In 1969 Munster was kind of the new kid on the basketball block. The Mustangs were loaded with senior talent but going into sectional action at the Hammond Civic Center, they were considered underdogs.
Hammond Tech, with Bootsy White had won the previous two sectionals at the venerable building on Sohl Avenue. The two before that had been won by Hammond High. White was still at Tech and Roy Lee McPipe, one of most forgotten good players of recent Hammond basketball history, was a hulking present for the Wildcats.
Munster had a solid team led by Gus Hagberg, Bob Stout, and Glenn Scolnik and a goal to make the Region hoop community sit up and take notice.
“We knew we had a good team,” Scolnik said. “The starting five on that team played together since seventh grade and we knew each other real well. I think we knew that we had a good team but going over there to the Civic Center was another matter entirely. That was Hammond High’s home court and they had Roy Lee who was one of the really good players of that era.”
Munster and Hammond High drew each other in the first round and the game is a forgotten classic. McPipe kept Hammond ahead most of the contest but got into foul trouble late and Munster used free-throws to come from behind and eke out a three point win.
“I remember that I made two free-throws to put our team within one and then Ross Maroe made two more to put our team ahead to stay late in the game,” Scolnik said. “We used free-throws to keep ahead and managed to hold on.”
“Even talking about it now after all of these years it still gives me thrills,” Scolnik said. “We had to come back and I think we knew when we won that one that we had a chance.”
The sectional semi-final was another close contest against Tech, which had the battle tested White who was to go to IU to play basketball.
“I think we concentrated on holding down Bootsy, who was a great player and making the rest of their guys beat us,” Scolnik said. “It was another close game but again we held on to get to the championship.”
The championship game was against Gavit and a group of players that Scolnik knew well.
“I grew up in Hammond and went knew a lot of those guys,” Scolnik said.
“They were good guys and good players and I knew it would be a tough game with them.”
Behind a great game from Stout the Mustangs won a high scoring contest and the schools’ first sectional.
“We had a great guard in Bob Stout and Hagberg was a scorer but I had mostly been a role player,” Scolnik said. “I guess everybody kind of forgot about me because I averaged over 20 points a game in the sectional and regional.”
Munster played Gary Tolleston, a team that gave Indianapolis Washington and George McGinnis a tough game in the state title match, in the regional opener at East Chicago Washinton and lost a close contest.
“It’s kind of funny,” Scolnik said. “They got a big lead on us and their starters went down and showered and came back to watch the rest of the game from the stands. Well, we got hot against their second team and their starters had to come back in and finish the game in the fourth quarter.”
Munster is back in the basketball spotlight as heads over to Michigan City to play South Bend Clay in Regional play on Saturday.
“It’s good to see Munster is back and playing well,” Scolnik, who is a businessman in Indianapolis. “I wish them well and I hope they bring back a championship to Northwest Indiana.”
Scolnik went on to play football at Indiana and later was a 1973 draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“That team and that year is still special to me,” Scolnik said. “It has to rank right up there with my all time as an athlete. Especially from a team viewpoint. We played together as a team and we won as a team.”