By Mark Schnabel
The 1965-66 Newton High School boys' basketball season was an intriguing one for the Railers.
The team tied with Hutchinson for the Ark Valley League title, snapping a 34-game winning streak for the Salt Hawks along the way. The team also won the Newton Invitational title that year. At one point, Newton won 16 straight games. The team also saw a 25-point halftime lead against Manhattan evaporate in a 71-64 overtime loss in the Class AA regional finals, which would have meant a trip to state.
The loss to Manhattan broke the Railers' string of sixes — state titles in 1916, 1926, 1936, 1946 and 1956. Newton wouldn't win another basketball title until 1979.
Members of the 65-66 team, along with coach Ken Schlup met for a mini reunion Friday at First Bank of Newton to remember that season, along with reflections on Newton basketball in general.
Team members included Les Tolbert, Ben Martinez, Frank Stucky, Jim Farrow, Mario Garcia, John Smith, Tom Washburn, Stan Brodhagen, Tim Preheim, David Morton, Richard Hanke, Allen Jantz and Debbis McCreary.
"Those were really good days," Schlup said. "I had a lot of good people playing for me. ... There was a lot of talent on that team, but realized it at the time. Brodhagen, Garcia and Hanke did their thing. They were big, strong, aggressive people. Our guards — Preheim and Benny Martinez — they didn't have any experience at all, but they were savvy, quick and fast. That's what that team needed."
Garcia and Brodhagen were both first-team All-AVL picks that season. Hanke was a second-team pick and Martinez was an honorable mention. Garcia also was an all-state selection.
Garcia won the AVL scoring title that year, while Brodhagen was third. Hanke was fifth and led the league in rebounds.
Schlup said an early-season, triple-overtime loss to Hutchinson was the turning point.
"We went up to Hutch after they beat us at Lindley Hall in three overtimes," Schlup said. "Brodhagen got two fouls in the first two minutes. I couldn't get the officials to tell me what he did. We went to Hutchinson, the game was going back-and-forth until Mario hit two long ones — they were real long ones. Hutchinson just folded after that."
"Anytime we beat Hutch, it was good," Garcia said.
"And the arena was full," added Brodhagen. "There were 3,000 Newton fans at that game."
Contact lenses were first coming into vogue in the 1960s, and Schlup said it was a pair of contacts that may have cost the Railers the game against Manhattan.
"A contact lens caused a time out and delayed the game for a good 15, 20 minutes," Schlup said. "They would not let the players come to the bench. When play resumed, we came out flat. I should have — right there and then — told Martinez and Preheim to meet them at mid-court. Don't let them do what they wanted to do. Instead, we let them come across mid-court and do what they wanted to do."
"It was the official's fault," Garcia said. "That kid should have been substituted for. A time out should have been called and substituted for, just like an injury."
Schlup said the atmosphere for basketball was different in those days.
"The band was there in full uniform for every game," he said. "There were usherettes in full uniforms to usher people to their seats. It was just a grand production. (People dressed) like they had just left church when they come to a basketball game."
Schlup was a former Newton player under legendary coach John Ravenscroft, who later returned to coach.
"He was the type, who would never have to tell you anything twice," Schlup said. "In my first practice under him, he handed me a rubber ball — not a leather ball, a rubber ball. About 10 feet from the wall, he tells me, 'I want you to shoot this ball up against the wall, so when it hits the wall, it comes right back to you. I'm going to make a guard out of you.' I played under the basket all my junior high days. And you'd best not make mistakes. Wichita North came down here, the first game I ever started. The tip came down to me. I threw it down the court. I threw it out of bounds. Before I could turn around, someone came down and scored. I didn't get back in the game."
Most of those in attendance agreed the end of the Newton dynasty came in the late 60s, and it was due to a mix of internal politics by the Newton administration, along with kids starting to have interests in different sports, along with other activities and just wanting to "hang out."
"It's not that there wasn't talent walking around Newton High School," Brodhagen said. "It was if you could get them motivated to play basketball. Johnny's (a local restaurant) was starting to come in. People were into cars and other things."
"I told one of my players the night before a game, you cannot leave school on game night and stand around on the sidewalk for two hours," Schlup said. "He twisted that around, 'coach said he doesn't want us to go to Johnny's any more.' (The restaurant owner) called the superintendent and asked me why I was doing this."