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Dream Season at a glance

Countdown to 26-0

Regular season play

December 1968

No. 1 – Laurel 76, Lovell, Wyoming 57

Date – December 6, 1968; Location – Lovell, Wyoming.

Guard Alan Campbell and forward Lee Perrigo combined for 44 points, powering the Locomotives to an easy season-opening win over Lovell.

The non-conference game saw Laurel race to a 25-8 first-quarter lead and pad the margin to to 43-21 at halftime. The Locomotives continued to control the game after intermission, going up, 64-36, after three quarters.

Laurel emptied its bench during the fourth quarter.

Campbell scored 26 points and Perrigo added 18.

Laurel scoring summary – Campbell 26, T. Perrigo 18, Dan Spoon 6, Lee Perrigo 7, Roger Seelye 5, Jerry Bygren 5, Leon Schmidt 7, Mark Metzger 2.

No. 2 – Laurel 83, Cody, Wyoming 63

Date – December 7, 1968; Location – Cody, Wyoming

Cody grabbed a two-point lead at the end of the first quarter, but the Locomotives took charge in the second quarter and rolled to a comfortable victory.

Tom Perrigo scored 27 points to pace Laurel. Three teammates joined him in double figures: Leon Schmidt and Roger Seely, 16 each, and Alan Campbell 14.

Trailing 20-18 after one period, Laurel led at halftime, 41-34, and padded its lead to 59-44 after three quarters.

Laurel scoring summary – T. Perrigo 27, Schmidt 16, Seelye 16, Campbell 14, Spoon 3, L. Perrigo 3, Ric Peterson 2, Bygren 2.

No. 3 – Laurel 53, Hardin 44

Date – December 13, 1968; Location – Hardin

Laurel opened Big 32 conference play with a win over the Bulldogs that was in doubt until the fourth quarter.

Laurel led at the quarter stops, 13-12, 27-21, and 37-36, but Hardin grabbed a 35-33 lead with 35 seconds left in the third quarter. The Bulldogs also nipped at the Locomotives’ heels in the fourth quarter until Tom Perrigo sank four straight free throws for a 45-40 advantage with 3-½ minutes to go.

Perrigo took game honors with 21 points. Alan Campbell added 18 points.

Laurel scoring summary – T. Perrigo 21, Seelye 9, L. Perrigo 2, Spoon 3, Campbell 18

No. 4 – Laurel 57, Billings Senior 56

Date – December 18, 1968; Location – Billings Senior

Head coach Don Peterson missed this Laurel victory. He stayed home, after contracting the Spanish flu, and turned the coaching reins over to Karl Fiske and Kevin Wilson.

All Peterson could do was listen to a radio broadcast of the game, but his assistants came through. They guided the Locomotives to a stirring one-point win over the Broncs, who were a little more than one season removed from winning the Big 32 championship themselves in a classic game (March 1967 – an overtime win over crosstown rival Billings West at the MSU Fieldhouse). Laurel had not defeated Senior in several decades, and the win avenged a 69-49 loss to the Broncs the previous season.

It was Laurel’s closest game of the season.

Laurel trailed 15-1 in the first quarter but outscored Senior, 18-5, in the second quarter for a 30-26 halftime margin.

The Locomotives, up by 49-40 with 5:30 remaining in the game, saw their lead vanish as the Broncs scored 12 unanswered points for 52-49 edge with two minutes to go. The Broncs still led, 54-51, with 1:35 remaining, but Laurel’s pressing defense produced several Senior turnovers in the late going. (The Broncs gave up the ball 27 times in the contest.)

Two Tom Perrigo free throws put Laurel in front for good, 55-54, with 45 seconds remaining. Reserve Mark Metzger iced the win by converting two more gift shots with 23 seconds to go, making it 57-54. The free throws proved crucial because Senior’s Dan Pekich sank a 20-footer with six seconds left to close scoring.

Perrigo took game honors with 20 points, and Alan Campbell added 12.

Laurel scoring summary – Campbell 12, T. Perrigo 20, Spoon 2, Seelye 2, Metzger 2, Bygren 7, Schmidt 7, L. Perrigo 4.

