going now, huh?'" Irvine recalled with a laugh.
The Lakers "got going" defensively by stifling the Spud's offense to four points in the third quarter and five in the fourth to rally back to win 45-40.
Detroit Lakes Tribune's sports editor Ralph Anderson's headline after the win in his "Standing By In Sports" column read "There's no doubt, this was greatest DL District Finish."
Here's an excerpt from Anderson's column: "The outlook, from a Laker fan's viewpoint, was pretty bleak after the first two quarters.
"Not only did Detroit Lakes trail by 12, but Jim Lee and Jon Boisclair were saddled with three personal fouls.
"But somehow, these Lakers, who have come through in the 'big' game every time this season, battled back to put the run on the Spuds, right on Moorhead's home floor."
Lee finished with a game-high 19 points, while St. Marie netted 12.
"Anyone who played ball in high school, games like this meant something to them," Irvine added. "You remember those things, years don't diminish it."
The Lakers couldn't build on that momentum, though, and fell to Sauk Centre in the Region 6 opener , but went out on a good note with a 60-54 win over Brainerd in the consolation game.
"Sauk Centre had some giants on their team and we just played bad," Irvine said. "I had three fouls in the first few minutes and didn't even get to play that much in the game."
The Lakers tried their best to repeat as district champions in 1964, with a host of experience coming back in the trio of Irvine, Eddy Larson and Boisclair, along with Rohde, who was also a letterwinner the season before.
But Moorhead was able to exact their revenge, by defeating the Lakers in the district championship to advance to the regions.
"It was a major disappointment, we lost to some teams we shouldn't have," Irvine said.
Even with the years which have gone by, that one special night during a crisp, cold evening cannot be forgotten with what the Lakers were able to accomplish in the form of memories forged from hard work and a district championship.