1963 State Champions1963 State Champions
Even before the 1962-63 Republic Tigers took the court, they had southwest Missouri’s attention.
Republic’s lineup was essentially intact from the year before––a season in which they lost only two games. (See the Repmo Throwback on page 20 for the story of the upset loss that ended that season.)
Before they were finished, they became Republic’s first-ever state champions, and remained that way until the 1994 Lady Tigers won a title of their own 31 years later. But what makes the ‘63 Tigers most remarkable is not their three all-state players, or their starting five. It’s the depth of the roster, which created competition in practices, pushed everyone to his limit, and made the team a dominating force for three straight seasons.
The Tigers featured seven returning lettermen: Tony Logan, Don Carlson, Butch Blades, Harold Harris, Charles Cook, Terry Mooneyham, and Howard Arndt. They moved into a new gym (currently Price Elementary School) determined to improve on their disappointing 1962 finish, and they followed through.
Mooneyham, one of the many talented players who filled out the Tigers’ deep roster, remembers playing in a lot of junior varsity games to go along with his varsity experience.
“I think Leland realized we had a lot of talent,” he says. “That’s why we played JV. That’s just the way he played it. We always knew … we could probably play [Republic’s] five starters a better game than 75% of the teams we went against.”
Carlson, before he passed away in 2015, remembered the team’s depth as a key factor in its success.
“Not only did we have good [starters], but we had the guys who didn’t get to play as much. They made us better in practice,” said Carlson. “Charles Cook, Jim Ferguson, Terry Mooneyham, and others.”
Though the team’s two big men, Carlson (6’6”) and Arndt (6’7”), got much of the attention, they were far from the only offensive weapons on the team. Guard Tony Logan, a 1st-team all-state selection in ’63, may have been the best all-around player, according to Carlson. Harris and Blades rounded out the starting lineup. The five had been playing together since grade school, usually in a field at Logan’s house.
“We didn’t have any concrete. We just played on grass and soon it would become dirt,” remembered Carlson. “Howard would come over. Harold would come over. Butch would come over some. We just were very, very fortunate.”
Arndt recalls that even in grade school, Logan was the competitive, driving force who spurred the others to improve.
“Tony was a very hard-driving individual. He pushed us all,” Arndt says. “He was always challenging me. Being a younger kid, (I’d) want to goof off. He was always on my case about working harder and trying harder.
“Tony was 6’0”, and we used to play 1-on-1 all the time. He’d get mad at me if I wasn’t playing hard enough. He wanted the challenge of going against someone bigger than him.”
Coach Leland Brown says his team’s defense was “murder” on the opponents inside, but strong on the perimeter, too.
“We had a pretty good defense outside. We could take some chances outside with (Arndt and Carlson) inside,” he says. “We changed a lot of teams with those big guys.”
Brown even credits Logan for coming up with a defense that today would be called a match-up zone, which the Tigers ran in the Greene County League championship game.
Offensively, the Tigers liked to run.
“We ran a fast break. I’m pretty stubborn-headed. We couldn’t stall the ball,” Brown says. “If we were going to try to take a last shot before the quarter ended, we always tried to get it going quicker than most people do, because we wanted a chance for an offensive rebound.”
Republic lost only one game all season, to Springfield Central in the finals of the Marshfield Tournament. They avenged that loss just a week later, when they dismantled the Bulldogs at their home arena, “The Pit,” 79-53.
The Tigers beat Ozark four times that season. Brown remembers that Ozark tried in three of those games to slow down Republic’s fast-paced offense, with no success. Those were Ozark’s only four losses of the year. Republic won the Blue & Gold Tournament that year, too.
Down the stretch, the Tigers weren’t challenged. From the finals of the Class M Regional Tournament through the state semifinals, they beat their opponents by an average margin of 28 points. It set up a showdown with the Bernie Mules for a state title.
Bernie jumped to an early lead, Brown called a time out to settle down the team, and the Tigers got back into the game. They trailed 22-20 at the end of the first quarter, but snared the lead at halftime and cruised to a 78-63 win. Carlson and Blades led the team with 19 points each.
The town turned out to welcome its champions home with a parade and celebration. Arndt remembers it to this day.
“We were a small town. Everybody knew everybody,” Arndt remembers. “I think we always recognized, if you worked hard, you could compete and be as good as anybody.”
School record 75.3 Points Per Game
School record 1,114 Field Goals (31.8 per game)
School record 55.3% FG Percentage
School record 1,444 Rebounds (41.2 per game)
School record 130 Points in a Single Game (vs. Walnut Grove)
School record 53 Field Goals in a Game (vs. Walnut Grove)