History  of  Mt. Pulaski

 

Hilltopper  Basketball

 

 

            Mount Pulaski High School fielded its first high school basketball team during the 1912-1913 season.  That season was the beginning that has led to more than 1500 high school victories for one of the most respected basketball programs in the state of Illinois.

            Mt. Pulaski has long been known for its caliber of competition it played as well as outstanding coaches that have coached at Mt. Pulaski.  The first team of note was the 1922-23 team coached by Earl Beebe.  The 1922-23 team won the district and regional titles, losing to eventual state champ Villa Grove.  This is the only year in IHSA history that only four teams advanced to state.  This Mt. Pulaski team made it to the final eight teams. 

            In 1926 Kenneth Conrey came and led the Hilltoppers to a 68-25 record over the next four years.  In 1930 George Dertinger came to Mt. Pulaski from the University of Illinois and inaugurated the idea of playing “suicide schedules”.  Coach Dertinger won several district and regional titles while posting an amazing 96-23 record during his five year stay on the Hilltop.

            Coach Dolph Stanley, a charter member of the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, came to Mt. Pulaski in 1935 and posted a 60-18 record over 3 years.  The 1936 team coached by Dolph placed fourth in the state.  This team reached the Sweet Sixteen by defeating rival Lincoln 32-17.  The team’s record was 26-7 overall, against some the state’s best teams.  Stanley later won a state championship at Taylorville and retired with over 800 victories.  In a February 6, 1987 Wall Street Journal article, Dolph stated that he, not John Wooden, had invented the zone press defense and used it for the first time with this 1936 Mt. Pulaski team.

            Leroy Halberg then came for four years, followed by Virgil Fletcher, another charter member of the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.  Virgil left Mt. Pulaski after one year where he posted a 19-11 record and later coached at Collinsville, retiring with over 700 victories.

            Arthur Yates coached one year before Carroll Wood came to Mt. Pulaski and had six very good years.  His 1947 Hilltoppers lost to Decatur in the Sectional finals in a heartbreaking loss, barely missing a Sweet Sixteen berth in Champaign.  After Wood left, Frank Jones, James Moore, Loren Dittus, Harry Manes and James Koch were some of the coaches who continued the wining tradition of Mt. Pulaski Basketball.

            In 1964 Ed Butkovich came to Mt. Pulaski from Bath High School.  Coach Butkovich started his career at Mt. Pulaski with a regional title in 1965, defeating rival Clinton.  Mt. Pulaski lost to defending state Champion Pekin in the Peoria sectional.  This was Mt. Pulaski’s first regional title since 1949.  Mt. Pulaski next won the regional in 1973 and placed second in the sectional.

            In the summer of 1974, Mt. Pulaski consolidated with Elkhart High School.  In the 1974-75 season Mt. Pulaski posted a fine 25-2 record and won the regional but lost on a last second shot in the sectional.

There would be no stopping Mt. Pulaski the following year.  The Hilltoppers won

the Class ‘A’ State Championship defeating Rova in the title game.  Mt. Pulaski upset the undefeated and then number one ranked team in the state, Eldorado, 76-66 in the quarterfinals.  In the semifinals they beat another undefeated team, Buda Western to advance to the championship game.  Jeff Clements scored the winning basket against Rova to give the Hilltoppers the State Championship Title.  Other starters on the title team were Jeff Anderson, David Welch, Brad Gibbs and David Thompson with sixth man, Scott Moore.

 

 

                             

 

                             1976 Class ‘A’ State Championship Team

 

            With three starters coming back, Mt. Pulaski made a return trip to Champaign in 1977, placing fourth in the State.  The 1978 team reached the Millikin Super-sectional, losing to Sullivan.  In the regional title game that year, Mt. Pulaski, led by senior Jeff Clements, defeated the number one ranked team in the state, Riverton, 91-65.  Clements finished his career in 1978 with three state tournament appearances where he scored 179 points and 2212 points for his career, a school record. 

