EDITOR'S NOTE: We continue a multi-part series will continue that chronicles the 20 years that Bob Nobbe led the basketball program at Hauser High School. In the next two articles, we take a look at the 2005-2006 roundball season which culminated in a state championship. In the following article, events and games leading up the post-season tournament will be described.
The postgame locker room in the Lloyd E. Scott Gymnasium at Seymour High School was silent. The team from northeastern Bartholomew County had been eliminated in the semi-state round of the IHSAA's state tournament.
With the dream of a state title vanquished just moments earlier on a last-second shot, one might have logically concluded that the silence was totally the visible characteristic of "emotional-shock."
Located in another corner of the third largest high school gymnasium in the United States, the celebratory atmosphere in the Loogootee locker room could not be mistaken for anything other than what it was -- the result of victory. But the corresponding absence of noise in the dressing room of the fallen Hauser Jets may have been created by more than the aftermath of defeat.
Could there have been some deep-thinking about the future going on? Might the birth of a resolve to never "let it happen again" been taking place? After all, all but two of the Jets were underclassmen.
Who can know for sure?
No one knows exactly when quiet "resolve" may have replaced the emotional shock of the moment. However, the leader of the Jets certainly now possesses a firm opinion on one topic that began to run through the minds of several players shortly after elimination from the 97th annual version of Hoosier Hysteria.
"As I look back on it now, one of the fascinating things (about the championship season) was that the catalyst and driving force for those men was that loss," Nobbe recently said. "I do believe that. We had won the sectional (at Edinburgh) and the regional (at Franklin) and then to come so close in the semi-state . . ."
Nobbe claims "determination" for a different outcome was obvious from the time of the loss to Loogootee.
"It carried over from that day in March right into the summertime," he said. "From the summertime, to open gyms, to preseason practices, to the regular season... It was the unspoken word that everything was geared and pointed to winning a state title."
The Jets were not satisfied with their recently earned trophies and accolades. They wanted more. They wanted the ultimate.
So in late November the official 2005-2006 season began.
"It was obvious," Nobbe said. "They knew their goal. But once the season started, the approach was to take it one game at a time. It was all about getting better game-by-game."
With a roster that included seniors Chad Emmitt, Bobby Jolliff, Zach Fugate and Jordan Perkins, juniors Brandon Barker, Justin Baute, Gabe Miller, Blake Roth and Bryce Mize and sophomore Nick Long -- the long trek to March began with a pre-Thanksgiving game at the Jetport with Oldenburg Academy. Victory number one was accomplished in a breeze, 87-39.
Number two was perhaps a bit more significant and memorable. A 74-69 success occurred on the road at Columbus North. It was followed by 11 more in a run that included victories over Indian Creek, Franklin, Edinburgh, South Decatur, Greensburg, Brown County, Triton Central, Milan, Waldron, Rising Sun and South Decatur. Only the victories over Greensburg and Franklin were by less than 10 points.
"As a team, we set goals game by game," said Nobbe. "We talked specifically about what we wanted to accomplish as we prepared for each game. For example, we may have had a defensive goal of how many points we wanted to hold the other team."
Continual improvement was halted in game 14 at Batesville. The first of two brickwalls that the Jets were unable to avoid was awaiting and was run into by the Jets.
"Obviously, we wanted to play better at Batesville," Nobbe said of the game in which the Jets suffered their first loss of the season.
Hauser lost to the Bulldogs 85-68 and three games later got whipped 89-50 at Jennings County.
"We certainly learned from each loss," recalled Nobbe. "At Batesville, we got some guys in foul trouble and learned that maybe we needed to play a bit more sensible. At Jennings County, we may have learned that we couldn't take it granted we would play great just by walking out on the floor."
But the retired coach was quick to take the blame for the loss to the Panthers. The game plan and approach was to concentrate on stopping Jennings County's big guys. The best laid plans backfired.
"Their outside shooters were the difference," said Nobbe. "I distinctly recall a stat I saw at halftime. They had hit 80 percent from behind the 3-point line. That 80 percent has stuck in my mind. It was incredible. We concentrated on their bigs and maybe that mistake was on me.
"You never want to lose and you're not happy on the bus ride home," he continued. 'But that game helped us better understand how important mental approach is. We learned that we never wanted that to hurt us in the future."
While the two losses and close encounters that resulted in "huge" wins over Columbus North, Franklin and others that Nobbe was quick to recall and discuss, it was the mere mention of a REAL close encounter (one-point victory) at Jac-Cen-Del that the coach really jumped out at the coach. He immediately -- without any coaxing -- began to recount it in second-by-second detail.
Hauser had taken a glowing 15-1 record into the tiny community of Osgood for a date with the Eagles. It was Feb. 11, a late-season Friday night. After this non-conference game, there would be only three more tests left on the schedule before the much anticipated tournament march was to begin.
Jac-Cen-Del coach Dave Bradshaw was one that Nobbe admitted to getting much enjoyment from when their two teams competed.
"I can even remember who the officials were that night. It was McAdams and McGriff," he said, smiling.
"They had come down the floor and taken the lead with only six or seven seconds remaining. I had already talked to Gabe (point-guard Miller) about this this kind of situation," Nobbe continued.
Different coaches have differing philosophies on how to handle last second situations. Some prefer a time-out to draw up the final plan. Others, who have complete trust in their "field general" have disdain for a final sideline huddle and rationalize that time with the coach gives the opposition a chance to set up a successful defensive plan.
So it was. Nobbe trusted Miller to do the right thing in a nerve-wracking situation. The gym was in a frenzy.
"I even remember the refs glancing over at me after the (Eagles') bucket as if to ask, 'Do you want a timeout?' I shook my head at them," Nobbe recalled.
"So after number 54 hit the little turnaround, they were really pumped," the coach continued. "Maybe, they were even doing a little celebrating. Our (pre-arranged) plan was to grab the ball and inbound it to Gabe."
"Gabe brought it down the middle and threw somewhat of an alley-oop to Bobby who banked it off the glass and the game was over," said the still-smiling Nobbe. "That was a great example of who these kids were. This was not a group that threw up their hands and yelled 'What can we do?' They just took care of business.
"With a timeout, it couldn't have been drawn up any better," he said. "Their basketball IQ was high. They really knew how to win."
And, that concept had been practiced by the upperclassmen in this group for a long time.
"Some in that group had gone undefeated as 5th graders, 6th graders, 7th graders and 8th graders," recounted Nobbe. "They may have lost one game as freshmen and two their JV year. As younger players, they rarely lost a game."
These Jets had made winning a habit. That habit had been practiced for several years. And, as the local history book reminds us, that habit was to continue to the end of the IHSAA post regular-season tourney.
Next: a re-telling of the final seven games and community reaction following the "final" game of that historic season will be retold.