Athenians’ success unexpected in 1957-58

Basketball can be a funny game. Many times, the unexpected can happen. That’s exactly what happened for the Crawfordsville Athenians basketball team in the 1957-58 season.

The Athenians enjoyed a great season the year prior in 1956-57 and advanced all the way to the regional final before their season came to an end with a 66-57 loss to Greencastle. That team featured seven seniors, including four who were the team’s top scorers.

With the loss of that many seniors, not much was expected from the 1957-58 team. Only five players returned. Those five were now all seniors — Dan Teague, Gary Jouris, Mike Walker, Dick Haslam and Bry Wilkinson — and they totaled just 390 combined points from the season before or an average of 15.0 a game.

Two things happened between the end of the 1956-57 season and the start of the 1957-58 season. The first was the move-in of Joe Krutzsch. The second was the emergence of Bill Burget.

Krutzsch moved in from North Salem for his senior season. And what a season he had. He led the Athenians with an 18.6 scoring average and totaled 558 points that season, which was a school record at the time. Burget went from playing JV ball as a sophomore to starting for the Athenians, averaging just over nine points a game and providing a solid inside presence with his 6-foot-3 frame. In addition, a lot of hard work during the offseason by Walker, Williamson and Haslam paid big dividends.

The team rolled through the first half of the season with a 10-2 record, losing only to Frankfort (45-44) and Terre Haute Garfield (77-69). The second half of the season the team went 5-3 with losses to Indianapolis Shortridge (51-41), Lafayette Jeff (60-46) and Lebanon (64-54). The team lost two of its last three games heading into a tough sectional.

In the opening round of the sectional, the Athenians played a very solid New Market team, which had a sparkling 19-2 record. The Purple Flyers entered the sectional as the county champs, but fell to the Athenians 57-46 as Krutzsch led the way with 22 points. Next up was tiny Alamo (14-8) who gave the Athenians its tough game of the tournament before losing 64-62 in overtime. Once again, Krutzsch led the way with 24 points, including the game-winning shot with three seconds to play. Crawfordsville then beat Linden 78-49 and capped off the sectional title with a win over Waveland (17-6) by a 59-43 score as Krutzsch led the way with 24 points and Burget added 22.

The regional was a breeze as the Athenians crushed Rockville 70-38 and Attica 85-41 to move into the semi-state at Purdue University. Once again, The Athenians cruised. The first game saw them beat Lafayette Jeff 61-41 (a 34-point swing from its 14-point loss earlier in the season) and then they disposed of East Chicago Washington 70-59. In the semi-state final just five Crawfordsville players saw action and all five scored in double figures, led by Walker’s 18 points and Krutzsch’s 17.

In the State Finals, the Athenians were pitted up against Muncie Central in the second game of the first session. The Athenians trailed 37-32 heading into the final quarter but managed to outscore the Bearcats 21-8 to secure a spot in the title game with a 53-45 victory. Haslam led the Athenians with 12 points.

In the final game, the Athenians ran into Fort Wayne South. Crawfordsville managed to stay competitive for a half and trailed 28-22 at the break was got completely overwhelmed in the second half and were outscored 35-12 as Fort Wayne South claimed the title 63-34. Krutzsch was the only Athenians player to reach double figures with 11 points.

The night wasn’t a loss at Haslam was named the Trester Award winner and later that year he was named to the Indiana All-Star team and was later a member of the Indiana Silver Anniversary Team in 1983.

Krutzsch set the single-season scoring record that stood until 1989 when Matt Petty set it at 625 point. Five years later, Matt McCarty set a new record with 719 points in 1994.

Barry Lewis has covered local sports for over 30 years. If he hasn’t witnessed it, he’s researched it.