1973 – Achieving the Threepeat
A recap of the three consecutive Portage High School basketball sectional titles 1971-1972-1973
Contributed by Bob Miller (PHS 1974)
Expectations were high for Coach Goodnight’s fifth season. The Vidette Messenger’s preseason article started with, “The 1972-73 Portage Indians appear to be loaded with well-sharpened tomahawks as they prepare for the upcoming season under the direction of “Chief” Morrie Goodnight.” Goodnight welcomed seven lettermen to the squad. Five had played on the 71-72 sectional title team (Greenway, Sabo, Clements, Stanley and Lindner) as well as two seniors who had moved to Portage. Seniors John Burton, who had lettered at his previous school in Wisconsin and Mark Fisher who came from Gary Wirt. Greenway was one of the top returning scorers in NW Indiana and Sabo was regarded as one of the finest senior guards in the area. Up from the JV squad was 6’6” Scott Devries, who had led that team in scoring and rebounding. The Hammond Times considered Portage one of the best teams around.
The team opened up the campaign the night before Thanksgiving in Valparaiso’s brand-new gymnasium. Like the PHS football team in the fall, the visiting Indians christened the new Valpo facility by handing the host Vikings a loss.
That weekend the Tribe would also defeat River Forest 94-59 with four players scoring in double figures. Burton 19, Greenway 14, and Sabo and Stanley with 11 each.
The following weekend the team would go to 4-0 by beating Highland 67-59 and Calumet 64-55 on the road. Greenway led the team in scoring in both games with 26 and 25 points while Burton added 14 in each game and Sabo adding 13 and 11.
Up next was Michigan City Rogers and the team won a thriller in the Portage gym 89-84. The team shot 36 of 63 field goals (57%) in the win. Sabo led the team with 25 points while Devries added 18, Greenway 17 and Stanley 14. Greenway also added 15 rebounds and 11 assists against the Rogers Raiders for a triple double.
Up next for the team was Knox and a journey to South Bend to play the always tough St Joe team. On Friday night the host Indians easily beat Knox 78-56. Greenway again led the team in scoring with 20 points. Also contributing double figures against the visiting Redskins were Devries with 16, Burton with 15 and Stanley with 12. Devries also added 16 rebounds. On the road against St Joe the Indians pulled off a tough one-point victory 65-64. The host team missed two shots in the last three seconds and the Indians escaped undefeated. Burton led the team with 17, Greenway added 16 and Sabo contributed 12.
The team stood at 7-0 as they went to Michigan City Rogers for the holiday tourney. In the first game the Indians came from behind most of the game to beat the undefeated North Judson Blue Jays 54-51. Greenway hit a jumper with 49 seconds remaining in the game to put the Tribe in front and they were able to hang on. North Judson’s patient offense had the Indians frustrated for most of the game. Greenway led with 18 points, Lindner added 14 and Burton ten in the win.
In the championship game of the tourney the team would suffer the first loss of the season, falling to the Mishawaka Cavemen 60-53. The team fell behind 23-7 after the first eight minutes and was down by 22 in the second period before battling back in the second half. Greenway led the effort with 17 points and Burton added 11 as the team finished the 1972 calendar year at 8-1.
The new year started well for the team as they went to 10-1 by hosting and beating Lake Central 76-52 and Gary Andrean 76-54.
On Friday January 12th the team hosted Hobart for what would decide the Duneland Conference title. Hobart was a very good team, led by seniors John Dubenetzky (6’5) and Ed Chontos (6’7). Both had made the Duneland All Conference team the previous year and had led the Brickies to the East Chicago sectional title in 1972, the first for the school in over two decades. The team had finished 22-3 in 1972, including the one-point overtime win over Portage. Hobart came into the game at 9-2. It was a classic.
Lindner (left photo) and Greenway (center photo) and Stanley (right photo) vs Hobart from Portage Press
(note depth of crowd on baseline under basket in left photo)
The Vidette Messenger wrote that the crowd was more than 3,000. It was standing room only, as the gym was officially listed at 2,800 capacity. However, the gymnasium was packed during the JV game and the game was sold out. Portage led 28-21 at the half, but Russ Lindner picked up three fouls in the first 44 seconds of the third quarter and sat with four fouls and Greenway went to the bench with four fouls shortly thereafter. It was a battle all the way, but the Indians pulled off a 65-58 victory. Despite sitting most of the third and fourth quarters, Greenway led the team in scoring with 22 points. Devries added 14, Sabo 12 and Lindner ten for the victors. It was a huge win for the team. Hobart would finish the year 15-7, which included upsetting #1 ranked East Chicago Washington in sectional opening game at East Chicago.
Many teams have difficult streaks during a season and this team was no different. The 11-1 Indians would travel the next day to North Judson after the emotional win over Hobart to play the one loss Blue Jays. North Judson was out for revenge for the holiday tourney defeat and in front of a packed house the home team beat Portage 49-41. As with the Mishawaka defeat, the Indians fell behind early, 21-8 after the first period. The team battled back, despite Greenway sitting the second and third periods due to foul trouble. The team would close the gap to 24-20 at the half, but could never make it back. Greenway who was averaging 18.4 points per game on the year was limited to four points before fouling out. Lindner was the only Indian in double figures with ten.
