State Basketball -- St. Anthony Fourth In 1977-78


Published on November 20 2020 7:40 am
Last Updated on March 26 2021 7:13 am
Written by Millie Lange


Returning lettermen for the 1978-79 team from the 1977-78 Effingham St. Anthony High School basketball team that went to State were, front row, left to right, Scott Kabbes, Rick Capezzuto, Tom Dial and Coach Bob Tingley. Back row, left to right,, Steve Wente, Mark Hoffman, Russ Baker and Ken Polarek. (Decatur Herald & Review file photo)

For eight years from 1968-69 to 1975-76, Effingham St. Anthony High School had put together 20 win seasons seven times and missed by one victory in 1971-72. Not bad and for three of those seasons, Bob Tingley led the Bulldogs.

Then came 1976-77. Although the Bulldogs had a winning season, they finished with a 14-11 record, it was their worst record since 1951-52. So, did Coach Tingley and his players have any idea what the next school year, 1977-78, would bring?

"I thought we'd be good but I'm not sure anybody thought we'd get as far as we did," said Tingley.

How far was that? Well, 42 years ago, St. Anthony was a member of the Sweet 16 and then the Elite Eight before finishing fourth in the Class 1A State Tournament at the Assembly Hall in Champaign.

"There were circumstances during 1976-77 for that team," said Tingley. "Tom Grunloh suffered a broken arm and severed a nerve at the start of that year and didn't play as well at the end of the season. That impacted us."

But the next season, Grunloh was healthy again and a senior along with Charlie Dust, Joe Stephens and Chris Huelsbusch.

"We weren't a senior-laden team but those four guys gave us stability day in and day out," said Tingley. "Tom and Charlie both played a lot at 6-foot-5, 6-foot-6. Joe Stephens actually moved into the starting lineup at tournament time and played a wing. He contributed defensively remarkably well during the tournament run. Chris came in off the bench and I started him in a couple of games. He gave us valuable minutes."

The Bulldogs weren't a run and gun team.

"I think we were pretty much traditional," said Tingley. "We liked to run if we had the opportunity. We had some size down below."

Point guard for the squad was Scott Kabbes, a junior.

"From a team aspect you look at the point guard to be a team leader," said Tingley. "They're in charge of setting the offense up. Mark Hoffman, Rick Capezzuto, Todd Kabbes, Kenny Polarek, Steve Wente, Russ Baker and Tom Dial rounded out the team. I can echo Coach Rincker's comments, they were an intregral part of the team. Attitude-wise they came to practice day in and day out and contributed to our run."

Coach Tingley had some talented teams during his six years as head of the Bulldogs.

"The 1973-74 team went 22-3 and they were extremely talented," said Tingley. "We won the Effingham Tournament probably each game by 20-plus points. We beat Chicago Crane in January and Crane had two players, James Jackson who went to the University of Minnesota to play and Andre Wakefield who went to Loyola and played. Those two both made player of the week for Sports Illustrated during their college years.

"We won the NTC Tournament. We headed to the regional and were No. 1 and we get a bye. Then we play T-town and we get beat by one point. There were a lot of great kids on that team.

"The 1974-75 team went 21-6 and they were just a good, solid team. We had a good program going and had some good hard-nosed players."

The 1977-78 Bulldogs went through regional play by beating Flora in the first game and Dieterich in the second. Then it was Teutopolis for the regional championship.

"You have to be healthy and you need some luck on the tournament trail," said Tingley. "If you stay in coaching long enough, you'll have it on both sides. We had luck, winning our first game by one point. We get to Teutopolis and they've pounded us by 20 twice.

"So, here's what the school did and the cheerleaders and everybody did an exceptional job. From 8 a.m. on the day we were supposed to play Teutopolis, nobody said a word at school unless they were asked by teachers to respond. Even to the point they entered the gym that evening, nobody said a word right up until the opening tip-off. Then the roof actually came off the gym and that helped us get out to a 20-4 lead and we hung on. If it had been two minutes longer, we probably couldn't have made it."

Then it was sectionals.

"Lawrenceville was very, very good," continued Tingley. "We beat them in the first game and again withstood a last second shot to win by a point. We then beat Carmi in the finals by four or five points."

The super-sectional was at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston against Lebanon.

"The ironic thing we got snowed out Tuesday, then Wednesday, so we had to play Thursday afternoon and we won that game in double overtime, 76-69. Since it was a Thursday afternoon game, the security wasn't nomally what it would be. Once the game ended one of the officials got hit by a Lebanon fan and broke his nose. I literally carred him off the floor and had blood on my tie helping him.

"There were a lot of unique things about that game. At the end of the first overitme, Lebnaon was ahead by two points with five seconds and they were at the free throw line with a one-and-one. They missed and we got the rebound and we tried to get the ball to Scott and he's fouled with five seconds to go. He's at the line with a one-and-one and he misses. Same scenario as Lebanon but the second time he goes to the line, he makes them both and we go into the second overtime and end up winning."

From there, the Bulldogs had to rush to get up to the State Tournament to play on Friday against Dakota, beating them 59-57.That put them into the Elite Eight where they met Havana on Saturday and then had to face New Lenox Providence Catholic, playing four games in three days.

"We were getting tired, particularly Scott who was handling the ball," said Tingley. "I don't think our shots were as effective so Havana beats us, 69-56.

"Then we go into the evening game, playing for third and we face New Lenox Providence Catholic. They had Walter Downing, who later played at Marquette and Barney Mines, who later played at Bradley. They ended up winning 52-47 and we finished fourth.

"The ironic thing about those two teams we played, Havana and Providence, they played the following year for the state championship and Providence won it."

The Bulldogs finished the season with a 21-11 record.

"We just came together at the end of the season," said Tingley. "We were making shots better and our timing got better as the tournament trail progessed. We might have underachieved at the beginning of the year and overachieved at the end. But we got pretty good and it was amazing in two weeks how much we improved. We just got really, really good and finished out strong and that's what you like to see."