No. 5 – Laurel 66, Lewistown 49

Date – December 20, 1968; Location – Laurel

Laurel led all the way to go into the Christmas break with a perfect record. The Locomotives held leads of 19-10, 37-27 and 46-33 at the quarter stops.

Alan Campbell paced the Locomotives with 19 points, Tom Perrigo added 17, and Jerry Byrgren tallied 14.

Laurel won without the services of Roger Seelye, a stalwart rebounder and scorer who was injured in the Billings Senior game two days earlier.

Laurel scoring summary – Campbell 19, Perrigo 17, Leon Schmidt 9, Bygren 14, Mark Metzger 2, Mike Belinak 2, Dave Brinkel 2, Lon Peterson 1.

January 1969

No. 6 – Laurel 53, Miles City 42

Date – January 3, 1969; Location – Laurel

Laurel, ranked No. 4 in the state sportswriters’ power poll, toppled No. 6 Miles City in a defensive battle.

The Locomotives controlled the boards against the taller Cowboys, accumulating a 48-33 rebounding margin. Jerry Bygren grabbed 13 rebounds.

Miles City pulled into a tie at 13 in the second quarter before the Locomotives took charge. They pulled ahead by nine points in the fourth quarter and widened the margin slightly at the buzzer.’

Tom Perrigo and Alan Campbell paced the Laurel offense with 16 points and 15 points, respectively.

Laurel scoring summary – T. Perrigo 16, Roger Seelye 9, Bygren 1, Lee Perrigo 12, Campbell 15.

No. 7 – Laurel 56, Hardin 34

Date – January 4, 1969; Location – Laurel

Laurel used double-figure scoring from Alan Campbell and Tom Perrigo to roll past Hardin.

Campbell poured in 15 points, and Perrigo scored 13. Perrigo also pulled down 15 rebounds.

The Locomotives led at the end of each quarter: 15-4, 24-12, and 41-21.

Laurel scoring summary – T. Perrigo 13, Roger Seelye 2, Jerry Bygren 7, Lee Perrigo 8, Campbell 15, Dan Spoon 4, Leon Schmidt 2, Mike Belinak 2, Mark Metzger 2.

No. 8 – Laurel 60, Glendive 50

Date – January 10, 1969; Location – Glendive

Laurel validated its No. 3 statewide ranking by taking an early lead over Glendive, at the Red Devils’ gym, and protecting it the rest of the game.

The Locomotives owned quarter-ending leads of 18-11, 32-24, and 49-35.

Tom Perrigo picked up game scoring honors with 24 points.

No scoring summary available.

No. 9 – Laurel 82, Sidney 66

Date – January 11, 1969; Location – Sidney

The Locomotives rallied from a first-quarter deficit to beat the Eagles.

Behind 23-17 after the first eight minutes, Laurel built a 38-35 halftime lead and entered the final quarter leading, 62-50.

Three Locomotives scored in double figures: Tom Perrigo, 26 points; Lee Perrigo, 18, and Alan Campbell, 16.

Laurel scoring summary – T. Perrigo 26, L. Perrigo 18, Dan Spoon 2, Leon Schmidt 3, Alan Campbell 16, Jerry Bygren 2, Mike Belinak 2, Roger Seelye 13.

No. 10 – Laurel 60, Great Falls Central 44

Date – January 17, 1969; Location – Laurel

Laurel outrebounded the Mustangs, 59-31, and led the entire way en route to an easy victory.

The Locomotives held quarter leads of 11-6, 31-20, and 43-32.

Tom Perrigo and Roger Seelye shared scoring honors with 20 points apiece. Illness reduced playing time for star guard Alan Campbell.

Laurel scoring summary – T. Perrigo 20, Jerry Bygren 1, Campbell 5, Lee Perrigo 7, Seelye 20, Dan Spoon 3, Dave Brinkel 4.

No. 11 – Laurel 74, Bozeman 48

Date – January 18, 1969; Location – Bozeman

Tom Perrigo, Roger Seelye and Jerry Bygren combined for 55 points as the Locomotives blasted Bozeman.

Perrigo poured in 19 points, and Seelye and Bygren tallied 18 apiece.

