INDIANAPOLIS – Even 34 years removed, the moment still has special meaning for the coach that watched it happened.
With just two seconds remaining and his Broad Ripple team tied with Marion in the IHSAA Boys Basketball Championship Semifinal game at Market Square Arena, Stacey Toran got the ball some 60 feet away from his own goal.
With little option, he launched a shot from that spot. What happened next is still amazing to Bill Smith.
“Unbelievable,” said the Broad Ripple coach of the game on March 19, 1980. “All I can say is it was god’s will.”
Toran’s shot floated over the court and came down in the middle of the backboard and went in. The Rockets and their fans jumped around in jubilation. Giants fans looked stunned. It was the stuff of legends for a legendary team in Indiana High School basketball.
“Even today, I contribute most everything, if not all things, to God’s divine province,” said Smith – and his team’s accomplishments from that season have come to light more than ever this past season.
Broad Ripple’s victory against Marion and then their championship game win later that night against New Albany gave the Rockets the 1980 Boys State Basketball Championship. It was the last time a school in IPS came home with the crown and the streak has lasted 34 years.
Tech High School will have a chance to change that on Saturday night when they face Lake Central for the Class 4A championship at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Titans are the favorites heading into the match-up having lost just twice this season in 28 games.
While a win by Tech would end the distinction of being the last champion from the city, Smith is all in for his support of the Titans.
“First of all I would like to compliment Coach (Jason) Delaney, Tech High School and the IPS system for getting to the Final Four,” said Smith-now an coaching advisor for the New York Knicks-in a phone interview on Friday afternoon. “That’s a great achievement. More than that, once they win it I would certainly be proud.”
What Smith may also take pride in is the fact that his team has gained some noteriety over the past few months since Tech began making their run for a championship. With Toran – a future Notre Dame and NFL football player – leading the way, the Rockets went through the season 29-2 en route to a championship.
Their thrilling win over Marion was followed by a 73-66 victory over New Albany which gave the Rockets’ their first Boys Basketball state championship. It was the sixth in this history of IPS, joining Attucks (3 titles) and Washington (2 titles) among those in IPS who came home with a championship.”
While reflecting proudly on the team’s accomplishments of that year, Smith also remembers the overall contributions of the players in the game both during and after high school.
“It’s a wonderful thing to have young people who, in my estimation, have become a man’s man,” said Smith. “A representative of our society and have contributed to our society.”
One thing that Smith praised his former team for was reaching out to the current Titans during their run to a championship. During a practice this week for the Lake Central game, a few members of the 1980 Broad Ripple team stopped by practice to wish their best to Tech and Delaney, who was once an assistant coach for Smith with the Rockets.
“Coach Delaney had them speak to his team and they were very appreciative and they called me shortly there after and told me that had happened,” said Smith. “So it’s a wonderful, wonderful feeling. It’s a proud feeling.”