Two hundred seventy-two points in two nights by one team. There was no 3-point line. They didn’t need one, and here’s the story why.
In the 1971-72 season, the Jennings County Panthers, with their wide-open style of play, symbolized the style of basketball in southern Indiana as much as anyone. That season, the Panthers set a state record of 93.2 points per game for the entire year. Coach Don Schroeder implemented a style of play that ran other teams in the ground, and he certainly had the talent to do so.
Jennings County had three players average more than 20 points a game for the entire season. Danny Brown, a 6-foot-4 junior, led the Panthers with a 27.6 scoring average, while Billy Harmon, a 6-3 junior, averaged 22 points a game, and 6-6 senior center Bob Woods averaged 20.7 points a game. The feat has been unmatched in southern Indiana since then.
Even with the Panthers scoring like no team ever in Indiana, no one expected anything like what happened late in the regular season on back-to-back nights in February 1972.
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When Jennings County hosted North Dearborn on a Friday night, the first quarter didn’t indicate anything unusual was about to happen, as the Panthers raced to a 25-14 lead. By halftime, the game was well over, as Jennings County led 53-25.
But then, something happened no one had ever seen before, which resulted in statewide attention for the community of North Vernon. The Panthers scored 89 points in the second half and won the game by 104 points, 142-38. Keep in mind, that’s 142 points when there was no 3-point line.
The Panthers connected on an amazing 62 field goals with only 18 free throws. Brown set a school record with 44 points, while Harmon poured in 34 points, and Woods added 23.
In attendance for the North Dearborn game was Bob Williams, a well-respected sports writer for The Indianapolis Star. Williams had come to Jennings County to see how good the high-scoring Panthers really were. Once Williams reported his score and story, wire services across the state picked up on the story. The next day, Jennings County was the talk of Indiana.
Even a local pizza parlor felt the sting of the Panthers’ night. Prior to the weekend, Woodshed Pizza committed to taking a penny off of the price of a small pizza for every point Jennings County won by. Since the cost of a small pizza was a little more than a dollar and the Panthers won by 104 points, the pizza joint had to give away a lot of pizzas.
The next night was Senior Night, and a big crowd was expected. North Vernon city officials set up shuttle buses from downtown to accommodate the huge crowd and to avoid traffic congestion in the small community. That’s hard to imagine now, but things were different back then. It was an era of Hoosier Hysteria when communities evolved around high school basketball games.
That night, the Panthers ran wild again, scoring 130 points against the Clarksville Generals and winning by a score of 130-68, giving them 272 points on back-to-back nights. By Monday morning, Jennings County was no longer a state story. Newspapers across the country were reporting the scores — 272 points in two nights.
In the sectional at Seymour, the Panthers made history again by winning their first sectional as Jennings County High School. The Panthers hit the 90-point mark in all three sectional games, beating Crothersville 98-57, surviving a close game with Brownstown 90-88 and then winning a wild championship game against rival Seymour 91-90.
At the Seymour Regional, Jennings County was paired with the Madison Cubs, a team it had beaten in the regular season. But as Jennings County’s offense stalled in the early going, Madison raced to an early 23-point lead, which eventually was too much for the Panthers to overcome, and their season ended with a 91-87 loss and a final record of 21-3.
The 1972 Jennings County Panthers are still regarded as a special team and era of high school basketball in the community. But what they accomplished is beyond the confines of their own community and may never be seen again at the state level — 272 points in two nights, and three players from the same team averaging 20 or more points a game in one season.
After they graduated a year later, in 1973, Brown and Harmon went on to play for the University of Louisville and Hall of Fame Coach Denny Crum, and both were members of the Cardinals’ 1975 Final Four team.
Both also were inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, Harmon in 2014 and Brown earlier this year.
Mike Barrett is a local resident with an interest in history. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.