Banner will commemorate electrifying run to final four
Southport High School’s 1989-90 boys basketball team will return to historic Southport Fieldhouse on Friday evening to celebrate the silver anniversary of its Final Four appearance.
After winning a sectional title 25 years ago, the Cardinals defeated Franklin Central 72-51 in a regional semifinal and won the regional crown by defeating defending state champion Lawrence North 57-51. The Wildcats were led by 7-0 Eric Montross, who went on to win an NCAA title with the University of North Carolina and was an eventual top 10 pick in the NBA draft. He played for Boston and five other teams before retiring in 2001.
The Cardinals continued their winning ways by edging Martinsville 61-60 in a nail-biting semistate opener that went into overtime. Southport advanced to state by defeating New Castle 82-68 in the nightcap.
With an opportunity for a state title looming, the excitement was palpable at the school.
A record crowd of more than 40,000 fans was on hand at the Hoosier Dome to watch the semifinal
matchup between Southport and eventual state champion Bedford North Lawrence, led by Mr. Basketball
USA Damon Bailey. While the Cardinals fell to defeat by three points, their stellar season has entwined itself into the fabric of Southport lore.
Bill Springer, the Hall of Fame coach who mentored Southport that season and led the Cardinals to eight sectional titles, and many of the team’s players, including Indiana All-Star Marlon Fleming and Andrew Moore, are expected to be on hand to hang a banner to forever commemorate that memorable campaign.
“We had a few hiccups during the season, but our team really hit their stride as we entered the tournament,” said Springer, who retired in 1997 with a 178-40 record at the school (539 career wins). “A few of our players had already won a couple of sectionals but had never won the regional. I could tell that they were really up for this regional knowing that it was their time. We had a squeaker in the final of the regional, but we’re able to pull off the victory. We also had a squeaker in the first game of the semistate.
“We were very excited about representing Southport in the state finals. We led Bedford most of the way (in the semifinal game) before falling by 3 points. You can never imagine the excitement of playing before 40,000 people. That’s a national record attendance that will probably never be broken. Our support from the Southport community was outstanding. Our team was not overly intimidated by Damon Bailey. As a matter of fact, they really looked forward to playing against him. We will probably never get over the heart-breaking defeat as we were confident that we could win state.”
As part of the celebration the Alumni Association will award a scholarship in honor of the coach and players. The ceremonies will take place between the junior varsity and varsity games (about 7:15 p.m.) against Terre Haute South.
The celebration will also include alumni basketball games from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday at the fieldhouse. Any alumni who played varsity basketball for the Cardinals is eligible to play. Pizza, snacks and refreshments will be served to the players between games.
In a related story, Louie Dampier, the sharpshooter who graduated from Southport in 1963, was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday. He already belonged to the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.
His No. 32 jersey at Southport was retired in 2013, and his No. 10 from Kentucky hangs in the rafters of Rupp Arena with other Wildcat greats.
Dampier, 70, who went on to become a two-time All-American for coach Adolph Rupp at the University of Kentucky, was known for a lightening-fast release that was matched by none. He helped lead the team to a runner-up finish in the 1966 NCAA tournament.
At the professional level, he starred for the Kentucky Colonels in the ABA and the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA for three years before retiring. He is one of only a handful of players to have played the entire nine years of the ABA’s history and was the league’s leader in points and six other categories. He always proved to be a thorn in the side of the Indiana Pacers, especially during his ABA days. Hoosiers detested the Colonels ... and that included the Southport grad.
He plays twice weekly in pickup games in Jeffersonville, Ind., and can still knock down the outside shot that he perfected a long, long time ago.
Rupp once said of Dampier, “God taught Louie how to shoot, and I took credit for it.”