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1971-72 Men's Basketball Champions February 2012
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1971-72 Men's Basketball National Champions Team to be Honored

Posted on Wednesday, February 22, 2012 [2:21 PM]

1971-72 Champs
The 1971-72 men's basketball team practiced and played their home games at
Adair County High School gym. Photo: 1972
Pine Cone.

 

COLUMBIA, Ky. -- This Saturday, Feb. 25, the Lindsey Wilson College community will recognize one of the school's greatest men's basketball teams.

The 1971-72 LWC men's basketball team won the National Little College Athletic Association championship. It was the first national championship won by an LWC sports team.

Living members of the team will be honored at halftime of the LWC-St. Catharine (Ky.) College men's basketball game, which tips off at 4 p.m. CT at Biggers Sports Center, 360 Spickard Drive.

The NLCAA was a short-lived tournament from 1967-82 that gave smaller U.S. colleges a chance to win a national title. In 1972, a team of 10 rugged and battle-tested Blue Raiders won the NLCAA title in Albany, N.Y.

The 1971-72 LWC team got off to a rough start. Nine of second-year LWC coach Jim Voight's players were freshmen; after eight games, the Blue Raiders' record was an even 4-4.

LWC, which was still a junior college, played freshman squads of area NCAA schools because freshmen were ineligible to play on NCAA varsity teams. So that made competition fairly intense with games against: Western Kentucky University; Xavier (Ohio) University; and the University of Louisville, whose freshman team included future NBA players Lee "Junior" Bridgeman and Allen Murphy.

If the tough competition didn't harden the young Blue Raiders in early 1971-72, Voight's practices and discipline did.

"Coach was a great coach. He was a tough, tough, tough, tough guy," said Vic Stansberry, who was a freshman forward from Jeffersontown High School in Louisville, Ky. "When I read Season on the Brink (about the 1985-86 Indiana University men's basketball team under Bobby Knight), I couldn't sleep three nights because it reminded me of my time on that team."

Voight was demanding and tough -- he had strict rules such as the team didn't get to eat on the road after a loss. But Voight earned his players' respect, Stansberry said.

"He was one of those guys you would want to strangle sometimes in practice, but then you make it through and he's your best friend in the whole world," said Stansberry, who played at LWC for two years and now lives in Indianapolis. "You realize what he did for you and how much he pushed you; you never realized you could be pushed that hard. He became one of my best friends."

Although LWC had a solid offense, its calling card in '71-72 was its defense, Stansberry said.

"Coach was a defensive madman, a genius. As the year went on, we got better and better," he said. "Once you started understanding all the intricacies of things like weak-side help, we became a very good team. Then we got it going."

LWC's tallest player was Al Crimm, a 6-foot, 5-inch center from Joppa, Ill., who had served four years in the Army before coming to LWC.

"He was just a warrior. Coach called him the Warhorse," Stansberry said.

Stansberry and Adair County High School graduate Micah Harvey, who were both 6-3, were the rest of the front line.

In the backcourt, Tom Skaggs, who Stansberry said was "a tough kid from Indianapolis," played on the wing; the offense was run by Gary Powell of Columbus, Ohio, who Voight called Junebug.

"He was great with a ball and super smooth," Stansberry said.

The early 1970s were lean times at LWC. Voight had to battle the school to give the basketball players two cartons of milk per meal, instead of the usual one allotted to other residential students. LWC's gym was in bad shape and the court was too short for a regulation college game. So the Blue Raiders practiced and played their home games in front of sparse crowds at the old Adair County High School gym.

LWC finished the regular season 17-8. After two wins in the Southcentral District Tournament, LWC traveled to upstate New York for the national tournament.

"We weren't the five most talented people (at the national tournament)," Stansberry said. "We were the smallest team there. We weren't very big, we weren't real quick. But put everybody together and we were a very intelligent and very coachable team. We were a true team as we got toward the end of the season."

After struggling in the first round against Webster Liberty State (W.Va.) College, LWC blew past Brewer (Ala.) Community College 113-80 to advance to the title game.

In the finals, LWC faced heavily favored and much taller Palmer (S.C.) College, whose was 6-9, 6-7 and 6-6 across the front line.

"No one gave us a chance to beat Palmer," Voight told The Courier-Journal.

With five minutes to go in the title game, Palmer put the ball in the deep freeze to secure its 66-60 lead. But the hours of Voight's grueling practices paid off for LWC as the Blue Raider defense fueled a 6-0 rally. With 40 seconds to go, LWC took possession of the ball and worked the clock for a final shot.

Harvey got the ball on the left block, turned on the baseline with a couple players on him and nailed a shot in the game's final seconds for a 68-66 win.

"He had the best fade-away you've seen in your life. He wasn't the fastest, he wasn't the quickest, but he was so good at what he did," Stansberry said. "He could shoot it over anyone, just like he did that time."

Voight coached at LWC for one more year before leaving for a high school coaching job in Illinois. He then spent a year at nearby Russell County and a year Casey County high schools before returning to coach junior college teams in Texas and Florida. Voight coached one last time at a southern Illinois high school before leaving the coaching business for sales. He died in 2003 at the age of 67.

In addition to several players, Voight's wife, Keitha, and son, Jimmy, and daughter, Debby, will be at Saturday's ceremony at Biggers Sports Center.

"It was just a real fun team to watch and be around," said Jimmy Voight, who now lives near Dallas. "We're looking forward to coming back to campus and seeing some of the players from that team."

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