1963 Peabody state champions honored at 2A state championship game
Anyone who has played on a team — especially a team that won — knows the bond that can form between teammates.
After struggling through grueling practices, battling to win games in the waning seconds, knowing the agony of defeat, and earning the ultimate elation of accomplishing the team goal, the starting members of the 1963 Peabody High School state championship team would run through a wall for one another.
However, the five teammates had not all spent time together in 30 years. With the exception of Peabody farmer Mark Janzen, the members of the team moved away from Peabody after high school.
When they reunited at the 2A state championship game March 12 in Manhattan — to be honored as past champions — star center Dick Myers said it was as if they had never been apart.
“You would start a sentence and somebody would finish it,” Myers said.
Over a 24-hour span, the teammates and their coach, Cal Reimer, reconnected, reminiscing about their victories and a few important losses that brought them together.
Peabody’s championship run actually started in 1962. Janzen, Myers, Bob Stuckey, Ted Schupp, and Jon Stuckey were juniors for the Warriors when they lost that year to Melvern, 60-53, in the state championship game.
It was Reimer’s first season on the bench with the Warriors and Peabody had coalesced under his tutelage. His structured practice style — with practices planned weeks in advance — made Peabody a more tough-minded squad.
“Coach Reimer put it all together,” Bob Stuckey said. “We were taught discipline, believed in discipline, and we played with discipline.”
Reimer knew he had a special team in 1962 and worried after the loss that the team may not reach the state final again.
When he walked back into the locker room, he found that none of the players had their heads down. Instead of sadness, he saw determination. Reimer said at different points each player approached him to say:
“Coach don’t worry about it; we’re going to be back here again.”
“They handled it better than I did,” Reimer said.
The players promised each other to win a state championship the following year.
Team members dedicated themselves to working harder in the offseason. Myers and Bob Stuckey said that almost everyone would come early to practices and leave an hour late to work on their games.
Myers worked on a left-handed hook shot and a post move, where he would move from his right to his left, which created easy baskets later in the season.
Schupp and Jon Stuckey drilled their outside shooting. Whenever Myers was double-teamed in the post, Schupp and Stuckey would make the opposing team pay. The team was such a skilled shooting squad that Reimer cannot recall a game where they did not shoot well.
“They were not a hot-and-cold bunch,” Reimer said.
The goal of winning a state title ruled everything else. Petty squabbles and quarrels never popped up during the 1962-63 season.
“I don’t remember jealousy,” Reimer said. “The reason was simple: they knew they weren’t going to win if they dealt with that.”
Soon, the players fell into their championship roles.
Myers was the constant offensive presence. He scored 21 points a game that season, 26 per game in the state tournament.
With his cool, confident personality, he also provided strength for the Warriors.
“When he told them to get going on things, they listened,” Reimer said.
Bob Stuckey was the creative force. He would drive and pass to the player with the best opportunity to score. He was also the team captain and a vocal leader.
If Bob Stuckey was hassled up the court, Schupp could bring the ball up. He was an outside shooter, worked hard on both ends of the floor, and performed the dirty work for the team with little regard to his stats.
“He was not flashy,” Reimer said. “He could get things settled down.”
Jon Stuckey was a sniper, who provided energy.
Mark Janzen was the team’s defensive stopper and jokester.
Janzen was regularly called upon to guard the opposing team’s best player.
Peabody went 25-2 in the 1962-63 season. The Warriors’ losses came at Centre Dec. 14 by 3 points and against Wichita Southeast Dec. 26 in Newton by 2 points.
The Warriors tallied 21 consecutive wins to end the season. The toughest games did not arrive until tournaments at the end of the year.
The team concept that Peabody honed throughout the season paid dividends against Moundridge in the regional semifinal at Moundridge. Myers was in foul trouble and backup forward Kirby Mellot stepped up to score in a 49-44 victory.
The Warriors battled Haven in the state semifinal to eventually win, 58-50.
