Southport’s 1989-90 basketball team, which made an unlikely run to the final four by defeating some powerhouses in regional and semistate action, was honored Friday during halftime of the Cardinals’ game against Terre Haute South.
After winning the sectional title 25 years ago, coach Bill Springer – now a Hall of Famer – guided his Cardinals to a 72-51 win over Franklin Central in a regional semifinal and then upset defending state champion Lawrence North 57-51 for the regional title. The Wildcats featured 7-0 Eric Montross, who went on to win an NCAA title with the University of North Carolina and was a top 10 pick in the NBA draft, playing for Boston and five other teams before retiring in 2001.
Southport continued its winning ways and won a semistate title by defeating New Castle.
But that magical season – forever entwined into the fabric of Southport lore – came to a close when Springer and company encountered eventual state champion Bedford North Lawrence, which was led by Mr. Basketball USA Damon Bailey. Southport lost by three points in front of a record crowd of more than 40,000 fans at the Hoosier Dome. “That’s a national record (for a high school game) that will probably never be broken,” Springer said.
“We had a few hiccups during the season, but our team really hit their stride as we entered the tournament,” said the coach, who retired in 1997 with a 178-40 record at the school (539 career wins). We had a squeaker in the final of the regional, but w e were able to pull off the victory.
“We were very excited about representing Southport in the state finals. We led Bedford most of the way. 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.”
Chris Robinson, who played on that magical team, returned to his alma mater for Friday’s ceremony. “It was great being honored,” he said. “Thank you, Southport Cardinals, for an awesome ceremony. It was pretty cool how they introduced us players using the video from the 1990 game broadcast.
“It did bring back good memories. I was talking to (former football coach – a Hall of Famer – and athletic director) Chuck Robbins, and he reminded me of a classic. I had forgotten about the ‘sweep ceremony.’ When we returned to the fieldhouse after losing in the state semifinals, Chuck came out on the floor with a broom and displayed how we had swept through the tournament.
“The entire Southport community was there. I can’t describe what that felt like. Their support throughout the season was a huge factor in our success. The elementary kids sent us good-luck notes and bags full of goodies,” said Robinson, who’s pretty sure that Benjamin Danner, now a junior varsity coach for the team, was one of the kids who made the bags. “I would like to see the same thing happen to the current team.”
And it may. Southport is 18-2 and ranked fourth in the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association’s poll state. The Cards’ anticipated game against No. 1. Evansville Reitz (21-0) was canceled Saturday because of snow.