            Mt. Pulaski returned to the Elite Eight in 1980 losing a heartbreaker to Oakawville 59-57 in the quarterfinals.  Mt. Pulaski almost won the State Title again in 1984, finishing second, losing to McLeansboro 57-50, the undefeated State Champ.  Mt. Pulaski thrilled the spectators at the Assembly Hall during the 1984 State Semi-finals when they defeated tournament favorite Chicago St. Mel 76-74.  This game, with the advent of cable television, was seen in all 50 states and in over 150 countries.  The starters on that 1984 team were Steven Hayes, Deron Powell, Roger Cook, Rick Edwards and Scott Olden. The 1985 team again reached the Sweet Sixteen before losing to eventual State runner-up Chrisman in the Decatur Super-sectional.

 

            Coach Ed Butkovick retired after the 1996 season with an outstanding 558-312 record on the hilltop and an overall record of 617-385.  Former Illini center Bill Rucks replaced the legendary coach and guided the toppers from 1997-2002 winning 83 games and back-to-back regional titles in 1998-99.  The Hilltoppers were next coached by Jim Jumper, who had a record of 124-71 during his seven years.  The Toppers are currently coached by 1999 graduate Ryan Deibert who helped guide the Toppers to their first Regional Title in 15 years in 2014. 

            Mt. Pulaski has had its share of fine individual players, some who were noted for their rebounding, great passing, or their exciting or unique style of play, but they are too numerous to mention.  Those who have scored over 1,000 points include Harry Hahn, Mike Kelly, Gary Durchholz, David Welch, Jeff Clements, Deron Powell, Brad Beggs, Danny Smith, Rex Tschantz, Jarrod Cowan, Clayton Brown, Justin Anderson, Paul Foley, Corey Titus and Michael Lowery. 

            Again, over 1500 victories could not be achieved without fine coaches and fan support.  Mt. Pulaski and the surrounding communities have always supported their team.  One of its greatest fans and long-time scorekeeper, Gene Manes, was inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame in 1979.  Since then, others have been inducted:  Mary Stewart (2005), Marty Spear (2013) and Tim and Jodi Deibert (2016).  Coaches Dolph Stanley, Virgil Fletcher, Ed Butkovich and Jim Jumper, along with the 1976 team are all members of the Hall of Fame.

            In 2007 on the 100th Anniversary of the Illinois State Basketball Tournament, the people of the State of Illinois elected the 100 Legends of March Madness.  Both Jeff Clements and Coach Butkovich, along with Dolph Stanley and Virgil Fletcher, were named to this elite group.

            As you can see, Mt. Pulaski Basketball is one of great tradition and respect.  It has the ingredients of a successful program – fine players, fans and coaches, all working together to keep this tradition going.

