State Basketball -- EHS Second In 1979-80


Published on November 13 2020 8:02 am
Last Updated on November 17 2020 1:24 pm
Written by Millie Lange

Forty years ago, Effingham High School played in the championship game of the Class AA State Boys Basketball Tournament at the University of Illinois.

 It was the second of three times in the school's history that the Hearts would reach the State Tournament, all three times under the leadership of Coach Jim Maxedon.

The first time was in 1967-68 and the Hearts lost their opener to Galesburg. This time around, EHS defeated Chicago DeLaSalle 68-56 in the super-sectional then beat Aurora West Aurora 55-43 to move into the championship game against Chicago Manley.

Did Coach Maxedon think his team would be competing for a State title that year?

"I definitely knew they were going to be very good," said the 84-year-old. "The big thing was going to be to get everybody to play together. There was definitely a lot of talent there, but you need a pecking order and we hadn't established one yet.

"Sometimes it doesn't ever work. This team just had a lot of talent. Over the years at EHS I had a lot of good teams but this one was the one with the most talent.

"They were all good ballplayers, and I still get a message from them once in a while on the internet. Dale Grupe was a fine ballplayer and I think he has gone on and coached a girls team. Dallas Orsborn was kind of the bulldog in the group. He was really a tough kid and gave it everything he had.

"Uwe Blab had gotten there that year and that was the real mixup because it was hard for the other players. The Decatur paper even made it worse, all they wanted to do was talk about him and he wasn't the best on the team. He was a good defensive player and he came along as far as offense is concerned.

"Steve Bushue was a great point guard and he ended up being the sixth man which he didn't like. When he went in the game, he really mixed things up because he would change things when we used him. Brad Neet was another good ballplayer who played guard and he was definitely an advantage to the team.

"The best ballplayer on the team was Mitch Arnold. He seemed to always come through in the clutch. He was just a great player and he went ahead and played at Fresno State and did a great job."

The Hearts finished that season with 30 victories and only two losses. The first loss came in the Salem Tournament against Cahokia by a 65-64 count.

"They just shot a tremendous percentage," said Maxedon. "I wish we had gone undefeated. And, of course, the second loss was to Chicago Manley in the finals of the State Tournament."

The Hearts dropped a 69-61 loss in the title contest.

Maxedon coached the Hearts for 24 years and finished with a .704 win percentage picking up 468 victories and suffering 193 losses. The 1980-81 team came back the next year to the State Tournament but fell in the opening game.

Now the former Hearts coach lives in Naples Florida.

"I play golf and we have a lot of friends here," said Maxedon. "I have a roommate, Marilyn Briscoe. My wife Barb died of cancer in 2011 and she told me, 'You're going to find somebody else when I'm gone.' That was not a good period in my life. 

"I have my daughter Shelley (Lavender) who is the president of Boeing Military Aircraft and I have my granddaughter Taylor and grandson Mitchell. My granddaughter is going to the University of Indiana and she graduated from Washington University with a degree in biomedical engineering. She's going to school to be a patent engineer. I'm so proud of my family."

"It's been hard in a lot of ways but life goes on. I have a room that's my office in my home and I have photos of the teams and of my kids and plaques I've gotten over the years."

Maxedon talked about his years coaching. 

"There was one year we had to win the sectional to get to .500 and we got to the finals of the sectional. You have to have good players. I always thought we had a lot of talented players.

"I also have to give my assistant coaches credit, Dan Hine, Wayne Rubach, Glen Temple, Bob Lowrance and Monty Nohren, they were all good coaches.

"A lot of people didn't think I coached the right way. We did some things a little different but it was good for me and for the players. My high school coach Bob Buchanan was a big influence in my life and John Middlesworth coached at Stew-Stras and had a lot of success and then went to Shelbyville. I was his assistant for three years.

"There were a lot of people you'd like to thank and you didn't at the time but when you get old, you think about these people. You wish you had remembered to thank them and I think I did but now you'd like to say thanks for what they did. My math teacher, when I was a kid, would put me under the teacher's desk and if I made any noise he'd kick me. But he straightened me out a little bit.

"I went up for the 20th anniversary and there were a lot of kids there on that team and the 1981 team. We were at the Holiday Inn and it closed but Chuck Keller said we could keep it open as long as we wanted and it was the wee hours of the morning.

"I've had a lot of good people play for me. Tom Fish is one of the better ballplayers I ever coached and I stay in touch with him. He took care of the funeral arrangements for my wife and whenever I leave this world, he's going to take care of mine.

"I have enjoyed being a coach and have great memories and that's what life is all about."