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March 28, 2020

2/5/2020 10:30:00 AM
Eagle basketball boys were 1955 District 7 champions

A decade after directing the Allied Invasion at Normandy, Dwight Eisenhower was completing his first term as the U.S. President, Orville Freeman was the Governor of Minnesota and the Windom Eagle boys were winning basketball games in the recently expanded gymnasium at the downtown high school - which is now known as BARC's Jack Kelly Recreation Center.
The new addition on the west side of the high school, completed in 1953, had enlarged the gym from its north-south direction with the lower and upper balconies on the east sideline to a new east-west direction for the main floor. The spectator balconies were on the east end and often were later referred to - by fans from opposing towns - as the 'black hole of Calcutta' because of their darkened background.
The '53-54 Eagle basketball team was featured in a Minneapolis Tribune article, by prep sports reporter Ted Peterson, highlighting the fact all five starters (in at least one game) had the first name Jim.
Two of those five, Jim Ratzloff and Jim Peterson, graduated in 1954 after the Eagles finished 9-9 that first winter on the new floor. The other three - Jim Borseth, Jim Brewster and Jim Stahl - returned as seniors, along with classmate Jack Vold (who started most games the previous year), for the '54-55 campaign and were a big part of one of Windom's best-ever teams.
Eagles win first five
Joining Borseth, Vold, Brewster and Stahl in the Eagles top-eight rotation in '54-55 were talented juniors Tildon Estenson and Dick Menken, along with seniors Phil Potter and Dick Meier. Providing additional depth were junior Robert Bradley, along with sophomores Dan Ratzloff and Steve Andrew. Borseth and Vold, the leading scorers from '53-54, were the team's co-captains as seniors.
Borseth was a two-time all-conference (Nine Star) end in football and Brewster was coming off an all-conference season as the Eagles fullback in the fall of '53, while Potter (quarterback), Menken (end) and Meier (halfback) had also been key contributors on the gridiron.
Coached in basketball for the third year by Pete Vujovich, the Eagles soared in the first five games of December. Windom posted wins over Jackson (55-32), St. James (62-46), Madelia (50-32), Sherburn (61-52) and Lakefield (42-39). Estenson (23) and Vold (17), a pair of very good shooters, combined for 40 points in the victory over Sherburn.
"Tillie Estenson was a terrific shooter," summed up '58 WHS graduate John Berge, who was a freshman fan of the Eagles that winter. "He could knock 'em down from long range - many of his shots would be three-pointers today."
A one-point loss (49-48) at home on the 29th to Minneapolis Patrick Henry finished the month. Patrick Henry was coached by Luverne native Rollie DeLapp, who had coached Windom for five seasons from '47-48 through '51-52 with lots of success.
"That game was a lot of fun," remembers Borseth, who at 5-11 was a rugged rebounder and consistent inside scoring threat. "We all knew Coach DeLapp from when we were junior high kids and we chatted with him after the game."
Menken (15), Borseth (13) and Brewster (10) each netted double figures for the Eagles in a huge 69-39 victory over arch-rival Mt. Lake to open January of 1955. Following a 52-49 win over Worthington, Windom was defeated by a very good Slayton squad (63-55), which later won the District 8 championship.
A 68-57 victory over Lakefield was the first of eight straight victories for the well-balanced Eagles who improved to 15-2 with impressive wins over Westbrook (64-32), St. James (48-47), Redwood Falls (68-53), Mt. Lake (39-29), Tracy (77-28), Worthington (79-65) and Jackson (67-55).
Consistent scoring
In both the Redwood and Tracy victories, the Eagles had four players score in double figures, indicating the team's typical balance. Against the Cardinals it was Stahl (17), Estenson (14), Borseth (11) and Menken (10). Later, against the Scrappers, it was Brewster (14), Borseth (12), Meier (12) and Menken (10) with double digits.
Front-line players Menken (20), Vold (18) and Borseth (18) combined for 56 points in Windom's late-season victory over the Trojans.
"Jack was a good shot, Tillie was quick and the rest of us rebounded and could score, too," summed up Borseth, who lives in Mankato and spends winters in Arizona. "We knew our roles and played well together."
The highly-regarded Renville Indians came to Windom in early March of 1955, riding a 12-game winning streak. Former WHS all-around athlete Bob Baar was coaching Renville and had guided them to a remarkable 22-2 record in 1954, a Region 3 championship and a third-place finish in the state tournament.
Despite double-figure scoring by Menken (17), Borseth (15) and Estenson (11), the Eagles were outscored 73-64 by Renville, which was led by 6-6 center Warren Brant's 25 points.
Three district wins
Entering the District 7 tournament with a 15-3 record, the Eagles were favored and they won three consecutive close games - beating Lakefield (52-48), Westbrook (60-52) and Mt. Lake (39-35) - to give Windom its first district championship since 1945.
Borseth (41), Menken (34), Vold (25) and Potter (25) combined to score 125 of Windom's points during the three district victories, creating lots of excitement and "basketball fever" in the flax capital.
"I remember how big that was," recalls Berge about the district title. "Getting a win over Mt. Lake, which had knocked out Windom so many times in past tournament action, was something special."
Businesses closed early on Friday, March 18, as a huge crowd of Eagle fans made the long trip to the Fieldhouse at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter for the Region 2 semifinals. Paired up against the District 6 champion Garden City Gardeners (21-3), Windom's offense - which averaged over 55 points per game - was held in check all game long.
Trailing after the first two quarters by scores of 10-2 and 18-7, the Eagles struggled through a low-scoring loss (43-25) without, for the first time all season, having a double-figure scorer.
Fairmont won the 1955 regional championship and a state-tournament berth with victories over Slayton (64-55) and Garden City (47-43).
Borseth (264), Vold (222), Estenson (215) and Menken (205) all scored over 200 points for the season, while Brewster (114) and Stahl (107) had over 100. Four of the top six scorers graduated from that close-knit and athletic squad which created so many memorable highlights and finished with an 18-4 record.
But, as we will see in the next feature, the Eagles followed up with another stellar season of basketball during the winter of '55-56.

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