No scoring summary available.

No. 12 – Laurel 70, Glendive 41

Date – January 24, 1969; Location – Laurel

Glendive held an early lead, but the Locomotives rallied, took control and easily won.

The Red Devils grabbed an 11-5 advantage with about five minutes gone in the first quarter. Laurel, though, pulled into a 14-14 tie at the end of the period and held the halftime lead, 32-24, and widened its advantage to 49-29 entering the fourth quarter.

Tom Perrigo, who came into the game averaging 20.2 points per contest, paced the Locomotives with 21 points. Teammates who reached double figures included Alan Campbell, 14 points; Jerry Bygren 11; and Roger Seelye, 10.

Laurel scoring summary – T. Perrigo 11, Seelye 10, Campbell 14, Bygren 11, Lee Perrigo 3, Dave Brinkel 3, Mike Belinak 1, Ric Peterson 2, Clint Rooley 2, Gerry Ready 2, Miller 1.

No. 13 – Laurel 81, Sidney 60

Date – January 25, 1969; Location – Laurel

Every piston provided power as the Locomotives to a comfortable win over the Eagles. Eleven Laurel scored, four reaching double figures, and the home team outrebounded the visitors, 62-33.

Tom Perrigo led the way with 17 rebounds and 14 points. Alan Campbell followed with 16 points, Roger Seelye chipped in 12, and Jerry Bygren added 11.

Laurel scoring summary – T. Perrigo 14, Seelye 12, Bygren 11, Campbell 16, Lee Perrigo 4, Mark Metzger 8, Leon Schmidt 5, Dave Brinkel 2, Mike Belinak 1, Rick Peterson 4, Gerry Ready 4.

No. 14 – Laurel 56, Lewistown 53

Date – January 31, 1969; Location – Lewistown

Laurel upheld its newly-attained No. 2 state power poll ranking with a gritty, come-from-behind on the road.

The Locomotives erased an eight-point Golden Eagles lead in the fourth quarter. It was, Laurel players agreed as they looked back years later, one of their two most challenging regular season games, the other being a one-point win over Billings Senior at the Broncs’ gym in December 1968.

To keep their streak alive, the Locomotives turned to Tom Perrigo and Alan Campbell in the fourth quarter. The senior forward and senior guard combined for 12 of Laurel’s 16 points in the frame.

Laurel forged a 15-8 first-quarter lead, but the Eagles rallied to tie the game at halftime, 28-all. The teams stayed tied at 37-all after three quarters.

Campbell, who had been averaging 15 points a game, scored 19. Perrigo, who brought a 19.8 point scoring average, tallied 16.

Laurel scoring summary – Campbell 19, Perrigo 16, Roger Seelye 16, Jerry Bygren 6, Mark Metzger 4, Smith 1.

February 1969

No. 15 – Laurel 65, Livingston 54

Date – February 1, 1969; Location – Laurel

Senior forward Tom Perrigo scored a personal season-high 28 points, powering the Locomotives to an easy win over the Rangers.

Laurel led at all the quarter stops, 17-11, 38-26, and 48-39. With his team up by 15 points in the fourth quarter, Locomotives coach Don Peterson went to his bench and gave reserves ample playing time.

Alan Campbell added 11 points to the winning total.

Laurel scoring summary – Tom Perrigo 28, Roger Seelye 5, Jerry Bygren 4, Campbell 11, Mark Metzger 4, Lee Perrigo 5, Leon Schmidt 4, Dave Brinkel 2, Dan Spoon 2.

No. 16 – Laurel 74, Billings Central 64

Date – February 7, 1969; Location – Laurel

The Locomotives held off the hot-shooting Rams, who got within four points of Laurel in the fourth quarter but couldn’t close the gap.

The win almost assured the Locomotives of the No. 1 ranking in the state power poll because Great Falls Russell upset top-ranked (and defending state Big 32 champion) Wolf Point.

Laurel shook off an early 9-3 deficit to take a 22-15 first-quarter lead. The Locomotives lead grew to 42-32 at halftime, but the Rams refused to fold. They closed the gap to eight points, 58-50, after three quarters then whittled Laurel’s lead down to four points, 60-56, with 6:13 left in the game.

