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Home court advantages disappearing/Paul Peterson

January 4, 2012
By Paul Peterson - For the Gazette , The Daily Mining Gazette

There used to be a time when high school basketball teams had a definite homecourt advantage.

But those days began to disappear when school consolidation started back in the late 1960s.

Gone were the edges that were prevalent in such places as Chassell, Bergland, National Mine and L'Anse, just to name a few.

I mention those places because they stick out in my memory.

Chassell gained everlasting fame in the middle 1950s when coach Ed Helakoski guided the Panthers to three straight state championsips and a still-record 65-game win streak.

The old Chassell Community Center was the home of those legendary teams, and it most closely resembled a long bowling alley, one which ironically, was located in the basement.

The ceiling was extremely low, eliminating almost any kind of arc on a shot. There were stages on both sides where the home fans put up numerous distractions to opposing players. There were also dead spots on the floor where dribbles would all but drop out of sight, creating instant turnovers.

Chassell put those advantages to good use, although those teams were talented enough to win on any floor. They often played home games at Sherman Gym on the Michigan Tech campus to accomodate the large crowds that flocked to see their contests.

And then there was the bowling alley. You could literally hear the pins falling during quiet intervals in a game.

Bergland was a place that closely resembled the gym used in the movie, "Hoosiers." Its main feature was a visitors locker room that could have passed for a sauna. You felt like you had played a half even before the opening tip-off. I was told much later on that the home dressing quarters were cool in comparison to the 90-plus degrees found on the other side.

The Bergland fans were loud and very enthuiastic. With fans seated virtually on the floor, it was very possible for an opposing player to be tripped as he ran up the court. That would usually happen at a pivotal time of a close game.

National Mine High was my all-time favorite gymnasium. While it had a fair-sized floor, its main feature was that it was located on a huge stage.

There was a large net (no kidding) draped across the length of the floor to keep players from sliding off the court.

One other unique factor at National Mine was that the lights were turned off in the viewing gallery just before the game began. You could hear the noise from the crowd ... you just couldn't see anyone out there.

The L'Anse floor carried the well-deserved nickname of the "Hornets Nest." Its fans were loud and rowdy and generated the kind of din you didn't hear anywhere else. I have clear memories of the 1966 LHS state championship team reaching scores well into the 100s as the crowd roared in appreciation.

The Hornets of that era had another advantage - a low overhang at both sides. The home team would line up its tallest player in a smothering press that was almost impossible to penetrate.

I could tell you of other gyms that were almost as distinctive as the above four. There was the small Trout Creek gym where the free throw circle

ntersected with the half court circle; the J.A. Doelle gym that featured a crows nest where a player attempting to enter a game had to yank on a cord attached to the ankle of the scorekeeper; the infamous Crackerjack Palace in Dollar Bay, a cozy, inhospitable place feared by foes; and the old Hancock gym, a dark place that had large pillars that made for very few good viewing spots.

Now, we have bright new gyms at just about all local schools. Lake Linden-Hubbell is the oldest gym left, but some major renovations in recent years have made it into a very nice facility.

As a reporter covering games, these new gyms are ideal.

But more than once, I've wondered how today's cagers would have fared on the bowling alley in Chassell; in the blistering heat at Bergland; or on the big stage at National Mine.



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