(1-5-21) – The Milan Indians basketball team accomplishments in the 1950’s gets lost in the the success of one of the greatest sports films in history…’Hoosiers’. The film is based on what many have called the ‘Milan Miracle’ in 1954 when the Indians won the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) single class championship. The small town boys vs. the kids from the city…and the shot.
The main adaptation from the championship season at Milan that is used in ‘Hoosiers’ is that of Jimmy Chitwood holding on to the basketball for the final shot of the game and hitting the winning shot, much like what Bobby Plump did in 1954 to win the state championship.
But the Milan teams of 1953 and 1954 were the real deal, making consecutive trips to the Butler Fieldhouse and the IHSAA Final Four. It was two years that any school, big or little would be proud to have been a part of.
During their run to Indianapolis they hung on in the Semistate Semifinal game beating Attica 49-48.
In the 1953 State Semi-Final game at the Butler Fieldhouse the Indians would lose to the eventual State Champion South Bend Central 56-37. Milan was led by Bobby Plump who had 19 points.
The Indians were a very young team with three Seniors on the roster, but it was a peek into the future for what would happen for the Indians in 1954.
How good was Milan in 1954? In the Semi-State final game they would beat Indianapolis Crispus Attucks 65-52. On that team was one of the greatest high school players to come from Indiana, Oscar Robertson. Robertson was a sophomore that season. When Robertson was a junior, Crispus Attucks went 31–1 and would win the 1955 state championship. In 1956 a perfect 31–0 record Crispus Attucks would win a second straight Indiana state title and becoming the first team in Indiana to secure a perfect season and compiling a state-record 45 straight victories.
Milan’s Run To The State Title
Sectional at Versailles
- Milan 83 Cross Plains 36
- Milan 57 Versailles 43
- Milan 44 Osgood 32
Regional at Rushville
- Milan 58 Rushville 34
- Milan 46 Aurora 38
Indiana played all Final Four games on the same day, in the first Milan game in the afternoon they beat Terre Haute Gerstmeyer, who was the 1953 IHSAA State Runner-up, 60-48. Bobby Plump led the way with 26 points and Ray Craft added 11 points.
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In the Championship game, with 15,000 fans, the Indians would face powerhouse Muncie Central (1,660 enrollment) who had won consecutive titles in 1951 and 1952. Tay Craft would score 14 of the Indians 32 points, while Plump would add 10 points. A deliberate style offense was in place by Milan. After the first quarter ended with Milan leading 14-11, neither team would put up double-digit points in the remaining quarters.
The Championship fourth quarter shot that would become legendary in Indiana basketball…it was a play to remember.
Milan would call a time-out with 18 seconds remaining in the tie game at 30-30. After Milan threw the ball in, Plump would take it to mid court…with eight seconds remaining he would make his move to the basket. Plump with just three seconds remaining on the clock would shoot his patented jumper from the top of the key and it was good.
Milan was the smallest school ever to win a single-class state basketball title in Indiana with an enrollment of just 161 students.
The rest is history and what makes ‘Hoosier Hysteria’ very special in Indiana
Bobby Plump was given the Trester Medal for Mental Attitude in 1954, one of the highest awards given out in Indiana High School basketball.
Did you know…
Milan Coach Marvin Wood was hired when he was 24. His hiring was controversial, Superintendent Willard Green’s firing of coach Herman “Snort” Grinstead, who had ordered new uniforms without authorization. After the title season, Wood left Milan, where his record was 52-7, moving on to New Castle, then North Central in Indianapolis and finally to Mishawaka. His overall high school record was 329-279. He passed away in October of 1999.
The Indians two losses during the championship season were to Franklin 49-47 and to Aurora 54-45…the Indians would get revenge beating Aurora 46-38 in the Regionals.
Bobby Plump scored in double figures in all three state games he played.
In ‘Hoosiers’ Hickory beat South Bend Central for the title, while Milan beat Muncie Central in 1954…Milan lost to South Bend Central in the 1953 semifinal game.
Ft. Wayne’s sports announcer Hillard Gates called the Milan-Muncie Central title game in 1954, he was also the announcer used in ‘Hoosiers’ during the title game.