Lindbergh High School and MHS line up at half-court in the historic Hoosier Gym in Knightstown, Indiana, before tip-off on Saturday, Feb. 3. MHS went on to take a 58-40 victory.
Lindbergh High School and MHS line up at half-court in the historic Hoosier Gym in Knightstown, Indiana, before tip-off on Saturday, Feb. 3. MHS went on to take a 58-40 victory.
Media by Kerry Haas

Girls Basketball Wins at 1986 ‘Hoosiers’ Movie Set

 

The 1986 film “Hoosiers” recreates Milan High School basketball’s improbable win in the Indiana State Championship in 1954 under a newly hired but highly criticized coach Norman Dale, played by Academy-winning Gene Hackman. 

On Friday, Feb. 2, a school bus transported the varsity girls and boys basketball teams to the historic town for an overnight stay. The five-hour bus ride was full of singing and laughing. The weekend included a trip to the Knightstown Museum, showcasing decades of high school and college basketball excellence, and a neutral game against Lindbergh High School in the “Hoosiers” movie set. 

It’s been four years since the program last made this trip. 

The Hoosier Gym in Knightstown, Indiana, was the movie set for 1986 sports drama “Hoosiers.” (Media by Madelyn Haas)

The boys’ booster club runs annual Show-Me-Dough fundraisers and raffles to allocate funds for experiences like this. On top of hotel and transportation expenses, renting the famous gym runs at $100 per hour. It’s a popular location for local and distant teams, commonly hosting 60-70 games every winter.

Kieran Burnett, senior, was excited the booster club brought the trip back for his final season, even though the boys fell short to Lindbergh 47-61.

“Just being in the gym that they filmed the movie in is pretty cool,” Burnett said. 

Bouncing off of a competitive Nixa tournament, a second weekend on the road means nothing but fun for Burnett. 

“It was just a good experience,” Burnett said. “Even though we didn’t get the results we wanted.”

Knightstown was declared a historic district shortly after filmmaking began. The Hoosier Gym remains virtually unchanged from the 80s. The court is shorter in length than typical and team benches are placed beneath the hoops instead of along the sidelines. 

Artifacts and relics such as the Hickory Husker Bus, Hoosier varsity jackets and old Hickory High set props are put on display inside and outside the gym. 

The town is fully immersed in “Hoosiers” history. 

I think it’s really cool just to know more about the background behind the sport and what’s possible for teams, like the Hoosiers team.

— Sydney Bode

Sydney Bode, junior, said the atmosphere was different. She said the team wasn’t going to travel this far just to lose on such a historic stage. The team stayed focused while still having fun. 

“Coach Bowdern made it clear when we got in the locker room, we were to be focused on basketball,” Bode said. “When it was time to warm up, we warmed up, and when it was time to play, everyone played their best, and we got the results we wanted.”

The girls walked away with a 58-40 victory over Lindbergh with help from senior Jessica Aldenderfer’s 7 rebounds and junior Macie McNese’s 17 points. 

The Historic Knightstown Museum showcases uniforms used in “Hoosiers.” (Media by Kerry Haas)

“I think it’s really cool just to know more about the background behind the sport and what’s possible for teams, like the Hoosiers team,” Bode said.

Timothy Bowdern, head girls’ basketball coach, sat the team down in a classroom after practice in early January, typical for watching film and designing plays in preparation for the next game. But, this time, the focus was on “Hoosiers.”

Bowdern brought in former athletic director Shane Matzen to properly shed light on the cultural significance of the 1986 sports drama.

“Matzen knows a lot about the history, like he’s interviewed some of the actual people who were a part of that back in the day,” Bowdern said. 

Tens of thousands of fans filled the stands for Indiana high school state title games.

“Every two to three years, we try to do a trip or something like that. So that way every senior gets to do something really cool, and this is one of those things,” Bowdern said. “I think anytime you can get [the team] together outside of basketball, that means a lot.”

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