I received a note in the mail the other day from Becky Berry, Richard and Fern Heitholt’s daughter. Mr. Heitholt was the Principal at Quincy Senior High School when I was in school. The note was written the day after a devastating basketball tournament loss to Lincoln in the Springfield Sectional. It captured his spirit as one of the most positive and optimistic individuals I ever had the privilege to know.
A quick review of the game, played on March 13, 1973, featured #1 Lincoln High verse #2 QHS. Lincoln was led by 6’8” All-American center, Norman Cook, while my brother, Bob, was Captain of the Chicago Daily News All-State Team and a future All-American, junior Jim Wisman, was the floor general. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that we all felt we could have (should have) won the state tournament that year. I remember the first day of practice when Coach Hanks had us seated on the bleachers under the North basket outlining his expectations. He had the famous quote, “This season I want you to think of one word, and one word only – STATE CHAMPIONSHIP!” Okay, it was actually two words, but we fully understood what he wanted from all of us, the stars and the scrubs. After the loss to Lincoln, Coach Hanks took us to the state tournament in Champaign to watch the finals, and as we watched, we felt we could have beaten any team on the floor.
The game against Lincoln was just an outlier for us. We jumped to a 19-8 lead after the first quarter and soon increased it to 21-8. Despite some phantom traveling calls (the referees were Ted Search and “Traveling Joe Freels), we continued to lead until the wheels fell off the wagon in the fourth quarter. Bob fouled out. Wisman got called for a flagrant foul and Coach Hanks was assessed two technical fouls for arguing that call. Chuck Brady for the Herald-Whig summed it up best “But a mystifying series of traveling calls and a stretch during which the officials seemed to have swallowed their whistles contributed to the turnabout.” It was just not meant to be.
So with a mixture of anger (Coach Hanks blistered the refs in his post-game interview. “Both of them are incompetent.”) and profound disappointment (I can remember Bob mentioning he couldn’t sleep that night), Mr. Heitholt put a spin on things, reminding us all that it was only a game and that effort and pride were important takeaways from our 26-2 season.
Thank you Mr. Heitholt.
Quincy Senior High Blue Devils
Ten seconds remained on the scoreboard clock in Springfield last night as our cheerleaders formed a final pyramid with excusable tears streaming down their faces and hundreds of students mustered energy to join in with “We’re from Quincy, we couldn’t be prouder.”
The fabulous season with joyous victories and confident expectations of a state championship had ended. But the sentiments of all of Quincy Senior High School were echoed in that final yell—we couldn’t be prouder.
It is difficult to choose words which will pay adequate tribute to our great team of athletes and coaches. They produced the finest record of any of a long line of Blue Devil teams. They won the hearts of everyone with their enthusiasm, dedication, discipline, and superb talent.
There were literally hundreds of small boys around Quincy who imagined they were Bob Spear twisting like a pretzel but somehow managing to force the ball through the basket, or Kel Gott intensely bulling his way to the goal with determination, or Rick Ely timing a leap perfectly to “stuff” an opponent.
Others would say I’m Mike Sellers as he arches a soft shot through the cords or a would-be court general feeling like he is Jim Wisman. Add capable reserves like Darrell Douglas, and others and you have some fine young examples of teenagers at their best displaying not only all-star basketball but outstanding character and personality.
To Coach Hanks and his staff who gave great effort in time and energy to plan for the great season – we say you deserve the #1 prize and while it wasn’t meant to be for this year, we are confident you will pull it off in the not too distant future.
So while the sting of disappointment will linger let’s tell our basketball heroes thanks for the memory of an unforgettable season and think of that final yell — WE’RE FROM QUINCY, WE COULDN’T BE PROUDER.
Richard Heitholt, Principal
Quincy Senior High School