The defending basketball champions of Columbia are a little
paunchy by now,
gray-haired if they are haired at all. They can't
take anyone off the dribble
anymore; that would probably result in a hernia.
But 35 years after they won the Class L championship,
the 1962 Hickman Kewpies
are still the youngest Columbia players who can
call themselves state champs.
This year, Rock Bridge had a chance to strike a
blow for the younger
generation, but a supremely talented CBC team ended
that dream Friday in the
Class 4A semifinals at the Hearnes Center. So the
old guys still have bragging
Here's a look at those guys, the '62 Hickman
Hickman entered the '61-62 season without outlandish
expectations. The Kewpies
had finished the previous season with a loss to
Mexico in the regional
tournament. Their tallest starter was the 6-foot-4
Dave Fearheller, whose
behind-the-head jump shot was fundamentally awful
but very effective.
Fearheller averaged 18.8 points per game. Nobody
else scored in double
``We had a camaraderie that was just unparalleled,''
said Ron Bartlett, a
reserve forward on the team. ``We just believed
in each other.''
Charlie Cottle and Bob Lambert started most of the
season at forward, with
Bartlett and Pete McDermott also playing extensively.
Bob Grogger started at
one guard spot. The other guard was Mike Richardson,
the only black varsity
player at Hickman, which had integrated just a
few years before.
Richardson, who went on to an All-American football
career as a running back
at Kirksville Teachers College, was such a good
athlete that he jumped center
despite being 5-11.
Stressing defense and discipline, coach Jim McLeod
turned the team into a
``I think he's a lot like that Jim Scanlon,'' Grogger
said, comparing McLeod
to Rock Bridge's coach. ``He was a disciplinarian.
He wasn't the easiest guy
to get along with, but he knew his basketball.''
The highlights of Hickman's regular season were
three games with rival
In the first meeting at Hickman, the Kewpies
trailed by 16 points with five
minutes left before sending the game into overtime
and winning. Jefferson City
gave Hickman its only loss of the season at the
Fulton Tournament. Later, the
Kewpies nipped the Jays by two in Jefferson
Hickman finished the regular season with a 21-1
record and 10-0 mark in the
Central Missouri Conference. It breezed through
the regional tournament at
Moberly, beating Kirksville 53-38 in the finals
on the same night that Wilt
Chamberlain set the NBA scoring record with a 100-point
game for the
That set up a first-round playoff game with Jefferson
City. This time, it
wasn't as exciting as the previous encounters.
Fearheller scored 19 and
McDermott added 13 to propel the Kewpies
to a 51-37 win at Lincoln University
in Jefferson City.
Then the scene moved to Washington University in
St. Louis, where the final
three rounds were held. Hickman, which had won
its only other state basketball
title in 1936, had a chip on its shoulder.
``Everybody was talking about all the St. Louis
schools, just like they are
now -- how good they were, how we didn't have a
chance,'' Bartlett recalled.
``The only people who thought we could win going
in was the team, our coach
and our fans.''
Hickman's toughest game of the state tournament
came in the quarterfinals
against William Chrisman. Grogger scored 15 points
-- nine more than his
average -- and hit four free throws in the waning
seconds in a 55-54 Hickman
The semifinals and finals weren't as tight.
Springfield Central entered the semifinals with
a 28-1 record, but the Kewpies
pulled away late for a 63-55 victory. In front
of a crowd of 5,585 in the
finals, Hickman slowed down a Kirkwood team that
had scored 88 points in the
semis and won 57-47. Fearheller led the way with
``I can't say they have the most talent of any team
I've coached, but they do
have the most desire to win of any team I've seen,''
McLeod said after the
After 35 years, their legacy remains.
Musically at the time of this "Kewpie Championship
The "Billboard Chart" of March
10, 1962 from Record Research
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close call in 1968, see the program of that playoff from the files of the