State Basketball -- Teutopolis Girls Champions in 1985-86


Published on December 10 2020 10:25 am
Last Updated on December 11 2020 2:51 pm
Written by Millie Lange

Members of the Teutopolis team are, first row, left to right, Manager Lori Krone, Manager Cindy Wesendorf and manager Lynn Schumacher. Back row, left to right, Sandy Braun, Angie Ruholl, Beth Niebrugge, Kim Bloemer, Gina Beckman, Lisa Schumacher, Assistant Coach Teri Schutzbach, Head Coach Dennis Koester, Donna Niebrugge, Laurie Holman, Cindy Thoele, Doris Carie, Mary Jo Worman and Connie Ruholl.

Two years running, the Teutopolis High School girls basketball team finished second at the Class A State Tournament in Champaign. When they headed back to state during the 1985-86 season, there was no doubt in the minds of the players how they were going to end this year.

“Of course we had one thing on our minds and that was the state championship,” said Sandy (Braun) Michels. “We had a lot to prove and we planned on doing it.”

“We were determined to win it all,” said Doris (Carie) Zerrusen.

“As a player, I did not feel the pressure, I saw it as an opportunity to prove to our fans that we could win the state championship,” said Beth (Niebrugge) Hartke. “It was a motivational factor for me, to be a better player, and give each game 110% of my ability and effort.”

Under the leadership of Coach Dennis Koester, the Wooden Shoes played for the Class A State title in 1983-84 and lost to Quincy Notre Dame 56-53 in overtime and then took second again with a 48-46 loss in 1984-85 to Elgin St. Edward.

The Shoes were knocking on the door and by now were seasoned veterans on the University of Illinois Assembly Hall floor.

“That most definitely helped us and gave us an advantage,” said Hartke. “I felt like we were not nervous or scared. The first time you play on this court, it feels so huge, overwhelming and there is so much open space that it can throw off your shooting at first. Fans are further away as well. It’s like you have to get acclimated to the court. By our senior year, I think we had all the nerves and uncertainties behind us and could concentrate on just playing our style of ball.

“Coach Koester was a great coach. There is no doubt he worked us hard and challenged us every day in practice to work harder and be a better team. As a team we accepted this challenge, because more than anything we wanted to make a return trip to State. He knew we were a good team. He respected us and we respected him.”

“Of course that played a big part of our success,” said Michels. “We were experienced in playing in that type of atmosphere. A few of us were a part of the varsity teams that participated in all four state runs. We knew what was going on and we knew what we had to do to get the job done.”

“Yes, having played there prior did help tremendously,” said Zerrusen. “We were not as nervous and we were familiar with the surroundings.”

Other members of the 1986 team were Gina Beckman, Kim Bloemer, Laurie (Holman) Thompson, now the head coach of the T-town girls squad, Donna Niebrugge, Angie Ruholl, Connie Ruholl, Lisa Schumacher, Cindy Thoele and Mary Jo Worman. Managers were Lori Krone, Cindy Westendorf and Lynn Schumacher. The assistant coach was Teri Schutzbach.

The three players talked about their squad.

“Beth was a player who got the job done,” said Zerrusen. “She did not always score a lot of points but she always had 8-10 points a game. She was a consistent player that could rebound and play defense that was needed on the court to win.

“Lisa Schumacher was the best role player on the team. She listened well to instructions in every game. For example, she was told to set picks for me when we played East St. Louis. She did an awesome job and we won the game.

“Sandy, at 6-foot-2, was our presence in the middle, our shot blocker, rebounder and had a great left drop step to the basket.

“Gina Zerrusen was the point guard on the team and our only junior starter. She was not flashy but she knew what to do during the game.

“I could say I was the leader most of the time during the season but I would not be a leader if I did not have a team. As I look back on the senior basketball season, I realize what it takes to make a team. Coach Koester had to teach us to play together, we knew the fundamentals. He taught me how to be a team player and how you are nothing without four other players on the court. Thank you Coach Koester. He always kept me grounded.”

“Doris, Sandy and myself were the team leaders,” said Hartke. “We had the most experience at the varsity level and in post-season play in prior years.

“Doris was our leading scorer. When we needed a basket, we knew we could rely on her. She took the ball up the court and was good at it, handled pressure well.

“Sandy’s height and wingspan was such an asset for the team. She led in blocked shots and really could fill up the paint on defense with her long arms.

“I was the leader in rebounds and steals. Defense was my strong suit, but at the same time, I could get points from that and was the second leading scorer.

“Lisa Schumacher was the fourth senior on the team and a consistent starter. She always worked hard and did whatever Coach Koester asked of her. She was helping make the plays, setting screens when we needed them and helped get the ball up the court when we were pressed fullcourt.

“Gina Beckman was always there with an assist and helped get the ball up the court when the opposing team would press us. We also had Laurie Holman Thompson and Cindy Thoele Frierdich, come off the bench and put in some valuable minutes.”

