By KEVIN HARRIS
Last Saturday, the Borden High School boys’ basketball squad became only the second boys’ team in Clark County history to win an IHSAA state championship.
The Braves are joining some elite company.
The first team to bring a boys’ basketball state championship to Clark County is a special squad that will be remembered forever — the 1992-93 Jeffersonville Red Devils.
Twenty years ago today, that talented bunch defeated Indianapolis Ben Davis in the state championship game, 66-61. Not only did the Red Devils capture the first boys’ state title in county history, they claimed the first state championship in the illustrious history of Jeff basketball after six previous trips to the old one-class Final Four and two appearances in the state final.
During the 20-year anniversary celebration of the state championship on Feb. 7 at Johnson Arena when the current Red Devils played Jennings County, one of the members of the ‘93 state champs, Cory Norman, remembered the bond formed between everyone on the team and all the support he and his teammates got from Red Devil Nation that season.
“I remember a lot of the relationships that were built between our coaches, our teammates and all of our families,“ said Norman, a junior forward on the squad. “It was fun. It was a little different then. There was a lot of crowd support. Every time we’d go on the road and everywhere we went, it seemed we had the support of our fans. There were some good memories.”
Clark Miles, an assistant coach for the ‘93 state champs, says the work ethic and the devotion each player had on that team made them champions.
“The old saying goes that you can have all the talent that you want, but if you don’t put the time, the effort and the work in to get there, then you’re going to be in trouble,” said Miles, who is still an assistant for the Red Devil boys’ program. “I thought those kids dedicated themselves and really worked hard to be a good team that year, and that’s what I liked about them. Every day, they had that positive, hard-working attitude and they busted their tails in practice.”
BIRTH OF THE TITLE RUN
Jeff’s journey to the 1993 state championship started three years earlier when the school hired Mike Broughton as its head coach. Broughton, who had served previous coaching stints at Hebron, Rushville and Castle, sold the Jeff’s search committee for a new coach in his interview by displaying a T-shirt that stated, “Jeffersonville High School, 199X state champions.” Broughton requested the “X” be put on the final digit of the year because he did not want to make an even bolder statement and predict the exact year a state championship would occur.
During open gyms and a summer camp in 1990, Broughton could tell that his entire feeder system at Jeff had loads of talent. This revelation hit him hard one day during the camp when Norman faced Brien Hanley, who would be Norman’s teammate on the ‘93 state championship squad, in a game of one-on-one.
“I called my dad after that and told him it was a 7-6 game and I saw three dunks in that game,” Broughton said. “I knew we were going to be good. We were very young, but we were going to be good.”
In his first season at Jeff in 1990-91, Broughton guided the Red Devils to a 21-4 record, a share of the Hoosier Hills Conference title and sectional and regional championships.
HEARTBREAKING, BUT BENEFICIAL LOSS
Jeff got even better during the 1991-92 season. The Red Devils were 24-3 and rolled to the Final Four by winning the sectional, regional and semistate.
But then Jeff played the game that set the tone for the historic 1992-93 season. Despite having four players score in double figures, the Red Devils suffered a heartbreaking 94-92 overtime loss to eventual state champion Richmond in the state semifinals at the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis.
Nelson Yates, a junior on the 1992-93 Red Devils squad, said he and his teammates were totally focused on winning the ‘93 state title once they lost to Richmond in ‘92.
“We decided right after that that anything less than a state title was going to be a disappointment,” Yates said. “All of us became a closer family after that loss.”
Mark Lambertus, an assistant for both the ‘92 and ‘93 Jeff teams, said the leader of the ‘93 state champions, Sherron Wilkerson, was definitely motivated after the disappointing setback to Richmond. Wilkerson scored 22 points in the ‘92 state semifinal.
“As we were walking off the court, Sherron said to me, ‘I don’t want to feel this way again. We’re going to win state next year,’” Lambertus said. “From that point on, he was obsessed about winning the state championship.”
One day after the loss to Richmond, Broughton had a surprising guest knock on the door at his house in Jeff — former Red Devil coach and Indiana Basketball Hall of Famer George Marshall. During that brief conversation, Marshall told Broughton the missing ingredient Jeff needed to win the coveted state championship.
“He said, ‘Mike, I don’t want to hold you up. But it takes men to go up there and win it,’” Broughton said. “It told me that we’ve got to take the next step in being men. I remember telling the kids about that.”
