Marshfield honors 1961 Madras boys basketball team
Many Madras boys basketball teams over the years are held in high regard, but only one can boast bringing home the first state championship in program history.
That title falls on the 1961 team from MHS, a season that came on the heels of two other appearances at the A-2 tournament, in 1954 and 1957, respectively.
Last weekend at the 3A State Basketball Tournament in Coos Bay at Marshfield High — where the '61 squad claimed the title — members of the team were on hand to be recognized for their championship season.
According to tournament organizer Stacy Farm, Marshfield began a tradition eight years ago to invite a boys and girls state-championship team to be recognized at the tournament. This year, the 1961 Madras team happened to be one of them, alongside the 1978 Myrtle Creek team.
At halftime of the 3A boys championship game on Saturday, March 4, between De La Salle North Catholic and Dayton, the former Madras players were introduced in a lineup as if they were playing a game — their name, number, height and position mentioned as they walked out onto the court.
Among the White Buffalos in attendance were head coach Ole Johnson, Gerry Galbraith, Gregg Macy, Alan Stewart, Tom Clark, Joe Piedmont, Phil Stevenson, Dennis Miller, the team's manager, and two Madras cheerleaders, Patti Miller and Barbara Grant.
Phil Fields, Charles Hill, Fred Steele, Dennis Tingle and Ron Tollie were unable to make the trip. Gary Moe and Vernon Tanawasha have passed away.
For those who made the trip to Coos Bay, it was the first time they had all been together in one place since their playing days in Madras.
During the weekend, many stories were shared of the team, such as Johnson's idea to schedule an exhibition game with Bend, which was ultimately the Buffs' only loss of the season, by a 78-68 deficit — an outcome that Johnson wished for.
"They had a pretty good team, and he was hoping they would beat us, just to get us ready for the tournament," said Macy, who, along with Piedmont, earned both all-state and all-tournament honors during the 1960-61 season.
That loss to Bend in many ways did prepare Madras for the state tournament. After surviving a close game to Henley, and beating Sherwood, the Buffs faced Coquille in the championship game.
Although Macy remembers having a bad game, plagued by foul trouble and a sore neck, Piedmont, the team's center, carried much of the scoring load, as did Moe. The Buffs won 63-51 in what was ultimately Johnson's last game as Madras head coach.
He accepted a job shortly after the season to coach and teach at Wilson High in Portland. But still to this day, Johnson organizes lunch gatherings in Portland for members of his Madras teams over his 10-year tenure.
Though the '54 and '57 teams can claim certain program milestones, the '61 group has bragging rights the others don't.
The '54 team was the classic underdog story — a 14-8 team that came out of nowhere and took sixth at the state tournament; the '57 team was the first from Madras to reach a championship game.
But in the Johnson era, which firmly established a culture of Madras basketball, the '61 team stands alone as champions.
"We always got to let them know, 'You guys got close, but we were the first ones to win a championship.' We always kind of laugh about that," Macy said.