The Wooden Shoes suffered only one loss during the regular season and that was to Centralia, a Class AA team. The loss came in the second game of the season and Michels was out with an injury.

“We lost to Centralia early, early in the season,” said Michels. “I did not play that game because I had a broken hand playing a silly game of mercy.”
As with most teams, there are superstitions among the players and the coach.

“I always took my 'boom box' on the bus to listen to music,” said Zerrusen. “Coach Koester was so superstitious, he wore the same shirt and tie throughout the post-game season.”

“Back then everyone had Walkman’s with headphones and we would listen to our cassettes,” said Hartke. “We always had to listen to certain singers such asBilly Ocean (one of Doris’ favorites at the time), Madonna and the Pointer Sisters.

“Coach Koester was very superstitious. When we came out on the floor we always had to come out in the same order each time. I was first and I remember at State, he made us stop and get lined up correctly.

“We also had this little dance we would do in the tunnel at the Assembly Hall. We were all lined up and would do something similar to the locomotion. After we did it once, Koester wanted us to do that every time. It was fun at the time and just got us pumped up right before the game.

“We had a student/teacher/coach our senior year. Her name was Ms. Diane Leighty. She was a lot of fun and gave us a lot of pep talks and was sort of the cheerleader for our team. In the hotel at State, after games, she would bring us out into the hallway and we would play games that I think she just made up, but it would bring us together as a team, make us work together and energize us and get us excited for the next game.

“I do remember being in the U of I locker room before the game and how cool we thought it was to be in one of the locker rooms that belonged to the men’s Illini team. We were using lockers that belonged to the likes of Efrem Winters, Bruce Douglas and Ken Norman.”

The Shoes won the super-sectional that year over Tolono Unity, 54-28, then downed Piper City Ford Central 57-49 in the quarterfinal. In the semi-final, the Shoes beat Pittsfield 55-43. Then came the championship game against Metropolis Massac County and the Shoes won 59-44.

“We started out slow,” said Zerrusen. “We had trouble scoring and Massac stayed in the game. We got over our jitters and started clicking. We were determined to win and we did.”

Zerrusen led the team with 20 points while Hartke finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds and Michels with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

“I still can remember a lot of that game,” said Hartke. “I felt like we were so ready to play. Koester had prepared us all year for this moment and there was no letting him down or our fans. We were playing to win.

“Sometimes Koester would tell us we were playing not to lose but not this game. We played as a team. We had good scoring between Doris, Sandy and me.

They had three girls over six foot including Candi Sandusky. Koester had us play a box-in-one and he stuck me on their leading scorer, Sandusky. I kept her to four points.

“I remember Coach Crawford (T-town’s boys coach at that time) being at the game and he was sitting by himself in the seats near the basket. On a dead ball at the beginning of the game, I looked up and he gave me this fist pump and he said, “you got this”. That was a good feeling knowing he believed in us. He and Coach Koester were such good friends and really supported each other and the teams.

“After we had won and accepted the trophy, we brought the trophy over to our parents and fans. It was such a neat feeling to share this with them and have them all swarm around us and show us their support and excitement. I think all of T-town was there. I remember people saying that we broke the record for attendance at a girls’ state championship game.

“I can remember neighbor kids bringing over flowers after we won and one of my dad’s customers made us a cake shaped like a basketball. How awesome is that to have a town support you the way they did 35 years ago and still do the same today? That is what makes T-town sports so special.” 

“The thing that I remember today about that game is that after it was over, I was interviewed by the TV station and I was so excited and overwhelmed with the win, that I sounded like a total airhead on TV,” said Michels. “I sat down with my kids and watched it a few years ago and they had a good laugh at my expense. Pretty sure that Bob Zerrusen might have this same memory, ha, ha.”

Michels and Zerrusen still hold several records for the Illinois High School Association.

Zerrusen is tied for most field goals made in her tournament career with 92 from 1983-86. She has the most field goals made in a title game vs. Quincy Notre Dame in 1984 which is 16. She has most field goals attempted in her tournament career with 210 from 1983-86, most field goals attempted during a tournament in 1985 with 69, most field goals attempted in a game with 34 and most field goals attempted in a title game where she is tied with 28. Zerrusen was also named to the All-Tournament Team.

Michels holds most blocked shots in a title game in 1986 with eight.

Of course, as most basketball fans remember, the T-town boys squad also claimed the Class A State championship that year. Watch for Coach Ken Crawford’s memories of that year on the website in the next week or two.

“Coach Koester felt the pressure and took everything so personally and just wanted to prove to everyone that he had what it took to lead a team to a state championship victory,” said Hartke.

Koester proved that many times over with five state championships, four second place finishes and one third place. His teams captured 23 regional titles over 24 years along with 16 sectional championships. He took 13 teams to state and finished his career with 652 victories and only 88 losses.