Open house to highlight Britton’s 1963, ‘64 state basketball champs

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Britton-Macon head varsity boys basketball coach Sam Hamilton and his team accepts the 1963 Class D state championship trophy from Michigan Superintendent of Public Instruction Lynn Bartlett after beating Negaunee St. Paul 59-58 in Jenison Field House. Photo by Tom Riordan.

An open house has been scheduled from 3-to-5 p.m. at Britton Park on Saturday, July 13, in honor of Britton-Macon High School’s 1963 and 1964 Class D boy’s state basketball championship teams.

“It is looking like we will have a very strong turnout of former players,” said ‘63 state championship team member Fred McCrate, who’s wife is sending out requests for the 50th reunion of the 1963 championship team as well as the 1964 state champions.

Festivities will showcase players, managers and cheerleaders of both state championship seasons as well as offer an opportunity for the community and county residents to view Briton Deerfield High School’s new gymnasium. A memorabilia table will be set up in the new gym.

Britton-Macon’s Tories picked up their first state basketball championship in ‘63 at Michigan State University’s Jenison Field House in front of 12,375 screaming spectators by stopping gallant Negaunee St. Paul, 59-58.

The Tories had to overcome a variety of bad breaks in the title contest including four personal fouls on star player Phil Benedict before the end of the first half. A total team effort helped propel the Tories past their opponents in the final minutes with clutch baskets in the final seconds by Fred McCrate, and Benedict, topped off with a free throw by Pepper Griewahn that sealed the victory for the Tories.

Britton finished its historic championship season undefeated, 23-0, outscoring its opponents 1095-697 in the regular season and 463-349 in district, regional and final action.

The team was coached by Sam Hamilton. It was his 13th year coaching basketball.

When the team and caravan arrived back in Lenawee County they were greeted at Billington Corners by Tecumseh police and after a new Tecumseh fire truck met up with them the group was escorted to Britton where the entire town greeted and congratulated the champions.

After free pop and chips were offered to everyone, compliments of J. J. Walper and Son, there was dancing in the streets.

The very next year, ‘64, the Tories did it again, only without as much drama, downing Baraga 79-57 for the Class D state title.

Britton was down by four points in the third quarter but came back and took a 47-46 lead that it never relinquished.

Verl Sanch led the Tories to the win in the title final with 26 points. Benedict chipped in 21 while Griewahn added 17.

Baraga’s sharp-eyed Larry Kangas tied the Class D state final scoring mark with 32 points before he fouled out.

Britton lost just one game during the season, falling 85-47 to Class B Dundee, of which Britton coach Hamilton commented, “It was that loss that made us a ball team.”

The Tories finished the ‘64 season with a record of 23-1.

The entire county again supported the Tories, filling the town’s streets with jubilee as cars lined up bumper-to-bumper, six miles long, from Tecumseh to Britton. When Hamilton, the boys and large golden trophy arrived the town of just more than 500 residents had grown to more than 1,500 wanting to congratulate the back-to-back state champions. Hamilton deposited the trophy in the local Glenn Gripton’s hardware store and the whole gang went next door to the Britton Restaurant for hamburgers and malts.

For more information on the open house, contact McCrate at 517.403.7256.

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