BOONE: History of Wingate Basketball — Another championship and end of an era
February 5, 2019
The last Wingate basketball team was in 1953. Pictured above: Front row — Joe Irvin, Carlos Goode, Eddie Allen, Ray Bishop, Coach Grimes Second row — Gary Smith, Dallas Jones, David Stephens, Jimmy Hunter, Bill Shall, Durrell Kelp, Manager Max McCullough
While Wingate never won another state title, the Spartans continued to have success for many years before consolidating with New Richmond in 1953.
In 1927, Bowers finally sneaked in and broke the dominance of the Wingate–Crawfordsville powerhouses. In all, before consolidation in 1953 when Wingate and New Richmond became the Coal Creek Central Bearcats, Wingate won five sectional championships, claiming the crown in 1917, 1918, 1922, 1925 and 1931. The Wingate five was even acclaimed as National High School Champions in 1920 when they were banned from IHSAA competition along with Crawfordsville.
After the suspension, both teams played an ambitious independent schedule against the best competition they could find. Crawfordsville, coached by Jack Blacker, a member of the Wingate State Champs of 1913 and 1914, ended the season with a 29-2 record, with their only losses coming at the hands of the always tough Em-Roe team which was the Indianapolis Independent Champs and their county neighbor, the Wingate Spartans, coached by Merrill Eaton.
Wingate finished its “Outlaw Year,” with a record of 22-3, losing to the Darlington Indians twice, once in double overtime and to Crawfordsville. The county rivals met in the final game of two separate tournaments.
Crawfordsville defeated Wingate in the Tri-State Tournament at Cincinnati and Wingate won in the Mid-west Tournament at Chicago. After the Mid-West tourney, the Spartans were proclaimed National Champions for the year of 1920. An interesting note about the Mid-West tourney was reported by Fountain County neighbors of Fletcher Kerr, who later coached at Covington High School. Kerr told his neighbors that a young man who was coaching at the University of Chicago took a liking to the Wingate team and scouted for them and helped them prepare for the hated Crawfordsville Athenians.
The National Interscholastic Tournament was played at the Bartlett Gym on the University of Chicago campus from 1917 to 1930. Wingate defeated Crawfordsville in the final game of the tourney 22-16 and gained the designation as National Champs. That young coach’s name was Paul D. “Tony” Hinkle, later the legendary coach of the Butler University Bulldogs. I wonder if he ever thought about that when he coached against the Wabash College Little Giants?
Lon Goldsberry was another in the line of outstanding student-athletes from Wingate in the early days of basketball. He graduated from Wingate in 1916 as a four year letterman in basketball and baseball. He was the captain of the 1920 team that won the National Interscholastic Basketball Championship and was named a High School All-American.
After graduating from Wingate, he went on to Wabash College where he quarterbacked the football team for four years even though he did not have the opportunity to play football in high school. He was captain of the Wabash College National Champions in 1924 and a member of the Wabash fourth Wonder Five. He also played baseball at Wabash and helped the team win the Midwest League Championship in 1922.
After graduating from Wabash, he coached at Shortridge for a while before returning to Wabash as an assistant football coach and head baseball coach. Lon Goldsberry was inducted into the Indiana High School Basketball Hall of Fame in 1972. He is also a member of the Wabash College Athletic Hall of Fame and the Montgomery County Basketball Hall of Fame.
Coached at Shortridge, Wabash College, and South Bend Adams…Captained 1920 All-Star American Championship team in an interscholastic tournament…high school All-American…also captain of Wabash College team the won national championship… in 1924 his Wabash team won the state championship…also starred in baseball in both high school and college…helped Wabash win the Midwest Baseball League championship…quarterbacked Wabash’s football team 4 years…officiated basketball and football for about 10 years after graduation…moved into coaching, first at Shortridge as an assistant football and head baseball coach at Wabash.
After graduating from Wingate, Lon Goldsberry moved on to Wabash where he had an outstanding athletic career. He was a four year letterman and member of the 1921-22 National Championship team labeled the third Wonder Five.
Wingate suffered from a numbers problem from the very beginning and always had the word “tiny” before their name whenever they achieved anything outstanding. In later years, they struggled to compete, but still had some outstanding individuals. The most outstanding was Gary Smith.
Smith played three years for the Spartans in the early 50’s and in 40 games racked up 651 points for an average of 16.3 points per game. He scored 451 points in 21 games 1952-53 for a sparkling average of 21.3 points per game. He had a career high of 46 points that year against New Ross and was in the 30s four other times scoring 35 against Wallace and Pittsboro and 33 against Wallace and Oxford. Smith ranks 14th on the final Montgomery County scoring list as he scored 1047 points in his career at Wingate and Coal Creek Central.
Wingate and New Richmond consolidated into Coal Creek Central in 1953 where they won one more sectional and two more county crowns. CCC won their only sectional in 1966 and county championships in 1965 and 1967. The legend lives on for the first Indiana high school to win two straight IHSAA state crowns. There were many outstanding players in the early years, five of whom are in the Indiana High School Basketball Hall of Fame. The names of Lon Goldsberry, Pete Thorn, Forest Crane, Homer Stonebraker and Jesse Wood appear on that roll. There are also two Wingate graduates who are in the Indiana Football Hall of Fame, Raymond “Gaumey” Neal and Lee “Pete” Thorn.
Bill Boone is a local sports historian who contributes to the Journal Review.