Epping vs Hillsboro from The Forum

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Epping vs Hillsboro from The Forum

Postby point/center » Mon Jan 07, 2008 5:30 am

Captivating clash
Eric Peterson, The Forum
Published Monday, January 07, 2008
Three decades later, the game remains arguably the most memorable event in North Dakota high school sports history, even though the folklore is not always accurate.

“People always say to me, ‘I remember when you guys won,’ ” said former Epping boys basketball standout Bob Allard. “We actually finished second.”

Class B power Hillsboro nipped tiny Epping 56-52 for the 1977 Class B state boys basketball championship, a game that captivated the state’s basketball fans.

“It was probably the ultimate David vs. Goliath,” said Dave Nelson, a senior on that Hillsboro team and now the head coach at May-Port-CG. “We were one of the bigger schools, and they were one of the smaller schools.”

Epping was an unlikely candidate to make a run to the state title game. Located 10 miles from Williston with a population of around 130, Epping had an enrollment of 24 kids in its high school. The Eagles had endured a 96-game losing streak in the 1960s.
Hillsboro edged Epping in the 1977 Class B state boys basketball championship in one of the most memorable events in North Dakota high school sports history. Forum photo by David Samson / Forum photo illustration
Hillsboro edged Epping in the 1977 Class B state boys basketball championship in one of the most memorable events in North Dakota high school sports history. Forum photo by David Samson / Forum photo illustration
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In contrast, Hillsboro was a program rich in tradition.

The Burros earned back-to-back state titles in 1973 and 1974. Hillsboro had won 270 games under legendary head coach Ed Beyer – in his 15th season of 36 – as they entered the 1977 state tournament.

“It was such a classic little guy against the big guy that the whole state was wrapped up in it,” said Jim Adelson, the legendary KXJB-TV sports personality who is now retired and called that game on television. “That game goes down as one of the classics in North Dakota state history, as far as I’m concerned.”

The ultimate underdog, the Eagles endeared themselves to most of the 7,400 fans in the sold-out Bismarck Civic Center.

“We were outnumbered 7,000 to 400, it seemed,” Beyer was quoted in the newspaper as saying at Hillsboro’s welcome-home celebration following the title game.

The crowd’s overwhelming preference for Epping was clear before the start of the championship game.

“We didn’t have many people that liked us,” said Beyer, who retired from coaching in 1997. “It was a unique game. We got booed in the introductions, which was too bad because we had some good kids. It was about as tough a situation as you could put kids in.”

Nelson, who averaged 17.6 points per game that season to lead the Burros, has vivid memories of the pre-game buildup.

“I still remember how we were booed so badly in introductions at the start of that game,” Nelson said. “It was a shock, to say the least, and we were very much surprised, especially when you are a 16- or 17-year-old kid.”

Epping’s five starters were two sets of brothers – Don and Bob Allard and Clyde and Mike Vinger – along with Jay Bingeman. The team rode to games in cars because it didn’t have a bus.

In his fifth season, Epping coach Larry Overbo took the Eagles from six wins in his first year to a team that had a 25-1 record entering the 1977 state tournament.

The Eagles won 25 straight games before losing to Hillsboro in the title game.

“We had one of the best coaches that anyone could ever have,” Bob Allard said. “Larry Overbo is the coach that made it work for us. He was a genius when it came to basketball.”

Despite Overbo’s guidance, Bob Allard recalled being in awe of Bismarck and the atmosphere in the Civic.

Coming from Epping, “back then we thought it was the big city,” said Allard, who averaged 19 points per game along with Clyde Vinger to lead the Eagles in scoring.

Getting to the Civic Center floor before the game started was difficult, as the Eagles had to weave through the sellout crowd.

“The one thing I remember more than anything in the championship game, we had the police escorting us to get us out on the floor,” said Bob Allard, whose son, Jordan, plays at Fargo South.

Once the Eagles found the court, they were greeted with a deafening ovation.

“The rush was more than anything anybody could handle,” Bob Allard said. “The roar was unbelievable. That is one I will never forget the rest of my life.”

Hillsboro built an 11-point lead after the first quarter, but the Eagles clawed back. Hillsboro led by eight points at halftime and held a 38-33 lead after three quarters.

The Burros built a 48-37 lead with 3 minutes, 28 seconds to play before Epping made a strong final push.

The Eagles scored seven straight points to pull within 48-44 and appeared to have cut the lead to two points after Don Allard scored a hoop.

However, that basket was disallowed after referee Henry Milkey called Don Allard for palming the ball, a call that remains controversial.

“And still to this day, there is the one call from Henry Milkey that turned the game around,” Bob Allard said.

Epping would cut the lead to 48-45, but Hillsboro countered with the next six points to squelch the rally.

“Epping made a run at us at the end of the game, and I remember how loud the place was and how frenzied the place was. It was very much an atmosphere that was hard to rival,” Nelson said. “It was a fun game and it was a nerve-wracking game. I remember after the game it was more of a relief than anything.”

Members from both teams became friends as a result of the historic game.

They played a reunion game in Williston 10 years later. They also gathered at the Class B state tournament in 2002 for the game’s 25th anniversary.

The game also lived on in the media. It was prominently featured in the 2001 Prairie Public documentary, “One Shining Moment,” which chronicled the history of the North Dakota Class B state boys basketball tournament.

“It was definitely special,” Nelson said. “I think that is the only state tournament you can think of that you know who finished second.”
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Re: Epping vs Hillsboro from The Forum

Postby old lineman » Wed Feb 13, 2008 5:07 pm

I cheered for Epping. Is there a source to get the PBS story of the game on a dvd or other source??

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Re: Epping vs Hillsboro from The Forum

Postby Hinsa » Thu Feb 14, 2008 12:44 am

PBS gave away tapes of that show for a donation to public television. That's how I got my copy of the show. I would suggest calling PBS to see if they still have the tape on file somewhere. I bet they do.....
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Re: Epping vs Hillsboro from The Forum

Postby BB11 » Thu Feb 14, 2008 12:48 am

Hinsa wrote:PBS gave away tapes of that show for a donation to public television. That's how I got my copy of the show. I would suggest calling PBS to see if they still have the tape on file somewhere. I bet they do.....

I went online to the PBS website and ordered it for like $20 or so last year - One Shining Moment is the name of the tape - Very good. Love it.
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Re: Epping vs Hillsboro from The Forum

Postby Rodgers4ever » Wed Dec 03, 2008 7:15 pm

this is one of those games that no one will forget, i obviously wasnt there but have seen the tape. i now know the vyngers and they are still legends in the town of epping. it is north dakotas hoosier moment
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Re: Epping vs Hillsboro from The Forum

Postby GoPack#2 » Mon May 16, 2011 1:20 pm

That is just awesome! I wish we had this type of feeling in the State tournament nowadays.
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