Decades Later, Coach, Community Remember Peculiar Crandon Basketball Game
Harry Resch still remembers every play of basketball games from more than 40 years ago.
Resch was Crandon’s boys basketball coach for 15 years in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. He can still tell you how one of his guards drove into the lane, what kind of defense an opponent played, or his team’s scoring average for a given year.
He remembers packed gyms and conference championships, having won five in a seven-year stretch.
Resch’s teams were high-pressure and hot-shooting, averaging 88 points per game during one title season.
“We liked to press, we liked to score,” he said. “We liked to keep things going.”
But despite that style, and despite that success, sometimes it seems like people only want to talk about one game, on January 21, 1977.
In 1976, Crandon had beaten Florence 95-78, but Florence’s Bill Counter scored 39 points in the loss. Resch had no intention of letting Counter’s shooting, or Florence’s size and stingy zone defense, beat Crandon in 1977.
He figured his best strategy was to play a patient style, trying to force Florence to get overaggressive.
The slowdown pace led to a 2-1 Florence lead after one quarter.
It was the only scoring that happened in the game.
“We had three shots at the end and still couldn’t make any of them,” Resch said. “We felt we were right in the game and had a chance to win it at any time, but it just didn’t work out that way.”
Final score: Florence 2, Crandon 1.
“We really didn’t have any intention of having the score 2 to 1,” he remembered. “Our intention was to win the ballgame.”
The odd result made newspapers from New York to Alaska.
Now 43 years later, current Crandon High School Principal Josh Jaeger wanted to highlight that peculiar night.
“So many people think that nothing interesting happens in a small town like Crandon. I’m just trying to show that it happens,” Jaeger said.
Before he became a principal, Jaeger coached Crandon’s girls basketball team. He can picture himself involved in that tense environment, no matter how odd the scoreboard looked.
“It was intense. It was a one-point game. It didn’t matter if it was 59 to 60, it’s a one-point game. Crunch time, it’s a one-point game, everyone’s into it,” Jaeger said.
He envisioned Friday night’s game, in which Crandon will host Florence once again, as an opportunity to celebrate the historic oddity, tell some stories, and invite players and coaches from 1977 back to Crandon. He even found a uniform used in the game.
Jaeger worked with Michelle Gobert, who’s involved in the Crandon Area Historical Society and who views local history as something that binds communities.
“As I began to look at how people feel connected to Forest County, how people feel connected to Crandon, it became apparent that local history can do that,” Gobert said. “Local history is something that we all share.”
Gobert recruited Crandon eighth graders Joanne Higgins and Tatum Wozniczka to contact players and coaches and order plaques.
Freshman Mac Williams made two videos for Friday night’s celebration.
“I’m using newspaper clippings, and then there was a little script I incorporated over all of the pictures, then I layered them and added some effects to the actual pictures themselves,” Williams explained.
Gobert wants the students to know Crandon can make history.
Just look at 1977.
“During your four years of high school at Crandon High School, make every effort you can. Be in every moment,” Gobert said. “You never know when you’re going to make history.”
Players from that game 43 years ago will be in the gym on Friday when Florence and Crandon meet again.
Former coach Harry Resch will be there too, knowing that even if people remember the success of his teams, they’ll never forget that night in 1977.
“We could have won 500 games. They wouldn’t care about 500,” Resch said with a laugh. “But a 2 to 1 game, everybody’s got their ears listening to that.”
Friday night’s game begins at 7 p.m.