Win One More in '74: 50th anniversary of Northrop's state basketball title

March 23, 2024



1974 IHSAA Boys Basketball State Champions: Northrop Bruins

As the buzzer sounded at Indiana University's Assembly Hall on Saturday, March 23, 1974, it was pure elation for the newly-crowned IHSAA Boys Basketball State Champions: the Fort Wayne Northrop Bruins.

Northrop had just capped off a 28-1 season by cutting down the nets and hoisting the state trophy in the school's third year of existence. 

"It's a real happy experience, an unbelievable, wonderful feeling," head coach Bob Dille (1917-1998) was quoted in the 1974 Bear Tracks Northrop yearbook. "They were in excellent condition, easy to work with, dedicated, and, above all, they had the will to win."

Northrop principal Paul Spuller celebrates with Northrop players after the Bruins win the 1974 boys basketball state championship. Spuller retired at the end of the 1973-74 school year, after 46 years with Fort Wayne Community Schools. The FWCS school board voted three days after the state title to name Spuller Stadium in "Papa Bruin's" honor

The Bruins dominated most of the season, winning 26 straight games after a 2-1 start. Their lone loss came December 8, 1973, at South Bend Adams, the defending state runner-up. Northrop went undefeated in Summit Athletic Conference play to win the program’s first SAC title. And those Bruins would go on to give a young Northrop its first state title.

Walter Jordan certainly became the big name in Fort Wayne basketball in the early 1970s. He averaged 19.9 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists per game as a senior. Jordan, who went on to play at Purdue was honored as an Indiana All-Star to close out his high school career.

But fellow seniors Mike Muff and Tom Madden, plus juniors Maurice Drinks and James Wimbley made Northrop a cohesive team, a formidable foe and the one true champion of Indiana high school basketball.

Northrop celebrates winning the 1974 state championship on the historic floor of IU's Assembly Hall.

After losing to North Side in the first round of sectionals in 1972, the Bruins would advance to the semi-state championship in 1973—losing to Anderson and finishing 24-3. But the groundwork had been laid for a deep tournament run in 1974.

In March of '74, the Bruins cruised to Fort Wayne Sectional II and Fort Wayne Regional championships at Memorial Coliseum. Northrop moved on to the Fort Wayne Semi-State, edging Logansport, 55-53, in the morning semi-final. The Bruins then came back that evening to handle Anderson, 67-53, and avenge the semi-state loss from a year prior.

The Bruins were on to State!

In the morning state semi-final, Northrop took care of business by beating Lafayette Jefferson 63-49.  Bruin scorers were Jordan with 26 points, Muff scored 12, Wimbley added 11 and Madden had 10.

The state championship that night between Northrop and Jeffersonville was a low-scoring affair that went back and forth. It was ultimately the Bruins’ defense and rebounding in the closing moments that preserved a victory, 59-56, and the state title. The IHSAA box scores show Dille stuck with the Bruin starting lineup the entire game. Jordan finished with 20 points, while Madden added 16, Muff had 10, and Wimbley put in 7.

The other players on the 1973-74 Northrop boys basketball team included: seniors Anthony Casso, Neal Putt, Craig Klein, Dennis Hetrick & Mark Frederick and juniors Willie Spencer & Mike Suttle.

“As we stood on the podium to receive our championship rings, my mind quickly drifted to the crazy thoughts and the emotions,” Northrop star Walter Jordan wrote in his book, Gracefully Broken. “The journey, the hard work, and the strong vision.”

In 2015, Jordan gave his state championship ring to friend and classmate, Marcus Mitchell, who was the student manager for the 1974 team.

Northrop basketball star Walter Jordan shows crowds the Bruins' state title trophy during a citywide victory celebration at Glenbrook Square

After a snowstorm delayed the Bruins’ departure from Bloomington, thousands finally welcomed a victorious Northrop home with a five-mile parade through the streets of Fort Wayne and a championship rally at Glenbrook Square.

Jordan was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999 and honored with the Indiana All-Star Silver Anniversary Team in 2003. Today, he comes back to Fort Wayne each summer for his Future Stars Hoops & Standards Leadership Camp at Northrop, which PSM is proud to sponsor.

Dille—a Chesterton native who was an All-American at Valparaiso University in the 1940s and played professionally in the NBL and BAA—coached at Northrop through 1978. He amassed over 200 career wins at Northrop, Central, Valparaiso High School and Berne-French Township School in Adams County. Dille was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 1989.

Northrop head coach Bob Dille

The entire 1974 Northrop team was honored for the 50th anniversary of their state championship during the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame’s annual awards dinner on March 20, 2024.

The 1974 Northrop Bruins are the last Fort Wayne team to win a one-class boys state championship, joining South Side in 1938 & 1958 and Central in 1943. Additionally, Northrop was the last Allen County school to win a one-class boys semi-state championship. The Bruins’ last regional title came in 1987. Since Indiana moved to a four-class state tournament in 1997-98, Northrop boys basketball has won five 4A sectional titles.





written & produced by Eric Dutkiewicz





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