With his team leading, 66-60, Laurel’s Tom Perrigo essentially sealed the outcome by scoring a driving layup and adding two free throws to give the Locomotives a 70-60 lead with a bit more than two minutes left in the game.

Although Central’s box-and-one zone defense focused on Perrigo, the smooth forward took game honors with 23 points. Jerry Bygren tallied 17 points and Alan Campbell added 13.

Campbell and Perrigo sparked Laurel’s ball-hawking defense, which came up with 22 Ram turnovers compared with 13 by the Locomotives. Laurel also controlled the boards, finishing with a 51-29 rebounding edge.

Central, however, found the range, both at the free throw line (20-of-23 conversion, compared with Laurel’s 26-of-38) and from the field (51 percent, compared with Laurel’s 38 percent).

Laurel scoring summary – Lee Perrigo 9, Tom Perrigo 23, Campbell 13, Roger Seelye 8, Jerry Bygren 17, Leon Schmidt 2, Mark Metzger 2.

No. 17 – Laurel 68, Bozeman 47

Date – February 8, 1969; Location – Laurel

The Locomotives cruised past the Hawks, piling up quarter leads of 21-8, 34-20, and 52-31. Laurel’s lead bulged to 28 points in the third quarter, prompting coach Don Peterson to send in reserves to finish the game.

Leon Schmidt took scoring honors for Laurel with 13 points. Tom Perrigo, averaging more than 20 points a game and the Locomotives’ leading scorer, scored 12 points while playing only the first half. Other double-figure scorers were Alan Campbell (12 points) and Roger Seelye (10). Jerry Bygren, a stalwart of Laurel’s front line, made a brief appearance after suffering an ankle injury in the game the night before.

Laurel scoring summary – Tom Perrigo 12, Seelye 10, Campbell 12, Lee Perrigo 7, Schmidt 13, Dave Brinkel 5, Dan Spoon 4, Gerry Ready 5.

No. 18 – Laurel 59, Miles City 53

Date – February 14, 1969; Location – Miles City

Sporting a No. 1 ranking in the state power poll, the Locomotives held off the Cowboys in a rugged contest.

Miles City was called for 17 fouls, compared with Laurel’s nine.

Alan Campbell and Tom Perrigo paced the Locomotives, scoring 23 points and 20 points, respectively.

Laurel scoring summary – Tom Perrigo 20, Jerry Bygren 6, Leon Schmidt 2, Alan Campbell 23, Lee Perrigo 2, Roger Seelye 6.

No. 19 – Laurel 61, Livingston 50

Date – February 20, 1969; Location – Livingston

The Locomotives held off the surprisingly competitive Rangers in a game that wasn’t decided until halfway through the fourth quarter.

Livingston took a 16-15 first-quarter lead, but Laurel surged ahead, 30-28, at halftime and maintained the same margin with a 38-36 advantage after three quarters.

Alan Campbell sealed the win four minutes into the fourth quarter. He scored on a fast break to give the Locomotives a 49-41 lead.

Campbell and Tom Perrigo, building their credentials for all-state honors, paced Laurel with 22 points and 21 points, respectively.

Laurel scoring summary – Dan Spoon 2, Campbell 22, Lee Perrigo 2, Jerry Bygren 7, Tom Perrigo 21, Roger Seelye 5.

No. 20 – Laurel 71, Billings Central 62

Date – February 22, 1969; Location – Billings West High School gym

The Locomotives gained Big 32 elite status by holding off the archrival Rams in a regular-season finale played before a standing-room-only crowd of 3,100 at the West High gym. The contest, a home game for Central, was moved across town to the larger facility to accommodate high fan interest.

With the win, Laurel became the first Class AA-A team in five years – since the inaugural Big 32 season – to finish regular-season play undefeated. The only other team to do so was Missoula High School in 1964, which went on to win the state championship with its 49th straight win and to extend its state-record boys basketball win streak to 56 games the following season.

Missoula’s star was 6-7 center Mike Lewis, who went on to earn All-American honors at Duke University and to play several seasons in the American Basketball Association.