A DEDICATED BUNCH OF PLAYERS
The Red Devils were completely dedicated to achieving one goal during the 1992 offseason and each practice during the ‘92-93 campaign — and that was to win a state championship.
“After [the Richmond setback], Coach told us we lost because we were weaker physically,” Norman said. “Open gyms and workouts were real interesting from that day until the next season. We worked real hard and played with a lot of college players during the summer. A lot of guys [from past Jeff teams] came back in and helped us out.”
Lambertus gave a great example of the entire squad’s dedication during that season.
One day while Wilkerson was driving to practice, the 6-foot-3 guard’s car had a flat tire in front of River Valley Middle School in Jeffersonville. Worried about being late for practice, Wilkerson made a drastic move.
“He ran from there to Jeff, so he wouldn’t be late for practice. That was about 2 1/2 miles,” Lambertus said.
Broughton said the players on the 1992-93 season did a good job of holding each other accountable at practice when there was the slightest notion of anybody slacking off.
“If the kids didn’t practice hard, they would get on each other. They policed themselves,” Broughton said. “They all had their purpose.”
THE STATE CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON
The Red Devils began the 1992-93 season on a roll, winning their first nine contests. After losing 76-70 in a rematch with Richmond in the Hall of Fame Classic semifinal, Jeff won its next seven contests before encountering a major road block in its season.
On Feb. 5, 1993, the Red Devils traveled to Louisville to face St. Xavier and suffered an embarrassing loss to the Tigers, 90-71. Broughton remembers the players and coaches having a meeting in the visitors’ locker room for about 30-40 minutes after the game to clear the air.
“When we got beat, it made everybody realize that we weren’t invincible. We had to keep working even that much harder in order for us to accomplish our goal,” Yates said.
The St. X setback definitely got the Jeff players refocused. Broughton said the Red Devils’ next few practices were some of the best of the season.
Jeff won its final four regular-season contests and proceeded to repeat as sectional, regional and semistate champions. The Red Devils had to fend off a talented White River Valley team to win the Evansville Semistate final, 61-59, but they earned their return trip to the Final Four.
Miles said the St. X game definitely played a crucial role in helping the Red Devils win the state championship.
“That was a critical game. That loss kind of really refocused everything back to where we wanted it to be,” Miles said. “They wanted to lose no more games after that. That loss really kind of just jump-started us even more again. That game told us that we can lose and we don’t want that to happen again. The intensity level went up in practice and the intensity went up in games.”
A DAY TO REMEMBER
Led by Hanley’s 25 points and Norman’s 23, the Red Devils defeated South Bend St. Joseph’s in the state semifinals on March 27, 1993 at the Hoosier Dome, 87-74, to set up a matchup with Indianapolis Ben Davis in the state championship game later that night.
The Red Devils fell behind the Giants at the end of the first quarter, 27-16. But during a timeout in that period when Jeff was down 10 points, Broughton got some reassurance from his leader that everything was going to be all right.
“Wilkerson said, ‘Coach, we got them where we want them,’” Broughton recalled.
The Red Devils bounced back in the second quarter by outscoring Ben Davis 21-12 to trail 39-37 at halftime. With the score tied at 55 after three quarters, Jeff finally secured its state championship in the fourth.
A putback bucket by Hanley with 36.8 seconds remaining off a missed free throw by Norman sealed the victory.
Broughton remembers Hanley’s title-clinching play like it was yesterday.
“I told Brien if [Norman] misses, you block [Ben Davis’ Damon] Parks out and put it back in. Brien did exactly what I asked him to do,” said Broughton, who guided the Red Devils to a 29-2 record that season. “We just hung around and hung around. There is probably not a week that goes by that I don’t remember something about that game from a player or somebody else.”
Hanley ended up with 22 points in the contest as he earned state finals most valuable player honors. Wilkerson and fellow senior guard B.J. Flynn each scored 13 points, while Norman, whose birthday was that day, had 12.
“It was a once-and-a-lifetime opportunity. It was the first one ever,” Yates said. “Twenty years later, [the Red Devils] don’t have another one. It was just a once-and-a-lifetime opportunity. The hard work that we put in paid off. ”
Lambertus says not only did the Red Devils feel a lot of happiness after beating Ben Davis, but a lot of fatigue.
“Once that game was over, we were totally exhausted,” Lambertus said. “There were a bunch of individual personalities on that team. But they were completely united by one goal. They were completely focused on winning a state championship.”