The teams’ problems didn’t end with the loss at North Judson. Burton would miss the next five games due to illness/injured ankle and Stanley the next two with strep throat. They weren’t the only team members sick and the Indians lost the next two games to Hammond Noll (50-35) and Crown Point (72-60). After averaging 71.4 points per game in the first 12 games, in the last three games (all losses), the team had averaged 45.3, a 26-point swing. Greenway’s nine points led the team against the Noll slow down approach and with 24 against Crown Point.
The team would get back to winning ways in a Duneland Conference win over Chesterton 76-53. The game was close at half, in favor of Portage 36-29 but the host team outscored the Trojans 40-24 in the second half to win going away. Stanley led with 20 points, Lindner added 18, Devries 13 and Clements ten. At 4-0, Portage had claimed the Duneland Conference title and now stood at 12-4 on the year. The last time the Indians had won a conference championship was in the 1955-56 season, when they were tri-champs with Griffith and Calumet in the old Calumet Conference.
Portage would fall to East Gary the following Friday 84-78 at East Gary, and it was the team’s fourth loss in five games. It was an ugly game as there were 62 fouls called in the game, 37 on Portage and 25 on the host Eagles. Five PHS players would foul out. Once again, the team would fall behind early, 25-12 and then try and battle back. Greenway and Lindner would foul out in the third quarter (after scoring 16 and ten points respectively, Greenway also added 26 rebounds in his limited time). East Gary was led by Bud Faroute’s 41 points. Faurote would play collegiately at the University of Wisconsin. The Eagles would shoot a remarkable 50 free throws, making 34. Fisher would add 13 for PHS and Sabo 12.
The following night the team would ease by Griffith, 63-60, to go 13-5 on the season. Griffith was a solid team, going 16-7 on the year and would win the Crown Point sectionals. Up next was a road trip to Merrillville and the team went to 14-5 by defeating the Pirates 91-73. Greenway and Lindner led the way with 18 points each. In those three games Greenway had averaged an amazing double double of 19 points and 26 rebounds. He had rebound totals in the three games of 25, 26 and 27.
The team would wrap up the 1972-73 regular season with a record setting win over Gary Wirt at home 109-65. The 109 points was the most points ever scored by a PHS team, eclipsing the mark of 107 set in 1968 in a sectional win over Washington Township. Five Indians scored in double figures led by Greenway’s 25 and followed by Lindner (20), Fisher (17), Sabo (12), and Clements (ten).
The team stood at 15-5 as they prepped for sectionals the following week. Coach Goodnight has remarked that the Friday practice was the best the team had had the entire season and despite the recent second half slump, he was confident that the team would win the sectionals and had a serious legitimate shot at winning regionals.
Those expectations changed the following day (Saturday) as leading scorer Greenway was in an accident between the snow mobile he was riding and a car and he broke his leg.
Pep rallies included cake from the Pep Club and
Carsick the Magnificent (Jim Smith, Sr) predicts
a tournament victory with Pep Rally Master of
Ceremonies (Bill Boyden, Sr) PHS 1973 Legend
The team had little time to regroup and opened the state tournament several days later without their leading scorer and rebounder with a win over Washington Township, 68-46. Burton led with 17, followed by Clements with 15 and Lindner with 11.
The team led at half 36-21 and cruised to the win.
Up next in the semi-finals was Chesterton. It was close after the first eight minutes, with PHS leading 16-13. The Indians extended it to 32-19 at half and finished with a 67-50 victory. It was a physical game with 53 fouls, 28 against the Trojans and 25 against the Indians. Sabo led the effort with 25 points and Clements added 12.
The Vidette Messenger wrote that in excess of 4,000 fans watched the semi-finals.
Advancing to the sectional championship game against Portage was Valpo who had beaten Wheeler 64-60 in the other semi-final. The first sectional championship game in the new Valpo gym was everything the fans would want. Despite entering the title game with a 4-17 record, the Vikings battled the Indians for 32 minutes, almost pulling off the upset. The two-time defending champion Indians won 61-60 in a thriller to complete a three peat of sectional titles. Valpo took the lead, 60-59, with 19 seconds left. Portage brought the ball down the court and Lindner missed a long jumper. As the ball was headed out of bounds, Stanley leapt to save the ball and deflected it to Lindner who hit the game winner with six seconds remaining. A heart stopping classic! Sabo and Lindner each had 16 points and Stanley added 11. It was Portage’s fifth straight victory over Valpo, something that had never been done before in school history.
In the first game of regionals Portage was scheduled to play Michigan City Elston, who was 7-16 on the year. In a South Bend Tribune regional preview Goodnight highlighted that the Indians missed Greenway’s 17-point average, but they really missed his rebounding (13 rebounds per game). “That’s where we miss him the most,” Goodnight remarked pointing out that Lindner had filled some of those rebounds.
The Indians lost a closely contested game to Elston 62-56. It was a one-point game entering the final eight minutes 45-44, but Elston pulled away at the end. Lindner led the Tribe with 15 points. Sabo, Clements, Stanley, and Burton would finish their PHS careers scoring 12, 11, five and five points each. The team would exit with an 18-6 record. The last team to win 18 games had been the 1956 sectional champs.
On the season Greenway would lead the Indians in scoring with 347 points, 17.3 points per game. Also averaging double figures were Sabo with 287 points (12/game) and Lindner 246 (10.3/game).
Greenway, Sabo and Stanley would make the All-Duneland Conference team.
Greenway would finish his career 4th in all time scoring with 795 points. His 17.35 points per game in a season, ranked him 6th all-time in 1973. In Goodnight’s first five seasons, his teams were 73-46, 61.3% winning percentage with three sectional titles.