The Locomotives weren’t lacking for star power of their own during this season – or in this game. Forward Roger Seelye poured in 22 points; Tom Perrigo tossed in 17 during the first half; and Jerry Bygren tallied 15.

Perrigo was often double-teamed but was virtually unstoppable. He got in foul trouble in the second half, however, and fouled out with 5:22 remaining without scoring in the half.

Deadly free throw shooting helped the Locomotives end up winners. They converted 17 of 19 charity shots in the second half – 23 of 29 for the game – compared with Central’s 13 of 23.

The Rams closed within eight points early in the fourth quarter before the Locomotives’ disciplined offense and Central’s troubles at the free throw line proved critical. Laurel built a 16-point lead, 66-50, with 2:49 left. The Locomotives used reserves down the stretch, which allowed the Rams to narrow the margin to the final score.

The game was a personal triumph for guard Alan Campbell. He earned all-state honors at Billings Central as a junior before deciding to transfer to Laurel for his senior year – a decision that prompted heckling from some Central fans.

Laurel scoring summary – Campbell 5, Lee Perrigo 6, Bygren 15, Tom Perrigo 17, Roger Seelye 22, Dave Brinkel 2, Leon Schmidt 2.

Tournament play (February/March 1969)

Division 1 – Great Falls

No. 21 – Laurel 80, Great Falls Central 49
Date – February 27, 1969

Alan Campbell’s spectacular play led the Locomotives past the Mustangs and into the divisional tournament semifinals.

Campbell, a senior guard gaining the eye of college recruiters with his quickness and precision passing, broke free for five layups en route to a game-high 20 points. Three other Locomotives reached double figures: Jerry Bygren, 17 points; Tom Perrigo, 16; and sub Dan Spoon, 11.

The Mustangs initially proved more competitive than expected. They led most of the first quarter before settling for a 14-all tie at the buzzer. Their threat ended, however, with a tie at 19. The Locomotives reeled off 17 straight points to grab a 36-19 lead.

Spoon’s scoring drive gave Laurel its biggest lead of the first half, 40-21. Ahead 40-25 at intermission, the Locomotives pulled away to a 67-39 advantage after three quarters.

Laurel’s full-court press bothered the Mustangs, forcing costly turnovers.

The Locomotives ended with an edge in field goals, 29 to their opponents’ 17, and free throws, 22 converted in 30 tries compared with 15-of-28 for the Mustangs.

The win advanced the Locomotives to the semifinals against Lewistown, which knocked off Great Falls in a first-round game.

Laurel scoring summary – Campbell 20, Roger Seelye 5, Lee Perrigo 3, Jerry Bygren 17, Tom Perrigo 16, Gerry Ready 2, Spoon 11, Dave Brinkel 2.

No. 22 – Laurel 66, Lewistown 48

Date – February 28, 1969

Laurel’s rugged defense resulted in key steals, and outstanding offensive play and rebounding sealed the Locomotives’ semifinal win over the Golden Eagles.

Laurel led at all quarter stops, 18-8, 36-15, and 48-30.

Roger Seelye paced Laurel with 20 points, Jerry Bygren added 15, and Tom Perrigo tallied 13. Alan Campbell, normally a double-figure scorer, concentrated on passing and defense. He scored nine points.

Laurel scoring summary – Lee Perrigo 5, Campbell 9, Seelye 20, Tom Perrigo 13, Bygren 15, Leon Schmidt 2, Rick Peterson 2.

No. 23 – Laurel 52, Great Falls Russell 47 (divisional championship)

Date – March 1, 1969

The Locomotives seemed set to make the title game a cakewalk, but the Rustlers had other ideas. Behind by as much as 19 points in the first half, Russell twice closed to within three points in the fourth quarter before sophomore Gerry Ready and reserve Dan Spoon kept Laurel’s win streak alive.

The contest, played before a turn away crowd of 5,500 spectators, belonged to the Locomotives early. They led, 22-8, after the first quarter and increased their margin to 19, 31-12, on Alan Campbell’s bucket with 2:10 left in the first half. Laurel held a 33-17 edge at intermission.