However, the championship game against Hill City was the closest contest of the season.
Hill City had just dropped from division A to Division B.
“They were big and fast,” Bob Stuckey said.
Peabody led most of the game, but the score was always within a few points. With less than a minute in the fourth quarter, Hill City scored to go up 49-48.
Reimer called a timeout and talked to the team in the huddle. He called the play, and gave the team the confidence it needed.
“We’re not going to make this a big deal,” Reimer told the team. “We’re going to run something you can do with your eyes shut.”
The meticulous practices throughout the season paid off. The Warriors ran the play to perfection to get Bob Stuckey an open drive. He sank the layup to give the Warriors a 50-49 lead.
Peabody shut down Hill City with characteristically tough man-to-man defense to seal the victory.
“Being a state champion is something we still get a lot of enjoyment out of,” Myers said.
The success that the five Peabody members earned in 1963 carried on to the five starters lives.
Myers was the only one to parlay a successful high school playing career into a NCAA division 1 career. After two years at Hutchinson Junior College, Myers transferred to Texas Western University in El Paso.
Although an injury kept him from receiving much playing time, Myers was part of the team that was the first to win a national championship with an all-black starting lineup in 1966.
Myers’ hard work under Reimer prepared him for the relentless practices of hall-of-fame coach Don Haskins.
“It comes down to disciplined offense, not turning the ball over a lot,” Myers said of the discipline he received from Reimer. “It’s ironic but that’s how Texas Western played, too.”
The Texas Western team from 1966 was inducted into the Naismith basketball hall-of-fame in 2007. Myers brought the ring he received in that ceremony. He told his high school teammates and his high school coach that they were all part of forming Myers into the player who earned that ring.
The discipline Myers developed playing basketball translated into his professional life. He worked for a manufacturing company in El Paso and then Coach Leather in New York as an executive. He retired from Coach March 2007.
“I was always the first into the office,” Myers said. “That thought process all started in Peabody.”
Bob Stuckey was in charge of the lower Mississippi River Forecast Center for the National Weather Service in Slidell, La. for 33 years before he retired.
Ted Schupp ran a bank in Wichita. He has also retired.
John Stuckey still works as a professor of biology at North Carolina State University.
Mark Janzen was a successful farmer in Peabody before selling much of his land this past decade.
“In every aspect, they were as good as any group of guys I’ve ever seen,” Reimer said. “They were a fun bunch to be around.”
Fast breaking 1953 Burns team also honored
The 1953 Burns High School state championship team was honored March 12 in Manhattan at halftime of the 2A state championship game.
Not all of the Burns teammates were able to attend the game.
Much like the Peabody team in 1963, the Burns team from the 1952-53 season was forged by a no-nonsense coach — Harvey Loy, an ex-marine who whipped the players into shape.
“When he said something he meant it,” Marvin Nightengale said. “We did a lot of stair running.”
However, the Hornets played with an attacking, pressing style. They used a rotation of eight players. Dick Hubman, Danny Stuckey, and Jack Heyman were guards. Don and Marvin Nightengale, David Carlisle, Ronald Kirkpatrick, and Bob Brenzikofer were forwards.
Any of the top eight players could score double digits. As a sophomore, Marvin Nightengale led the Hornets in scoring against Cassody, 20, and was the second leading scorer in the regional final game against Enterprise.
“Everybody was between 15 and 10 (points per game),” Marvin Nightengale said. “We weren’t dependent on one scorer.”
Burns’ most memorable game that season occurred in the state championship game against Simpson.
Despite trailing at halftime, Burns came back to tie the score at 49 to take the game into overtime. Even though three Burns starters fouled out of the game, the Hornets scored 11 points to win, 60-59.
The game still holds two 1A tournament records: the most fouls committed by a winning team, 27 by Burns, and the total fouls in a championship game, 55.
“When you full-court press, you get a lot of fouls,” Marvin Nightengale said.