The 1961-1962 Orestes Cyclones may not be the most well known basketball team from Madison County. But they may very well be one of the best teams ever to play in the area.
Under the leadership of coach Whitey Ellis, the Orestes Cyclones had 11 games scheduled for the 1961-62 season in addition to the Orestes Invitational Tourney and the Alexandria -Monroe Township Junior High Tourney.
Ellis, a former Anderson College student who played halfback on the Ravens football team, was well-liked and respected by the Cyclone players and members of the community.
Born in Wevaco, Va., Ellis told his players stories about growing up in the small coal mining town. As a young man, Ellis drove an ambulance for a funeral home and told of driving down a dark road one night with a corpse in the back of the vehicle. The dead body let out a groan, much to the surprise and dismay of Ellis.
The story left the ballplayers wide-eyed and wanting to hear more, but Coach Ellis felt the boys should practice to help keep their then-winning streak alive.
The Orestes Cyclones A Team included Steve Eden, Larry Allen, Neil Spooner, Dave Stinefield, Dave Wilson, Greg Clock, Ernie Ryan, Bill Reid, Steve Frix, Steve Deines, Joe Remington, Tony Hocker and John Goodman.
Cheerleaders were Charlotte Ellis, Frances Ryan, Nancy Swisher, and Diane Richardson. Team managers were Bennie Teague, Chester Ellis and Steve “Red” Goodman. Arthur Gooding was scorekeeper for the team.
Ingalls first to fall
The Cyclones undefeated season began on a Thursday evening, Nov. 2, with a victory over Ingalls.
Steve Eden led the Cyclones with 16 points followed by Tony Hocker (13 points) and Larry Allen (eight points). Duck Creek Boone of Elwood visited Orestes the following week and fell to the Cyclones 45 to 18. Every seat in the Orestes gymnasium was filled for the Cyclones’ home game including the team’s number one fan Mary Gooding, who cheered louder than anyone at the game.
As with the week before Steve Eden was the team’s top scorer with 22 points, nearly half of what the entire team scored against Duck Creek Boone.
Alexandria St. Mary’s came to Orestes with a losing record and left town later that night with another loss. The Alexandria St. Mary’s Rockets scored only one point during the first half of the game due to the Cyclones playing a well crafted zone defense. Coach Ellis sent in his substitute players for third quarter action, allowing the Rockets to put 13 points on the scoreboard. The Cyclones’ five starters finished the game putting win No. 3 in the books for Orestes.
Tony Hocker scored 12 points for the Orestes home team. After a six-day break The Orestes Cyclones returned to action and did not let the hometown crowd down. Coach Ellis once again utilized the same zone defense that the Cyclones used against the Alexandria St. Mary’s Rockets. Only this time the team on the losing end was Jackson Township. Final score of the game was Orestes beating Jackson Township 43 to 26.
On Dec. 5, the Cyclones travelled to Ingalls for the team’s first away game of the season. Though Orestes defeated Ingalls just a month earlier, the Cyclones narrowly escaped with a three-point win during the second match up of the season. Steve Eden was leading scorer for the Cyclones in their 29 to 26 victory over Ingalls. Orestes went onto defeat Alexandria and New Lancaster taking a record of seven wins and no losses into Christmas break.