Campbell’s reverse layup in the third quarter gave Laurel a 39-22 lead, and the Locomotives owned a 45-34 advantage starting in the fourth quarter.

The fourth quarter, however, turned tense for the Locomotives – cousins Lee and Tom Perrigo, as well as Jerry Bygren, all starters, fouled out. Russell also lost center Larry Landsverk to fouls in the third quarter.

Laurel claimed the title thanks to the play of two reserves who were not usually in the spotlight. Ready, the only non-senior on the team, sank two free throws, and Dan Spoon scored a field goal and two free throws to give the Locomotives breathing room.

Campbell took game scoring honors with 20 points on a variety of shots. Spoon added 11.

Laurel made 17 field goals and went 18-for-33 at the free throw line. Russell nearly mirrored that, sinking 16 field goals and 15 of 29 free throws. The Locomotives were whistled for 26 fouls, the Rustlers for 25.

Laurel scoring summary – Lee Perrigo 6, Tom Perrigo 8, Campbell 20, Ready 2, Bygren 2, Seelye 2, Spoon 11, Leon Schmidt 1.

  The MSU Fieldhouse floor as it appeared in 1969. Renovation in the 1980s resulted in installation of a permanent hardwood floor as well as reduced seating capacity. At the time of the Big 32 tournaments, a parquet floor was placed over the dirt base. Players used a gangway to reach the floor. They were told to wipe their shoes on towels to avoid slipping on the floor and to avoid tracking dirt on the hardwood. MSU file photo

The MSU Fieldhouse floor as it appeared in 1969. Renovation in the 1980s resulted in installation of a permanent hardwood floor as well as reduced seating capacity. At the time of the Big 32 tournaments, a parquet floor was placed over the dirt base. Players used a gangway to reach the floor. They were told to wipe their shoes on towels to avoid slipping on the floor and to avoid tracking dirt on the hardwood. MSU file photo

State Tournament – Bozeman – Montana State University Fieldhouse

No. 24 – Laurel 71, Missoula Hellgate 47

Date – March 13, 1969

The Locomotives hit an astounding 35 of 45 free throws and rallied from a first-quarter deficit to romp over the Knights and reach the state tournament Friday night semifinal round.

Hellgate took an early 8-0 lead and was still ahead, 12-4, in the opening period before Laurel found its footing. Trailing 14-9 at the end of the first quarter, the Locomotives used Tom Perrigo’s three-point play at 2:36 of the second quarter to go ahead for good.

Laurel built a 26-23 halftime lead and dominated the second half behind the rebounding of Perrigo and fellow senior Jerry Bygren.

Laurel set a Big 32 state tournament record for free throws made, and the total free throws made by both teams (50) equaled a mark set the year before.

The Locomotives’ 48-30 lead at the end of the third quarter allowed coach Don Peterson play reserves for much of the fourth quarter.

Peterson said he was concerned about the Locomotives’ shooting in the early minutes.

“I was beginning to wonder when the shots were going to start dropping,” he told Billings Gazette sports editor Norm Clarke after the game.

Meanwhile, Butte Central upset defending state champion Wolf Point, 46-40, in another first-round game. That assured a new Big 32 champion for every year (six) of the league’s existence. The Maroons’ win also erased the possibility of a dream matchup that many prep basketball observers around the Treasure State had been hoping for: the 1968 Class A team that knocked off bigger schools en route to the trophy (Wolf Point) vs. the up-and-coming 1969 Class A team hoping to achieve the same feat (Laurel).

Laurel-Missoula Hellgate box score

Player G FT TP Player G FT TP
T. Perrigo 4 11-12 19 Boston 2 3-3 8
Bygren 4 7-10 15 Rice 3 4-4 10
L. Perrigo 1 2-3 4 Klaudt 1 0-0 2
Seelye 4 0-0 8 Schneiter Dennis 4 5-5 13
Campbell 3 2-3 8 Schneiter Dan 3 1-2 7
Spoon 1 10-13 12 Landman 1 0-0 2
Metzger 0 1-2 1 Bakker 1 0-0 2
Ready 1 2-2 4 Ever 0 3-3 3
Dickhaut 0 1-2 1
Totals 18 35-45 71 Totals 15 17-19 47

