Make your home page

Meet members of the ‘Milan Miracle’ basketball team at the Indiana State Fair

1954 State Champion Milan High School basketball team poses on the court after winning the state tournament. Several players from the "Milan Miracle" team will be at the Indiana State Fair on Friday. (Provided Photo/Indiana High School Basketball Hall of Fame)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — It was a David and Goliath story. A passionate, small-town basketball team from southern Indiana won fans all over in their quest to win Indiana’s state basketball tournament — fans who were rooting for the underdog to overcome long odds.

The 1954 Milan High School boys’ basketball team did just that. They did it in such heart-stopping fashion that it served as the inspiration behind the 1986 Oscar-nominated film “Hoosiers” starring Gene Hackman and Dennis Hopper.

Longtime Indiana hoops fans or younger inspiration-seekers can see and meet the members of the “Milan Miracle” team Friday evening at the Indiana State Fair.

Bobby Plump, Gene White, Ray Craft, Rollin Cutter, and Roger Schroder will be at the Harvest Pavilion from 5 – 7 p.m.

The appearance by these historic hoopsters is just one of many basketball-related events and activities at the 2023 Indiana State Fair. This year’s state fair theme is “Celebrating Basketball: The State That Grew the Game.”

Plump, who was recognized as the state’s most outstanding player and named Indiana Mr. Basketball, shot the buzzer-beater that cemented Milan’s 32-30 win over Muncie Central High School at Butler Fieldhouse (now Hinkle Fieldhouse) back in ’54.

With the game tied at 30 late in the fourth quarter, Plump hit a 14-foot jump shot from the right side as time expired to seal the game. In the movie “Hoosiers,” Hickory High School basketball star Jimmy Chitwood makes his game-winning shot from the same location.

The state championship game between Milan and Muncie Central was a lopsided showdown for the record books. Milan, a town in Ripley County with a current population of less than 2,000, had a high school enrollment of 161 students. Muncie Central’s student population was about 10 times that size.

No school with enrollment as small as Milan’s ever won the state tournament again under the one-class system. The smallest school to win the state tournament after Milan was Plymouth in 1982. 

The chances of a similar David vs. Goliath battle ever happening again were quashed in 1997. That’s when the IHSAA’s multi-class system was introduced statewide, ranking tournaments by school size.

While the state championship was played in Indianapolis, the fictional Hickory Hoosiers filmed their winning buzzer-beater inside the then-Knightstown Gymnasium. It’s now The Hoosier Gym. It’s more than 100 years old and serves not only as a gymnasium but a museum and center of pride for Knightstown. It’s open for free tours, but donations are welcome.

The 1954 Milan team was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004. In March, the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame honored the team’s 12 players with their very own bobbleheads.

(Photo Provided; X)