The day after winning the state championship, Marshall made another unexpected appearance at Broughton’s house to congratulate him.
“This time, he said, ‘Mike, they were men,’” Broughton said. “It was a special moment.”
A few weeks after winning the state championship, Broughton made a special trip to a Jeff legend’s home.
Broughton visited Bill Johnson, the namesake of Johnson Arena and the former Red Devil player and head coach.
Johnson, who passed away in 2005, played for Jeff’s 1935 state runner-up team that lost to Anderson in the state championship game, 23-17.
The Red Devils entered the contest with a 31-0 record. But despite sitting on the bench, Jeff coach Janis “Hunk” Francis was reported to be in a mysterious groggy state throughout the game. The urban legend has it that Francis got drugged by gamblers from Jeff the night before the contest, but that was never proven. The urban legend also points out that Johnson coached the team on the floor for his sick coach.
Shortly after Broughton entered Johnson’s home, he gave Johnson a 1993 state championship ring.
“He cried for 15 minutes and hugged me,” Broughton said. “It meant a lot to him after what happened to him and his teammates in the 30’s. It was between him and me.”
JEFF’S 1992-93 STATE CHAMPIONSHIP ROSTER
No. Player Pos. Hgt. Gr.
10 Jesse Edwards G 5-10 12
12 B.J. Flynn G 6-2 12
14 John Starks F 6-2 11
20 Sherron Wilkerson G/F 6-3 12
22 Dana Overton G/F 6-0 12
24 Brad Bixler G 5-10 10
30 Yonnes Sanders G/F 6-1 10
32 Nelson Yates G/F 6-2 11
34 Courtney Martin F/C 6-2 11
40 Theo Moore G 5-8 12
42 Brent Conner F/C 6-5 12
44 Brien Hanley G/F 6-2 11
50 Cory Norman F/C 6-3 11
52 Doug Boyce C 6-5 11
Head coach: Mike Broughton.
Assistant coaches: Mark Lambertus, Al Rabe, Clark Miles, John Pait, Junior Harvey.
Athletic director: Ralph Scales.
Trainer: Jane Kendall.
Managers: Steve Johnston, Josh Ratliff, Shannon Hall, Chrissey Thompson, Alyssia Spears.
JEFF’S 1992-93 SCHEDULE (29-2)
Date Opponent Result
Nov. 24, 1992 Charlestown W, 95-44
Nov. 26, 1992 at Shelbyville W, 91-72
Dec. 4, 1992 at Ev. Bosse W, 85-75
Dec. 5, 1992 Clarksville W, 103-39
Dec. 11, 1992 Seymour W, 93-57
Dec. 12, 1992 at Madison W, 97-63
Dec. 18, 1992 at Silver Creek W, 96-63
Dec. 26, 1992 New Washington* W, 90-44
Dec. 26, 1992 Corydon Central* W, 62-53
Dec. 30, 1992 Richmond+ L, 70-76
Dec. 30, 1992 White River Valley+ W, 91-77
Jan. 8, 1993 New Albany W, 75-72
Jan. 15, 1993 Floyd Central W, 95-85
Jan. 16, 1993 at Providence W, 92-53
Jan. 22, 1993 at Columbus East W, 80-53
Jan. 23, 1993 Scottsburg W, 87-71
Jan. 29, 1993 at Bedford NL W, 54-41
Feb. 5, 1993 at Lou. St. Xavier L, 71-90
Feb. 12, 1993 Jennings County W, 110-79
Feb. 19, 1993 at Indpls. N. Central W, 76-41
Feb. 20, 1993 Indpls. Arlington W, 120-76
Feb. 26, 1993 Lou. Ballard W, 83-79
March 2, 1993 Clarksville# W, 71-42
March 5, 1993 Borden# W, 115-55
March 6, 1993 Silver Creek# W, 98-65
March 13, 1993 Jennings County^ W, 63-50
March 13, 1993 New Albany^ W, 74-59
March 20, 1993 South Spencer< W, 69-51
March 20, 1993 White River Valley< W, 61-59
March 27, 1993 South Bend St. Joseph’s! W, 87-74
March 27, 1993 Indpls. Ben Davis! W, 66-61
* - Jeffersonville Invitational
+ - Hall of Fame Classic
# - Jeff Sectional
^ - Seymour Regional
< - Evansville Semistate
! - IHSAA State Finals