 compiled & written by Tim Deibert

Mount Pulaski Boys Basketball
Season Titles W L Coach Season Titles W L Coach
1912-13 R.B. Lindsay 1967-68 17 10 Ed Butkovich
1913-14 3 1 P.K. Benson 1968-69 10 13 Ed Butkovich
1914-15 1 3 Art Cox 1969-70 11 12 Ed Butkovich
1915-16 Art Cox 1970-71 10 15 Ed Butkovich
1916-17 Art Cox 1971-72 9 16 Ed Butkovich
1917-18 Art Cox 1972-73 Regional 20 8 Ed Butkovich
1918-19 Art Cox 1973-74 17 9 Ed Butkovich
1919-20 5 1 John Chardith 1974-75 Regional 25 2 Ed Butkovich
1920-21 6 4 John Chardith 1975-76 State Champion 29 2 Ed Butkovich
1921-22 9 3 John Chardith 1976-77 4th in State 28 4 Ed Butkovich
1922-23 District 16 3 Earl Beebe 1977-78 Sweet 16 24 5 Ed Butkovich
1923-24 District 13 6 Earl Beebe 1978-79 16 9 Ed Butkovich
1924-25 10 8 Earl Beebe 1979-80 Elite 8 27 4 Ed Butkovich
1925-26 16 6 Kenneth Conrey 1981-81 13 12 Ed Butkovich
1926-27 21 5 Kenneth Conrey 1981-82 Regional 19 10 Ed Butkovich
1927-28 District 18 6 Kenneth Conrey 1982-83 Regional 22 5 Ed Butkovich
1928-29 13 8 Kenneth Conrey 1983-84 2nd in State 29 3 Ed Butkovich
1929-30 District 21 6 George Dertinger 1984-85 Sweet 16 21 9 Ed Butkovich
1930-31 15 6 George Dertinger 1985-86 20 8 Ed Butkovich
1931-32 21 4 George Dertinger 1986-87 14 13 Ed Butkovich
1932-33 District 18 4 George Dertinger 1987-88 19 8 Ed Butkovich
1933-34 District 21 3 George Dertinger 1988-89 13 12 Ed Butkovich
1934-35 District 20 7 Dolph Stanley 1989-90 13 12 Ed Butkovich
1935-36 4th in State 26 7 Dolph Stanley 1990-91 11 15 Ed Butkovich
1936-37 Regional 24 4 Dolph Stanley 1991-92 Regional 17 12 Ed Butkovich
1937-38 Regional 15 11 Leroy Halberg 1992-93 Regional 19 8 Ed Butkovich
1938-39 Regional 19 8 Leroy Halberg 1993-94 10 17 Ed Butkovich
1939-40 6 16 Leroy Halberg 1994-95 15 12 Ed Butkovich
1940-41 4 17 Leroy Halberg 1995-96 11 15 Ed Butkovich
1942-42 19 11 Virgil Fletcher 1996-97 14 12 Bill Rucks
1942-43 22 5 Arthur Yates 1997-98 Regional 19 10 Bill Rucks
1943-44 15 11 Carroll Wood 1988-99 Regional 16 11 Bill Rucks
1944-45 21 8 Carroll Wood 1999-00 10 16 Bill Rucks
1945-46 Regional 19 12 Carroll Wood 2000-01 13 13 Bill Rucks
1946-47 Regional 25 6 Carroll Wood 2001-02 11 15 Bill Rucks
1947-48 21 2 Carroll Wood 2002-03 19 9 Jim Jumper
1948-49 Regional 10 15 Carroll Wood 2003-04 23 6 Jim Jumper
1949-50 11 11 Frank Jones 2004-05 19 10 Jim Jumper
1950-51 22 6 Frank Jones 2005-06 13 14 Jim Jumper
1951-52 18 10 Frank Jones 2006-07 16 12 Jim Jumper
1952-53 17 7 Jim Moore 2007-08 17 9 Jim Jumper
1953-54 14 11 Jim Moore 2008-09 17 11 Jim Jumper
1954-55 13 12 Jim Moore 2009-10 6 22 Ryan Deibert
1955-56 14 13 Loren Dittus 2010-11 12 15 Ryan Deibert
1956-57 19 6 Loren Dittus 2011-12 9 18 Ryan Deibert
1957-58 15 13 Harry Manes 2012-13 6 20 Ryan Deibert
1958-59 11 15 Harry Manes 2013-14 Regional 15 17 Ryan Deibert
1959-60 10 16 Harry Manes 2014-15 17 12 Ryan Deibert
1960-61 7 16 James Koch 2015-16 13 15 Ryan Deibert
1961-62 8 13 Ray Tabacchi
1962-63 5 17 Ray Tabacchi
1963-64 10 16 Ellsworth Hartzell
1964-65 Regional 21 6 Ed Butkovich
1965-66 17 10 Ed Butkovich
1966-67 11 16 Ed Butkovich
 

*School Song*

 

Fight on Pulaski, Fight on Pulaski,

Make our opponents fear.

We’re for you one and all,

So let us cheer RAH, RAH, RAH!

 

Fight on Pulaski, Fight on Pulaski,

Make it plain to see.

We’ll FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT

With all our might

To vic-tor-ryy.

 

Eat ‘em up, Eat ‘em up

RAH, RAH, RAH!

 

We’re all for you (slow)

 

Fight on Pulaski, Fight on Pulaski,

Make it plain to see.

We’ll FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT

With all our might

To vic-tor-ryy!

 

Song written by

Les Werntz

In 1945