Laurel 9 17 22 23 – 71 Missoula Hellgate 14 9 7 17 – 47 Fouled out – Laurel, L. Perrigo; Hellgate – Rice Rebounding leaders – Laurel, T. Perrigo 12; Hellgate – Rice 5. Total fouls – Laurel 16, Hellgate 28 Attendance – 4,000

No. 25 – Laurel 63, Butte Central 56

Date – March 14, 1969The Locomotives advanced to their first-ever state basketball championship game by holding off the Maroons in front of the biggest crowd to ever watch a basketball game in Montana.

Senior guard Alan Campbell’s playmaking ability as well as the spark his steals provided to Laurel’s pressure defense proved the difference in the close contest.

An overflow crowd of 10,700 spectators poured into the Montana State University Fieldhouse; an estimated 500 fans were turned away. The attendance surpassed the previous record of 10,200 set in 1958 – the fieldhouse’s first season – when Seattle University played then-Montana State College. That game gave Montanans a chance to see future NBA star Elgin Baylor, who as a junior that year led Seattle to the NCAA championship game where the Chieftans lost to Kentucky.

The Locomotives triumphed against the Maroons in spite of having two ailing starters. Senior center Jerry Bygren was battling strep throat and senior forward Tom Perrigo had flu-like symptoms.

Laurel’s path to victory became more challenging in the second half when Bygren and Perrigo, the squad’s tallest players at 6-foot-2, were benched with four fouls apiece.

Campbell and Roger Seelye, however, stepped up. Campbell tossed in 17 points while Seelye contributed 15 points and 11 rebounds.

The Locomotives also got another clutch performance from sophomore Gerry Ready, the lone non-senior on the squad. Ready, who started the season as a junior varsity player but was pulled up to the varsity earlier in the winter, hit two free throws with 14 seconds left to ice the win. He added two free throws at the buzzer.

Ready also scored two crucial free throws in Laurel’s divisional championship win over Great Falls Russell two weeks earlier. He got his chance then when three Locomotive starters fouled out in the fourth quarter.

Central led, 12-10, at the end of the first quarter, but Laurel surged ahead, 32-23, at halftime. The Locomotives owned a 43-34 margin as the third quarter ended.

Both teams made 47 percent of their field goal attempts, but Laurel won the game at the free throw line, converting 23 of 35 attempts to Central’s 16-for-22 shooting.

Laurel-Butte Central box score

Player G FT TP Player G FT TP
T. Perrigo 4 1-4 9 Antonetti 6 6-6 18
Bygren 1 1-3 3 Vogelsang 4 1-2 9
L. Perrigo 0 2-4 2 Petritz 2 3-4 7
Seelye 5 5-7 15 George 4 0-0 8
Campbell 7 3-4 17 Mahoney 4 6-6 14
Spoon 1 1-2 3 Mitchell 0 0-0 0
Schmidt 0 6-7 6 0-5
Ready 2 4-4 8
Totals 20 23-35 63 Totals 20 16-23 56

Laurel 10 22 11 20 – 63 Butte Central 12 11 11 22 – 56 Attendance – 10,700

No. 26 – Laurel 57, Flathead of Kalispell 54 (Overtime)

Date – March 15, 1969

Once again, a Montana-record (for basketball games of either gender, at any level of play) crowd of 10,700 streamed into the Montana State University Fieldhouse. Another 500 fans (estimated) were turned away at the door; at least some of them listened to the game broadcast on KOOK radio from Billings while a statewide audience tuned in to the play-by-play from Lane Saunders and Mike Wrigg.

Whether watching in person or listening over the radio, thousands of Montanans experienced a classic championship game.

The Locomotives, who had no one taller than 6-2 in either their starting lineup or on the bench, more than held their own with the Braves, whose front line included 6-11 junior center Brent Wilson, 6-7 senior forward Don Groven and 6-4 senior forward Greg Ellingson.

