1972-73 Ames High Basketball
Fifty years ago on March 17, 2023, the 1972-1973 Ames boys basketball team won the state AA championship game, at that time, the Little Cyclones’ first since 1955 and fourth overall boys basketball title. The season was George Duvall’s final as head coach. Ames maintained a number 1 ranking throughout the season.
“I remember Coach Duvall was tough on the players but he convinced them that the reason he was so tough was that he saw so much potential with this team,” Kim Wass manager/trainer of the 1972-1973 team said. “No one could touch that team, they were so good.”
Notably, Duvall was a member of Ames High’s basketball team that won it all in 1945, 35-33, over the Muscatine Muskies. In that game, Duvall scored six points, all from the field. Duvall was later inducted into the Iowa High School Basketball Hall of Fame in 1982 and Ames High School Little Cyclone Hall of Fame in 1994.
Leading scorers for the team, according to the 1973 Spirit, were “forward Steve Burgason who won the conference scoring title with 442 points in 23 games for a 19.2 average. Schneider was second on the squad with 305 points in 20 games for a 15.2 average. Carroll was third with a 10.5 scoring pace.”
According to the 1973 Spirit this Little Cyclone team was considered elite. The team’s offensive efficiency rating (the ratio of possessions to points scored) for the entire season was 0.96. Ames had one of the state’s tallest teams. The front line consisted of 6-11 Frank Schneider, 6-7 Steve Burgason, 6-4 Mike Hemingson, and 6- 4 reserve Dave Bunker. In the backcourt Coach Duvall rotated Dick Carter, Dave Sprowell and Terry Carroll. The Little Cyclones’ lack of speed rarely mattered as their superior height allowed them to dominate the rebounding. The squad’s defensive efficiency rating was 0.72.
The Little Cyclones opened the season with a 108-59 rout of Boone. Notably four Ames players, Hemingson, Carroll, Sprowell, and Bunker fouled out of the game. The late Howie Campbell came off the bench and had a game high 19 points.
Four Little Cyclones again fouled out of the second game against rival Marshalltown, but 13 points and 14 boards from Hemingson led Ames to a 62-50 victory. Ames rattled off two blowout victories, 72-45 over Fort Dodge and a 80-60 victory over Roosevelt. In the game against the Roughriders, Ames opened with a 15-1 lead.
Burgason tallied 25 rebounds and a school record 34 rebounds in a 75-59 win at Newton. Ames traveled to the home of the Polar Bears, Des Moines North, and dispatched hosts with a palindrome score of 75-57 and defeated Cedar Falls 69-54. The Little Cyclones’ defensive efficiency rating in the first quarter was .12.
East Waterloo was the only team all season to defeat Ames, 63-62, on the home court of the Little Cyclones. Shooting woes plagued the Little Cyclones, as they shot 33% from the field and were 6-of-15 from the free throw line.
The team had support from their classmates, specifically Ames High’s “Pep Club”, made up of almost 150 students who paid dues of 50 cents to join, organized both pep buses to big games and had a coat check at home games.
The momentum continued that season as Ames thumped West Waterloo, 63-39. The Little Cyclones shot 53% from the field and held West Waterloo to 34% shooting from the field and 41.7% from the charity stripe. In the following game, Ames sped past Carroll-Kuemper 80-40 at Hilton Coliseum.
“The state championship team of 1976 was undefeated and they had Chuck Harmison,” said Bill Ripp, director of guidance and senior class sponsor during the 1972-1973 school year. “But, I still think if those two teams played each other, the championship class of 1973 would’ve beaten the class of 1976 just because of their size. Both of those teams were really, really good.”
In a game that mimicked the second game of the season against the rival Bobcats, five Little Cyclones fouled out in a 69-59 victory over Marshalltown that had 49 free throw attempts. Ames followed up with a 79-57 win at Fort Dodge, a slim 69-63 victory against Newton, and a narrow 69-60 victory versus Cedar Falls. Finally, Ames had their revenge game against the team that gave them their only blemish of the season, East Waterloo, and easily handled them 64-47.
Ames, Big Eight Conference champions, rolled through their substate opponents: 78-65 over Des Moines North, a 88-63 dispatch of Boone, a 70-54 coast over Ankeny and a 73-59 victory over West Des Moines Valley.
The state tournament was held at the historic Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Des Moines where six years prior to the 1973 state title, Ames finished runner up. Future Iowa State Cyclone Burgason was in attendance and got some motivation for his future.
“The tradition started with Dick Gibbs,” Burgason said. “We were in seventh grade (1967) when Gibbs took Ames to overtime in the state tournament and lost to Cedar Rapids Jefferson. We just wept. He (Gibbs) became someone that inspired me and my teammates to say ‘One day we want to win the state tournament.’”
At the state tournament, the Little Cyclones defeated the number 6 Harlan Cyclones in the first round, 71-61. Burgason finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Burgason had another double double (22 points and 15 rebounds) against Marshalltown in the state semifinal. Ames won 74-54 and outscored the Bobcats 20-4 in the final stanza.
Burgason again had a double double, 20 points and 13 rebounds, in the state final against Dubuque Wahlert. The Little Cyclones won 85-75. Carroll contributed 18 points, Schneider tallied 16, Hemingson had a baker’s dozen, Sprowell had 12 and Carter added six of his own.
Ames had three players on the all-tournament team Burgason (captain), Schneider, and Carroll.
“You know, probably my fondest memories are walking in the tradition of Ames High athletics,” Burgason said. “The myriad of coaches from junior high to high school that were just super quality people were role models that were tough enough and wise enough to keep us in line and challenge us to think about life beyond ourselves. They were such a sweet spot in all of our lives.”