The high school basketball season might be over, but there will be a game on Saturday at Rushville’s historic Memorial Gymnasium. It’ll be a close finish, decided by a basket in the final seconds.
Jimmy Chitwood and the “real Jimmy Chitwood” will both be in attendance Saturday for a viewing of “Hoosiers” at the Rushville gym. The festivities will begin at 5 p.m. with a VIP event in the main gym and a fan zone in the auxiliary gym.
Beginning at 7 p.m., a panel including “Hoosiers” writer/producer Angelo Pizzo, actors from the movie and Bobby Plump and Ray Craft of the 1954 Milan state championship team of which the movie is loosely based, will discuss the story and take questions from the audience. The movie will begin at 7:45 p.m.
“The movie still resonates 30 years later,” said Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame executive director Chris May, who is coordinating the event. “We thought it would be a good opportunity to bring a lot of the key people of the story together.”
The cost for a VIP ticket is $20 and $5 for general admission, which includes the fan zone, roundtable discussion and movie. Proceeds will go toward renovation of the Princess Theatre in Rushville.
There is a connection between the Milan story and the Rushville gym. In 1953 and ’54, Milan advanced through the regional at Rushville. The ’53 team defeated Connersville 24-22 in the regional championship, deploying coach Marvin Wood’s stall tactic made famous in the ’54 state championship game.
The Rushville gym, built in 1926, is the fourth-oldest high school gym still in use in the state.
“The fans were ready to kill everybody when we held the ball against Connersville,” former Milan assistant coach Clarence Kelly told IndyStar in 2014. “They were throwing quarters. One of the boys picked up about 30 bucks off the floor.”
Milan lost in the state semifinals to South Bend Central in ’53 but brought back most of its key players in ’54. Perhaps its toughest game on the way to state was a comeback win over Aurora in the regional final at Rushville.
In the state championship game against Muncie Central, Plump held the ball in the fourth quarter for more than 4 minutes with underdog Milan trailing by two. Milan tied it 30-all and had the ball back with 18 seconds left when coach Wood called timeout.
In the movie, actor Maris Valainis — playing the role of Jimmy Chitwood — told coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman), “I’ll make it.” Plump didn’t say that in reality. But Pizzo made certain the final 18 seconds in the movie mimicked the game-winning shot.
Plump gave a little fake and dribbled to the right wing, about 15 feet from the basket. He jumped and let it fly. Swish.
Chitwood will do it again Saturday night in the Rushville gym.
Call IndyStar reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.