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Even though Bowers Basketball ended in 1955, the Blackshirts had a proud run from the early days of Montgomery County basketball from 1913 to the last class of 1955. After the class of ’55 graduated, Bowers students went to Linden for a year (1956) and then to Darlington until consolidation. The prominent names were Dave Horney, Claude Manges, Maurice Boots, Ross Boots, and Jack Sutton. Those five players ended up in the top 10 in the career scoring, single season scoring and single game scoring.
The Blackshirts won their only sectional in 1927 under Coach Chayce Cox and their only County Crown in 1942 under Alex Cox, who coached for two years at Bowers winning 27 games and losing 18. He also coached at Linden for five years and had a record of 71-33 and won the County Championship in 1948. Percy Mastion coached the Blackshirts for four years and left with a mark of 46-35. Dick Bible coached Bowers for two years and recorded a mark of 27-14.
Eldon Horney, a 1949 graduate, who played for John Bowerman for two years and Dick Bible his senior year, shared these memories about Bowers athletics:
“Bowers didn’t have a gym to practice in, just a little gym floor in the basement of the school where they had PE classes. The ceiling was too low to shoot from more than 15 feet away and the wood floor gave way to a cement floor after water flooded the gym and the floor buckled. Bowers always practiced and played their games in the Darlington Armory six miles away. At that time, downtown Bowers had an elevator and a grocery store and a well-drilling business. Eldon remembers that Bowers didn’t have very good basketball teams and no gym, but that they had a nice baseball field behind the school and pretty good baseball teams. The baseball field was at the back of a 4 acre lot that housed the Bowers school building. They used gunny sacks filled with sand for bases and jumped a four foot high fence in right field to chase home runs. There was a woods in left field about 250 feet from home plate and a corn field in right field about 200 feet from home plate. It was a small, but well-kept field.”
Dave Horney starred in baseball, basketball and track for the Blackshirts. He was the only 1,000 point scorer in Bowers history as he scored 1,172 points in his 81 game career for an average of 14.5 points per game. He is also the leading single season scorer as he tallied 437 points in 1954-55 for a 21.9 average. He is also 6th and 9th on the single season list with 313 points his junior year and 249 points his sophomore year. Dave had the misfortune to play under four different coaches in his four years on the varsity. The Blackshirts were 1-18 under Pete Irwin in 1951-52, 5-15 in 1952-53 under Maurice Tolbert, 13-9 in 1953-54 under Paul Acton, and 12-8 in their final year of 1954-55 under Jim Foster. Dave had high games of 29 against Waynetown in his senior year and 28 versus Darlington in his junior year.
Claude Manges ranks second on the career scoring list with 836 points in his 76 game career for an average of 11.0. He is also second to Dave Horney on the single season list with 348 points in 1950-51. He also scored 325 in his junior year to rank 5th on the single season list.
Maurice Boots is in the top ten in all three scoring categories. He ranks 3rd on the career list with 721 points in 77 games for an average of 9.4. He ranks 3rd and 10th on the single season list with 344 points his senior year for an average of 15.0 per game and 223 his junior year for an average of 10.6. He scored 29 points against Clark’s Hill in 1940-41 to place him 3rd on the list of single game scoring.
Ross Lee Boots was an outstanding baseball and basketball player for Bowers in the late 40’s and early 50’s. He scored 560 points in his 74 game career, for an average of 7.6. He ranks 3rd on the single season scoring list with 345 points in19 games for an average of 18.2 and ended up with the top two single games marks as he scored 36 points against Perry Central in his senior year of 1950-51 and 29 points against Wingate that same year. He was a member of the Boots family that was prominent on Bowers Blackshirts rosters from the 30’s until consolidation in 1955 when Bowers students went to Darlington. Brothers Max and Maurice and Cousin Jack played in the late 30’s and early 40’s. Max was a standout guard on the 1942 Bowers team that won the county tourney. Max played three years at Bowers and his senior year at Darlington when Bowers didn’t have a team (1944). Ross Lee Boots was a nephew of Max and Maurice. He was killed in a tragic car-train accident at Linden in 1953. George Boots, a relative of Max and Maurice played on the 1927 Bowers team that was the first team besides Wingate or Crawfordsville to win the Crawfordsville sectional.
Jack Sutton is the third member of the Bowers family to rank in the top ten in all three offensive categories. He is 6th on the career scoring list with 467 points in 41 games for an average of 11.4. He ranks 7th on the single season list with 254 points in 1953-54 for an average of 12.1, and is 6th on the single game chart as he scored 27 points against Waynetown in his senior year of 1953-54.
Bill Boone is a local sports historian who contributes to the Journal Review.