Sunday, March 12, 2017

Thirty Years Ago: The Best DHS Basketball Team Ever

Thirty years ago today -- March 12 -- was the start of the Nebraska Boys High School State Basketball Tournament.  

To this day, many say the 1986-87 Longhorns should have been there; still others say DHS would have won the state title that season.

By a 5-1 vote of the Times' staff, that team is in our collective minds is the best boys basketball squad to play for DHS to date.

The Longhorns that season featured starters Bob Zoubek (Sr., 6'3), Steve Conner (Sr., 6'0), Cory Roth (So., 6'8), Matt Bolton (So., 6'5) and Doug Frahm (Jr., 6'3).  What's more, DHS had a deep bench, with able players such as John Weber, Lenny Gish, Greg Kotas and Ken Uher ready to step in as needed.  

Playing in Class C2 under Head Coach Scott Pohl, the Longhorns were ranked near the top of the state's standings by both major newspapers from the preseason to the sub-district finals.

DHS routinely crushed bigger schools most of the season, beating teams like Friend (88-53), Henderson (65-51), Milford (62-45), Wilber-Clatonia (70-46), McCool (86-53), and Wymore (85-53).  

The only team to trip up the Longhorns during the regular season was a mediocre Odell, which caught DHS on an off night and sent the 'Horns packing early from the MUDECAS tournament in Beatrice.  It was DHS' only stumble of the regular season.

During the mid- to late-1980s, no team was a bigger foe of the Longhorns than Lincoln Christian.  Known for their quickness, consistent talent and, frankly, dirty play, Christian was an emerging Class C power.  In the '86-'87 season, DHS faced Christian twice, beating them 79-65 early in the season and then again in the first round of subdistricts.

Heading into those subdistricts, DHS was 17-1 and ranked No. 4 in the state, but Lincoln Christian was peaking. 

We recently found an article by The Lincoln Star's Ryly Jane Hambleton who covered the March 5, 1987 DHS-Christian subdistrict contest.  She wrote: "Doug Frahm got the green light and you could almost hear the tires squeal. The 6-foot-3 junior was perfect from the field and the free throw line in the second half as Dorchester rallied to earn a 68-51 victory over Lincoln Christian at Southeast Community College in Milford." 

The story notes that the lead in that game changed hands eight times and the score was tied four times.  It also tells of a Lincoln Christian player who fouled out with a minute left -- with the score 59-55 -- and then proceeded to get two technical fouls. (There's a reason Lincoln Christian had the reputation it did in the 1980s.)  Frahm made four of four technical foul shots for DHS.

That big win sent DHS to face off against a much lesser Nemaha Valley team.  Longhorn fans we spoke with for this story recall looking ahead to the state tournament.  Many knew that DHS had good odds of reaching the Class C2 finals once they dusted up Nemaha Valley.

But that's where the story ends.  Nemaha Valley would use a half-court stall game -- now prohibited under the rules of the Nebraska School Activities Association -- to hold the Longhorns to only 41 points, or 25 points under DHS' season average.  The upset shocked DHS fans and everyone else following Class C2 basketball.

The loss stung and was controversial back in Dorchester.  So much so that the 1987 DHS yearbook doesn't even have a story recap of the season -- just the scores, some pictures and a quote from Coach Pohl.  

Some in the community blamed coaching, as is typical in high school sports of any class size.  Other blamed DHS' younger players.  Both are unfortunate because 30 years later, it's easy to see it really was just a game.  Moreover, Dorchester -- with caring coaches and involved parents -- was producing incredibly good talent and strong participation in that era, something for which the community could be proud.

Even the great ones occasionally fall.  That sums up the DHS boys basketball team of 1986-87.

No state tourney trophy to remember them by -- just really good memories for a tiny Nebraska village three decades later.


  1. “Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, 'It might have been.”

    ― John Greenleaf Whittier

  2. I remember watching the boys play Lincoln Christian and, yes, unfortunately, they were dirty players. This team played with everything they had and I loved watching them. I don't think there has ever been another team close to this group of guys. And its nice to note that these young men have turned out to be fine adults, too!! Proud to say I am a Longhorn alum!!!


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