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Panthers regional champion teams reunited

Corydon Central High School’s boys basketball team has celebrated two regional titles in its long history: 1961 and 2001. On Saturday night at the gymnasium here, members from both squads reunited for a brief celebration between the JV and varsity contests between the Panthers and New Albany and later ate cake, drank soft drinks and talked hoops in the school cafeteria.
From the 1961 squad, which went 20-5 and lost to Jasper in the Evansville Semi-state, nearly the entire team was on hand for the get-together. Spencer Noe, John Love, Vincent Shuck, Frank Wiseman, Ronnie Reed, Buck Backherms, Jim Boley and Tom Preston were joined by Elizabeth Cato, widow of Coach Ralph Cato, student manager Jack Chambers, former principal Ed Schneider, assistant coach Gordon Pendleton, and one of the five original cheerleaders, Lynda Fleace Knear. Chris Frederick represented his father, Mick Frederick, who was unable to attend because of illness. The only former players not able to attend were Mike Akers and Richard Crosier. Meryl Noe, a junior on that ball club, is deceased.
The other four cheerleaders for the 1961 team, Sue Smith Riddle, Charlene Russel Mann, Judy Engleman Mason and Carol Miller Ray, were unable to make the engagement as well.
From the 2001 clan, which finished 17-7, won the Mid-Southern Conference with an undefeated 8-0 mark and lost to Indianapolis Brebeuf in the Class 3A Washington Semi-state, every player took to the court and was acknowledged. All but one of the cheerleaders from that bunch was recognized.
“I thought it was very nice,” Cato said of the reunion. “One thing about basketball is that no matter how old or young you are, it ties everyone together.”
There were differing opinions on which team would come out on top if they were able to square off against each other. The youngsters were at a disadvantage to comment because they weren’t able to see their elders play.
“I don’t think we could have played with those guys. They are all so big,” said Boley, whose nickname was ‘Noodle’ in his playing days. “We had a couple of big guys, but nothing like they had.”
Teammate Wiseman playfully disagreed.
“I think we would hold our own. We didn’t have a three-point line back in those days, but with my range and some other guys’ range, we’d have been right there, I think. It’s definitely a different pace, but not in the way you might think. In either era, I think we would have won.”
Chambers, who said Wiseman never met a shot he didn’t like, was torn between the two choices: “It would have been a good game. That’s all I’ll say. Last year’s team had some big guys, a lot bigger than I imagined. They play hard just like the ’61 team, too.”
Here’s a rundown of “where they are now” for the team of 2001 and 1961.
Josh Conrad — Scored 13 points in the 2001 regional win at Greensburg and is now studying secondary eduation at Indiana University Southeast.
Clint Crosier — Crosier was an enforcer on the 2001 squad and laid some vicious picks and contributed strong rebounding. He is at Purdue University, majoring in aviation.
Wes Herndon — Tossed in 15 points in the regional win and now attends Vincennes University where he is studying architecture.
Chris Kruer — A valuable reserve member of the 2001 squad. He is attending the University of Louisville.
Kevin LaHue — Scored 13 points in the regional. He attends I.U.S. and his major is undecided at this time.
Nathan Rainbolt — Scored a team-high 24 points and ruled the boards in the regional victory. He attends the University of Louisville and his major is undecided.
Members of the 2001 team who are still part of the 2002 roster are: Quentin Combs, who scored eight points in the regional victory; Jeff Conrad, Nevin Dunaway, Michael Emily, Zach Engleman, Craig Keinsley, Josh Pruett and Kyle Savely.
Other individual players from the 2001 team are Dustin Crawhorn and Todd Tyree.
Managers are Chase Best, Chris Boggs, Daniel Emily and Natalie Emily.
Returning members of the coaching staff are Neil McClure, Jerry Conrad and head coach Randy Gianfagna. The principal is Wayne Apple.
Cheerleaders for the 2001 season were: Danielle Thatcher (graduated, attends IUS), Nichole Rhoads (graduated), Allison Kesler, Meghan Edwards, Kate White, Hyla Kitterman, Sarah Jones, Kim Spieth, Amanda Miller and Elizabeth Tuell. The squad is coached by Angie Miller.
From the 1961 Jeffersonville Regional championship team:
Principal Ed Schneider — Schneider was a basketball coach at New Middletown High School and superintendent of the South Harrison Community School Corp. from 1964 to 1984. He is now retired and living in Corydon.
Gordon Pendleton — Pendleton was the junior varsity coach and varsity assistant. His 1961 JV team (the Corydon Cubs) had a perfect 18-0 record. Pendleton was partially responsible for introducing a faster-paced brand of basketball to the Panthers’ offensive scheme. He has been associated with the savings and loan and banking business for many years after leaving the teaching profession. He resides in Corydon.
Elizabeth Cato — She represented her late husband, head coach Ralph Cato, who passed away in 1988. Cato coached the Panthers for six years and compiled a record of 100 wins and 40 losses. His teams won three sectionals, a Mid-Southeastern Conference championship and the 1961 regional. Mrs. Cato is a former Corydon Central High School secretary to the principal. She is retired and lives in Corydon.
Lynda Fleace Knear — A cheerleader for the 1961 club, Knear lives in Clarksville and works at the Census Bureau. She has five children.
Jim Boley — Boley was a sophomore starter on the ’61 team. He was selected to the all-regional team after scoring 30 points in the two regional games. He lives in Grenada, Miss., where he manages a distribution center.
Buck Backherms — Backherms was a terrific free throw shooter and valuable junior reserve for the Panthers. He lives in Salem and is a detective with the Washington County Sheriff’s Dept.
John Love — Love was an excellent ball handling junior guard and playmaker. He is part-owner and business manager of the Independent Distributing Company in Corydon, where he lives.
Ronnie Reed — Reed was a 6-3 rugged junior rebounder on the ’61 team. He lives in Floyd Knobs and works for the National Parks Service.
Mike Akers — Akers, a senior on the ’61 team, lives in Florida.
Richard Crosier — Crosier was a key substitute senior guard for the Panthers. He lives in Corydon.
Mick Frederick — A senior member of the Panthers, Frederick was also a member of the all-regional team and was the leading scorer for the Panthers with 34 points in the two regional victories. He coached JV basketball at CCHS before going into banking here. He lives in Corydon.
Spencer Noe — “Spence” was a 6-4 senior center selected to the all-regional team. He scored 21 points and led the Panthers in rebounding in regional victories over Seymour and Silver Creek. Spencer is a lawyer and lives in Lexington, Ky.
Tom Preston — Preston was a senior sixth-man on the regional squad. He is now athletic director for Corydon Central and lives in Corydon.
Vincent Shuck — Shuck was a senior forward and ball-handler off the Panthers’ bench. He is a dentist and resides in Chicago.
Frank Wiseman — “Frankie” was a starting senior forward for the ’61 club and would have been an excellent 3-point shooter had there been a 3-point line in 1961. Wiseman is a financial representative with Prudential Insurance and lives in Corydon.
Jack Chambers — Chambers was the lone manager who did the work of three managers. One of his untold chores was to try to keep everyone out of trouble with Coach Cato. Chambers resides in Corydon.
Cheerleaders who were unable to attend and where they currently live were: Sue Smith Riddle (Corydon), Charlene Russel Mann (Arizona), Judy Engleman Mason (Florida) and Carole Miller Ray (Winston-Salem, N.C.).