Monday, March 9, 2009

Part II: Remembering A State Championship Worthy Of 'Hoosiers'

The Ferndale Eagles remembered prep seer Hal 'Swami' Schram's prediction about 1963's Class A semifinal that ran in the Detroit Free Press on Thursday, March 21: "There is no school for (Detroit) Northwestern on Friday...There will be no basketball on Saturday for Ferndale."

Bob Falardeau and the Eagles would have the final word after Falardeau's jumper with almost 30 seconds remaining downed the Detroit Public School League's regular season champion by a 52-51 count. Schram's prediction -- made without malice -- became the rally point for Ferndale in East Lansing as the Eagles advanced to face Adrian High's Maples in the state title tilt.

As Ferndale stepped onto the hardwood pines of Michigan State's Jension Field House for Saturday's Class A Final, nobody knew three grueling, gut-check wins -- all played consecutively and all one-point victories -- would allow Ferndale to win the title game handily, 76-58, in front of 12,473 fans and a statewide television audience. Bruce Rodwan, left of teammate Don Brooks (25) in the picture above, netted 25 points and pulled down 20 rebounds to earn himself a spot on the tournament's first team.

The Eagles stepped off Jenison's floor as state champions and winners of 22-straight games thanks to Kimball's upset of Detroit Pershing and some gritty magic that made 1963's title a lot tougher to earn than first glance might indicate but a lot sweeter to remember for the struggle it took.

Only Pontiac Northern (2001, 2002) and Birmingham Brother Rice (1974) have earned a Class A crown for Oakland County since Ferndale's two titles in the 1960s. Novi's Detroit Catholic Central, which earned titles in 1961 and 1976 (the last non-public school title in Class A), won those titles while still parked at their famed 6565 Outer Drive address in Detroit.

In the afterglow, Ferndale High hosted a champions' banquet at the school. The entire community was invited and some of South Oakland County's prep rivals regaled in the first Oakland County championship in the state's marquee division. Charles Jackson, principal at Kimball High, presented the 1963 Eastern Michigan League trophy to Coach Roy Burkhart's Eagles during the banquet's ceremony. Burkhart's first title had been delivered in his 17th season as mentor of the cage fortunes on Ferndale's Pinecrest Avenue.

Friday: Ferndale wears the bulls-eye before recapturing the Magic of '63 during March of '66.

(Photo courtesy 1963 Ferndale High Talon/Ferndale Historical Museum)

~ T.C. Cameron is the author of Metro Detroit's High School Basketball Rivalries, due August 2009 from Arcadia Publishing.

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