Adding to the slightly Hoosiers-like atmosphere, Laurel’s enrollment at the start of the school year, 431 students, made it the 28th smallest of the Big 32 schools. Kalispell’s enrollment, officially 1,378, was more than three times larger, and some who were Kalispell students at the time have said they thought the actual enrollment approached 1,600 students.

The outcome revolved around the final 6-½ minutes – 3:30 of regulation play plus the three-minute overtime period.

Senior center Jerry Bygren, one of Laurel’s 6-2 players, made two free throws early in the extra period to put the Locomotives ahead for good, 55-53.

Lee Perrigo clinched Laurel’s first state championship. The 5-8 senior dribbled the ball a bit, helping the Locomotives work their four-corner offense in the final minute, and then saw a lane to the hoop. He swooped in for a layup, making it 57-54 and punctuating the victory.

Perrigo earned a place in Montana prep basketball history – his two points in overtime were the last scored in a Big 32 game.

KOOK broadcaster Saunders captured the moment. “Pandemonium breaks loose at the fieldhouse,” he told listeners in the broadcast, which was recorded, saved and is still available today.

“The Laurel Locomotives are the new 1968-69 Big 32 champions. And there’s a happy, happy crew on the floor right now. Looks like a pack of ants. Only undefeated team in the state of Montana,” he said.

Laurel led 45-37 starting the fourth quarter, a mirror image of the Locomotives’ eight-point deficit in the first half. The Braves, however, rallied behind the play of Wilson and Groven, who returned to play after being benched by coach Paul Gologoski when each collected his fourth foul in the third quarter.

Groven sank a short jumper to make it 51-all with 3:25 left. Laurel answered, Alan Campbell converting a one-and-one for a 53-51 lead.

Campbell, who would earn all-state honors for the second year in a row (as a junior, he played for Billings Central), got a chance to pad the Locomotives’ lead but missed the front of a one-and-one.

Laurel missed another opportunity a few moments later. Groven fouled out, sending Tom Perrigo to the line but he missed the first shot of a one-and-one.

A Wilson layup tied the game at 53 with 1:50 left in regulation.

There, the score stayed although both Kalispell missed chances to win late in the fourth quarter. First, Wilson threaded a pass to Ellingson, open beneath the basket, but he bobbled the ball out of bounds going in for a layup. Then, Wilson fouled out with two seconds left. That sent Tom Perrigo to the line but he missed the first shot of a one-and-one, sending the game into overtime.

Campbell led all scorers with 19 points. Groven and Wilson paced Kalispell with 17 points/13 rebounds and 14 points/12 rebounds, respectively.

Kalispell outshot Laurel from the field, 42 percent to 36 percent. The Locomotives compensated at the free throw line where they went 15-for-29, compared with the Braves’ 10-for-18.

Attendance at the Laurel-Kalispell game, as well as the semifinal games the night before, pushed the overall 1969 tournament attendance to 41,000. That amounted to a sizeable percentage of Montana’s total population – 694,000 in the 1970 census – at the time. Despite the obvious crowd appeal, the Montana High School Association’s Class AA and A schools, those comprising the Big 32, voted, 19-13, to disband the six-year-old league at a special meeting in April 1969.

Kalispell-Laurel box score

Player G FT TP Player G FT TP
Otten 4 0-1 8 T. Perrigo 3 7-13 13
Groven 7 3-6 17 Bygren 2 3-7 7
Wilson 6 2-4 14 Seelye 5 0-0 10
Stoick 3 2-2 8 Campbell 8 3-4 19
Ellingson 1 1-3 3 L. Perrigo 2 1-3 5
Hall 1 2-2 4 Spoon 0 0-0 0
Robinson 0 0-0 0 Ready 0 1-2 1
Golden 0 0-0 0 Metzger 1 0-0 2
Burton 0 0-0 0
Totals 22 10-18 54 Totals 21 15-29 5

Kalispell 16 12 9 16 1 – 54 Laurel 13 15 17 8 4 – 57 Fouled out – Kalispell, Groven, Wilson, Ellingson Rebounding leaders – Kalispell, Groven 13, Wilson 12; Laurel – T. Perrigo 12. Total fouls – Kalispell 26, Laurel 16 Attendance – 10,700

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Jamie Larson