The 1970-’71 team strives to win
Thursday, April 20, 2017 11:03 AM
(Editor’s note: The following is part of a series on the Kokomo Wildkats basketball teams from the 1970s. The following is part two of two on the 1970-’71 team.)
Now it was time to face off against cross-town rival the Haworth Huskies. Haworth was supposed to have been in a rebuilding year. A year prior they were semi-state finalists. Someone forgot to tell the 10-3 Huskies about this being a rebuilding year. A sold-out crowd at the Memorial gymnasium watched as the Kats jumped to a 19-11 first-quarter lead and led by 12 at 23-11 early in the second quarter.
The Kats’ lead was 32-28 at halftime. In the third the Wildkats’ shooting was ice cold, and Haworth came to life. With Huskies top-gun Geoff Schuck, 6-6, along with the strong supporting cast of Mike Reed, 6-0; Fred Rose, 6-3; Dave Swihart, 6-3; Mike Platt, 5-11; and Don Wheeler, 6-5. The Huskies outscored the Kats in the third, 17-8, for a 45-40 lead in the fourth with Kokomo still suffering from ice cold shooting. Haworth won the battle of firepower and muscle, stopping the Kats 66-58 for the first time ever the in regular season.
Again, Coach Carl McNulty regrouped the Kats. Highly motivated, the Kats rattled off five straight wins, including two NCC wins against the 16th-rated Muncie Central and vote-receiving New Castle. The Kats closed out the year at 13-7 and won NCC Championship title (which is no small feat).
It’s Sectional Time!
In the first round of the sectional, Kokomo played the Eastern Comets. Though filled with enthusiasm the Comets were short on the talent to match up to the Kats that won 81-57. Now it was time for round two and the Haworth Huskies, 16-5.
The Kats wanted payback! This game was played before another sold-out crowd at Memorial gymnasium. From the start Kokomo set the tempo and maintained its momentum against the much stronger Huskies, leading at the first stop 23-15.
The Kats did not suffer from the terrible shooting that plagued them during the last match up, nor did they seem to suffer from the malaise that many seemed to sense during the season. By halftime the Kats’ press had ratted the Huskies. The Kats built a solid 47-34 lead. The Huskies made a run in the third and managed to outscore the Kats 18-13. The Kats still led 60-52 going into the fourth. The fourth was a dead heat in scoring; however, way too many reaching fouls and traveling calls throughout the game doomed the Huskies. The Kats were 27-34 from the free throw line, while the Huskies were 8-11. In the end, it was Kokomo 75 Haworth 66.
The Kats would now match up against the Western Panthers in the sectional championship. In what only can be described as a ho-hum sort of boring game, the Kats took charge early, built a lead, and maintained that lead throughout the game for a 72-49 win. The Kats were sectional champions again.
Going to the Wigwam
The Regional had been in Kokomo since the 1949-50 season. Now it had been moved to the Anderson Wigwam (anyone remember the Indian Dance?).
The Kats would face the Anderson Madison Heights Pirates led by future IU 1976 National Champions star Bobby Wilkerson. On paper, that match up was even or so it seemed. That afternoon the Kats ran into an aggressive zone defense and a physically stronger Pirate club. To add to the problems, the Kats’ shooting was in the deep freeze in the first period, hitting just three of 13 field goals.
Still the Kats only trailed 20-15 at the end of the first. Midway in the second quarter the Kats fell behind 30-17. This could be bad. Then the Kats rallied to trail 35-30 at the half. In the third both sides played almost to a standstill, but the Kats won the quarter 12-8 and managed to close the lead to just three points going into the fourth 43-40. Both teams exchanged buckets and misses in the fourth.
Brad McNulty shagged a free throw with a minute left to cut the lead to 55-53. The Kats would not get any closer. It seemed as if the Kats just could not get that one big play to get in stride. In the end it was Anderson Madison Heights getting more offense rebounds and the Kats committing to many (17) turnovers
Final Score Anderson Madison Heights 61 Kokomo 55
The 1970-’71 Kokomo Wildkats had a great year. With the toughest schedule in the state, the Kats posted a very respectable 16-8 record and won the North Central Conference Championship. These accomplishments give testimony to Coach Carl McNulty’s coaching abilities. As far as the East Chicago Washington loss goes, only 28 other teams besides Kokomo can say they stepped onto the floor against the best high school basketball team in history. And the Kats did get a little payback the next year, thumping ECW 70-55 much to the delight of Kat fans, not only at the Memorial gymnasium but also all over Kokomo
The 1970-’71 Kokomo Wildkats were just the beginning of many fond memories for fans of Kokomo Wildkat basketball in the 1970s, especially my memories of a young boy who saved his paper route money to buy a radio just to listen to the Kokomo Wildkats. That young boy was me.