A look at
Minonk's past
  Home |   Viewer input |   Alumni |   Cemetery |  Editorial |   Events |  About |  Schools |  News |   Recipes |   Email |   Photos |   Reference |   Videos
  Origins |   Early Settlers |   Coal mine |  Ethnic Groups |   Tragedies |  Businesses |  Buildings |  People |  Old Photos |  Stories |  Sports

Minonk High School's greatest basketball team
The Mohawks of 1947-48

by Jack Cullen

Mr. Cullen is a 1957 graduate of MDR High School. The text was prepared by Donna Rae Eilts.

Shortly after the basketball season had ended for the '47-'48 Minonk Mohawks with a record of 26-2 John O. Denson wrote a splendid column extolling the greatness of the team. This was done with the usual grace and class with which Mr. Denson wrote. He acknowledged the abilities and achievements of past players and teams. Minonk had a tradition of fine athletes and outstanding teams from the 1920's, 1930's and into the 1940's. Mr. Denson noted examples of previous fine teams, but emphasized that this group manifested the concept of team in addition to their outstanding record of 26 wins, 2 losses.

These Mohawks of '47-'48 exemplified the idea of TEAM. They were genuine friends off the court as well. Balanced scoring was one of the strengths of the team. Albie, Dick, Don, Mike, and Willie all were leading scorers at various times during the season. Also, on several occasions, Don McCully and Merle McKeon came into games to provide important play to help win the game. Other team members contributing were Bob Curley, Marvin Harms, and Jerry Grescoviak.

A good part of the success of this team may have been forged the previous year under the tutelage of Virgil Little who returned from the army to coach the '46-'47 season. Little instilled discipline and excellent fundamental skills into the MINONK TEAM. They had started slowly and finished strongly.

1948 Minonk High School basketball team

Front row left: Bob Curley, Marvin Harms, Mike Zuspanic, Willie Anderson, Don McCulley.
Second row left: Jerry Greskoviak, Albin Johnson, Don Uphoff, Dick Stokowski, Merle McKeon.
Photo courtesy of Albin Johnson.

In the last half of the season they defeated a strong Chenoa five 63-40. Chenoa had Stan Albeck and Bill Sarver playing in that game. Minonk continued its improvement by defeating the Prairie Conference champs, Gridley, 44-37. The turnabout was more strongly manifested in regional play. Coach Little's charges defeated a 22-3 Henry team 54-39 that probably shocked everyone but local Minonk fans who could sense the fantastic turnaround. Next, Minonk defeated Wenona 56-55 in overtime to advance to the finals. Wenona had defeated Minonk twice in the regular season. So Minonk wins The Little Brown Jug and advances. However, Hopkins of Granville defeated Minonk 55-45 to end a season that brought great hope for a great '47-'48 season for Minonk faithful. It might be mentioned that Hopkins-Granville defeated LaSalle-Peru, 48-40 in the first sectional game.

The school year at Minonk High in '47-'48 began with the first football season preceding the basketball season. So this edition of basketball players may have been a bit rugged but it didn't seem to impair. A new coach, Elmer Hampton, was now at the helm and it was up to him to perpetuate the success at the end of the '46-'47 season. Something else new became a part of the Minonk High scene. The name "MOHAWKS" was chosen as the team nickname on October 30, 1947.

The 1947-1948 MOHAWKS were comprised of five slender, athletic youths who were quick, intelligent, and spirited.

Willie Anderson was a superb ball handler and a tenacious defender. The only junior on the first five he was also a prolific scorer.

Albie Johnson was a strong rebounder and got the ball often for the Mohawks. He was also a tough defender and was a dependable scorer.

Dick Stokowski was an outstanding shooter and was the leading scorer in conference games. He was also a reliable defender.

Don Uphoff was the leading scorer for all games, a fine rebounder and staunch defender. Don was also an excellent free throw shooter.

Mike Zupansic was also a superb ball handler and he and Willie broke any press an opposing defense posed. Mike played a quick, aggressive, and spirited defensive game. He also was a fine free throw shooter.

1947 Minonk High School basketball team

Front row left: Willie Anderson, Don Uphoff, Mike Zuspanic, Mark Lohr, Dick Stokowski, Ron Eigsti.
Second row left: Merle McKeon, Marvin Harms, Coach Virgil Little, Albin Johnson, Don McCulley.
Photo courtesy of Albin Johnson.

The season began with eight straight victories until the Mohawks ran into a strong Batavia team in the Pontiac Holiday tournament. Batavia won 62-43. Minonk had defeated Gillespie 49-28 in the first game of the tournament. In the fourth game of the season the Mohawks had defeated a good Pontiac team 54-33. So we had Pontiac's respect. Chuck Studley, former U of I football player was on that Indian team.

The Mohawks went on to win the Prairie Conference Championship and the Woodford County Tournament. It was the first Conference championship in school history and the fifth County championship Minonk had won. The Mohawks also were listed as number 6 (six) in the Peoria area by the Journal Star. This was when all schools were considered; Henry was listed as number 15 in that same poll.

They won their game by an average score of 58-41. Their highest score was the 84 points they scored against Roanoke in the county championship.

Their largest winning margin was 51 points in a 78-27 shellacking of Flanagan (a few weeks after they had edged the Falcons at Flanagan 50-49 in their narrowest victory margin). The Mohawks defeated Wenona and Cornell on their way to the championship of the regional. It was there where a strong and revenge-minded team of Henry Mallards handed the great Mohawks their final, and only second, defeat 52-42. The Mohawk's March Madness came to an end along with many other fine prep teams in Illinois on March 5, 1948.

Albin Johnson recalls the game with Henry. "We thought we had it made as we had overpowered them in our previous meeting. Well, when I saw them take the floor I wondered who these giants were as they weren't that big the previous year."

The cheerleaders for that glorious season were Jean Seggerman, Norma Osterman, Lois Sullivan, Irma Schickendanz, Mary Rooker, and Ruth Halagiera.

The community demonstrated great support and after the game gatherings (and on 26 occasions, celebrations) at Morrison's Chocolate Shop were enthusiastic and noisy. In a few instances, Bob Morrison pulled the plug on the juke box in an effort to moderate the pandemonium. But the cheers and jubilation would continue. Nothing harnessed Mohawk spirit in that grand season.

And now, 56 years later, John O. Denson's column has proved prophetic. The 1947-1948 Mohawks were-and always will be the Greatest Minonk High School basketball team.


The freshman class of that year included Dick Dishinger, Ray Harms, Orin Dale Klendworth, Tom Toler and Duane Woltzen, and Don Viehman. They had a successful season in 1950-1951. They made it to the sectional before being defeated by De Pue. Those Mohawks also enjoyed a 20 win season. Jack Pierce was the coach.

Later, in the 1958-1959 season, the next Mohawk team to win 20 games arrived. Coincidentally, Don Uphoff's two younger brothers, Dave and Daryle, played large roles in that team's success. Coach was Jack Murphy.

It is also very important to mention that just as the 1947-1948 team performed in dedicated and courageous fashion on the basketball court, these sons of "The Greatest Generation" demonstrated their patriotism-as did all of their male classmates.

Yes, all of the boys in the 1947-1948 senior class served in the military. This was just two-three years after the end of WWII. Patriotism was not just lip service. The boys from Minonk-class of 1948 were and are champions in the truest sense of the word.