Weaver remains living legend in Beloit

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BELOIT - A lot has changed about basketball since LaMont Weaver sank easily the most famous basket in Wisconsin high school state basketball history on March 22, 1969.

But some things never change.

That 55-foot prayer he sank at the buzzer - the "shot heard 'round the state - remains etched in LaMont Weaver's mind as surely as Weaver's name remains etched for anyone old enough to have witnessed it either in person or on television.

When Weaver appeared at Tuesday's Rotary Club luncheon, a good many hands went up when former WBEL Sportscaster Rick West asked how many were in attendance at the UW Field House for the state final 50 years ago.

A few more hands shot up when he asked for witnesses of the telecast of the game.

West even brought grainy video of the fateful shot that pulled Beloit Memorial's Purple Knights out of certain doom and sent the game with Neenah into overtime. Weaver later made the game-winning free throws as Beloit won in two overtimes, 80-79, to cap a 26-0 season.

"It seems like it was just yesterday sometimes," Weaver said. "Especially when you can go back and replay the tape of the finish."

West also brought along audio of thebroadcast on WBEL by the late Bill Dommer. When Neenah scored to go up by two points, 70-68, with just three seconds remaining Beloit's hopes looked dashed. But Chuck Loft quickly called timeout a second later and the Knights still had the opportunity for a miracle.

All they had to do was traverse the length of the court in two seconds and score. A piece of cake, right?

"We would practice that last-second shot (scenario) every night," Weaver said. "Only I wasn't the one taking the shot. I would throw a long pass to Bruce Brown, our (6-foot-7) center, and he would tip it in."

Coming out of the timeout, the scrawny 6-foot-1 junior cut to his left to take a baseball pass near the center line from Dan Wohlfert.

"I got a great pass from Dan," Weaver said. "We had played baseball together and we were both pitchers. He threw a strike to me."

Weaver took one dribble and launched his left-handed shot toward the hoop 55 feet away.

"We had practiced that situation, but always with a little more time than two seconds," Weaver said. "I felt like I had to try to make it. I threw it just far enough."

The ball rainbowed toward the hoop and caromed off the backboard through the net to the shock of the nearly 13,000 fans in attendance.

"I was 10 years old and for me it was bigger than life," Tim Scholten said. "I went to the game with a friend and his grandfather had left early to check on a parking space and missed the shot. The mother of my friend had her hands over her eyes and she didn't see it either."

While the game still had two overtimes filled with drama, it is "The Shot" that has endured.

"I don't honestly remember a lot of what went on (in the overtimes)," Weaver said. "I know I hit the 1-and-1 at the end and I know we won and that's what's important. It was a great basketball game for the fans to watch played by two great teams with two great coaches. We played right down to the wire.

"One thing about our team, we were big, we were quick and we were deep. We didn't rely on one or two players. We knew whoever came in could do the job. That's why we were so good."

Weaver says he hears from folks in Beloit all the time about both the shot and that wonderful team that galvanized a city during a time when racial strife was tearing apart much of America.

"We had six black players and six white players on the team," Weaver said. "It was just a great situation at that time with Coach Bernie Barkin and the booster club and all our fans. Everyone grew up wanting to play for the Knights."

Weaver became the team's instant celebrity, although that team really had plenty of star power. Bruce Brown was terrific in the state tourney, leading everyone in scoring and setting a record for field-goal efficiency. Loft was a solid player as well as David Kilgore, who went on to play professional baseball.

Weaver said he has been asked to demonstrate his famed shot several times over the years and on least two occasions he converted. One came on a recruiting visit to Kansas State, although he chose to accept a scholarship from the University of Wisconsin instead. Another came in 1978 when a reporter asked him to re-enact the shot.

"I had the sorest shoulder after that," he says with a chuckle.

A similar shot today in a state tournament would have a million hits on YouTube and ESPN would have shown it. But thanks to the eyes and ears of some of us old-timers, Weaver remains a living legend.

"When we left the arena that night people were saying, 'they're going to be talking about that shot 50 years from now," West said. "I guess they were right. We still are."

• Editor's note: This certainly won't be the last you'll read here on this remarkable team. As the state tournament grows closer look for much more to come on that spectacular season.

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