Muncie Central’s Gene Flowers scored a bucket with less than a minute left in the game, bringing the Bearcats one layup closer to winning their third state championship in four years.
Flowers’ saved his team’s season for a brief moment when his two-point basket tied the game at 30 with 48 seconds remaining. Underdog Milan called a timeout with 18 seconds remaining as it prepared to pull off arguably one of the greatest upsets in the history of Indiana high school basketball.
With the season on the line, Bobby Plump pulled up to take the shot of his life that turned he and the rest of the 1954 Milan basketball team into Indiana basketball immortals. Plump’s 14-footer dropped through the net to give the Indians a 32-30 upset victory over one of the state’s powerhouse teams during that time period.
Indiana high school basketball fans lived in an age with no school athletic classes before the 1997-98 season, giving a high school with only 161 students out of Milan a chance to upset a school 10 times its size in Muncie Central (1,662 students) for the state title.
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The Milan upset was so monumental that it inspired the 1986 movie “Hoosiers,” which follows a small town’s high school on its journey to the 1952 Indiana state championship. Hickory High School’s success parallels Milan’s championship game of an overmatched team going toe to toe with the state’s top talent in South Bend Central.
Jimmy Chitwood, portrayed by actor Maris Valainis, sank the game-winning shot in the final seconds of the title game to secure the 42-40 victory. That mirrored Plump’s historic shot that is still being celebrated today.
The Indians have joined the “Hoosiers” cast in its 30th Anniversary Tour, which launched last spring at the Indiana Pacers Hickory Night. The development director of the Milan 54 Hoosiers Museum, Timothy Molinari, drives trough downtown North Vernon occasionally and decided North Vernon would be a good stop for Sunday after noticing the historic Park Theater.
“We’ve just been picking places as we go,” Molinari said. “We just look for the opportunity, and sometimes people call us … The general idea is, we tend to go to old places that have older theaters. The one in Elkhart, Terre Haute and the one in North Vernon tend to work really well for the tour.”
The format for most of the tour stops usually begin with the showing of the movie followed by an autograph meet-and-greet opportunity. There will be a VIP opportunity for those interested at the North Vernon location, as well as a free gift for the first 250 graduates or current students who are wearing their letter jackets.
Two of the 12 players on the 1954 Milan team have passed away, along with all three of the coaches. Six of the remaining 10 players will be in attendance, along with the head coach’s wife.
Brad Long who acted as Buddy in “Hoosiers” is the only member of the Hickory team whose attendance has been confirmed to this point. Others members of the “Hoosiers” cast are also expected to be present.
The Milan 54 Hoosiers Museum is the beneficiary of the tour, and Molinari said the real reason he believes the museum exists is to be a motivation for people in pursuit of their own dreams and goals.
“Every year, there are people who drive thousands of miles to walk in the footsteps of these young men from 60 years ago who did the impossible,” Molinari said. “People are always looking for hope in their lives and encouragement in their lives. It brings a lot of belief to a lot of people that maybe they can do a little better in their lives.”
The North Vernon location becomes even more special when you add in the fact that Milan beat the Panthers 38-37 on another Plump buzzer beater just three games before the postseason run began. The North Vernon basketball player who guarded Plump on the last play will also be attending the celebration.
The anniversary tour is on its tail end, but Molinari and the museum are still in the works of developing a couple more stops before it’s all over.
“The Milan guys are starting to turn 80 years old now, Molinari said. “So we don’t want to wear them out, but it keeps them going. They enjoy it.”
What: Hoosiers 30th Anniversary Tour
When: 1 p.m. Sunday (VIP event), 2 p.m. Sunday (showing of “Hoosiers”)
Where: Park Theater, North Vernon
Admission: $10 for adults and $5 for kids 12 and under and $20 for VIP event
Tickets: May be purchased at the Park Theater box office or by calling 812-346-0330. The event is expected to be a sellout.
Additional information: milan54.org