LUSK – NCHS had a 23-game winning streak entering the 1969-70 season.
Paul Kruse, Ron Pfister and Tom Bramlet were role players the year before, while the rest were very raw. Monte Fosher, John Schutterle, Sam Erlewine, Kelly Glendy, Rich Houx, Ken Keller and Dick Lorenzen stepped up to help defend the state championship.
“It was a challenge because the other guys were so good for so long, we didn’t have a lot of experience,” said Pfister. “We weren’t as talented, but it was full court press and fast break, and we had a guy 7’3”.
Not many Wyoming high schools get the gift of players bigger than seven feet, but NCHS was blessed with a giant human in more ways than basketball.
7-foot, 3-inch “Tall Paul” began as a project, then role player, and developed into a force before going to New Mexico on a scholarship after graduation.
“It was awesome playing with a guy that big,” said Pollard. “I’d just toss it towards the rim, and Paul would get it.” Dunking wasn’t allowed back then, but Pollard remembers many that could be considered such.
Pfister also recalled meeting a man that happened to be on the Camels B squad that season, and told Ron they prepared for Paul with him using two brooms to simulate Kruse’s reach. With a sly sense of humor, he took his size with grace.
“If someone would ask him how the weather was up there, he was apt to spit on them and say it’s raining,” added Pfister. “But he had time to work on those, because they were relentless towards him.”
The winning streak was halted at 30 games with back to back losses at Buffalo and Gillette, but the Tigers responded after the mid-January defeats. A five-game winning streak preceded a stunning loss to Torrington, before the Tigers won their final nine games to finish 20-3 on the season.
Lusk was the host for the Class A Southeast District Tournament and humiliated Wheatland 99-32 before beating Torrington 92-59. The title game against the Trailblazers was the first time in school history with three players scoring more than 20 points in the same game. Fosher scored 27, Kruse added 25 and Pfister put in 24.
“Really? That’s the first time?” Pfister responded. “We just clicked, and Torrington was no slouches, but we came into our own at that point.”
Star Valley was the first round opponent in Laramie and the Tigers won 72-66. In the semifinals, NCHS defeated Jackson 66-56 before the championship win over Gillette 71-60.
“Gillette, they were the real deal and we were lucky to beat them at state,” said Pfister.
A few years ago, Coach Price ranked the top ten boys basketball teams in school history, and without argument or much debate these two were at the top.
Here were his comments from the spring of 2015:
“No. 2 1969-1970 (20-3) Absaraka Conference Co-Champs, Southeast District Champs, Class A State Champions. Hold all time record of 30 consecutive victories. Coach Price stated early that this team should not be compared with the previous season’s version. That team had eight seniors with considerable experience. 7’3” senior Kruse later played at New Mexico, and will likely remain the tallest player in Lusk history.
“No. 1 1968-1969 (23-0) Class A/3A Absaraka Conference Champs, Southeast District Champs, Class A State Champions. At season’s end, Lusk was rated (by the Casper Star Tribune) the No. 1 team, regardless of class in the entire state. Also, the Casper Star Tribune rated Lusk as one of the top five high school basketball teams of all time, again, regardless of class. The only perfect team in school history, deservedly belongs at the top.”
(Writer’s note: This article was written with the assistance of The Stat Rat, Wyoming-basketball.com, The Lusk Herald archives and special thanks to Randy Pollard, Steve Cockreham, Jim Peterson and Ron Pfister).