1945 sectional ball donated to museum
The sectional championship ball of the 1945 Berne Bears has come out of hibernation and has been given to the Swiss Heritage Village Museum.
Arne Liechty, who was president of the Berne Alumni Association at the time the local school system became South Adams, had stored the ball and several other Berne High School artifacts over the years.
“As the pictures, trophies, nets, balls, and other items came down off the walls and out of the display cases, I offered to store these items in the Liechty’s Food Building,” said Liechty.
“Over the years, various people and groups would stop by and usually have a good reason to take some of the artifacts,” observed Liechty. “Some are at the library and some at the village historical museum. The only thing left after a few years was this 1945 sectional championship ball and the two regional games at Huntington.”
The Berne Bears of that year won the sectional championship by defeating the Decatur Yellow Jackets, Geneva and Monmouth to claim the title. At the regional in Huntington, the Bears defeated Dunkirk, 39-37, before losing the championship game to a powerful Huntington team that eventually advanced to the final four teams in the state.
The roster of that team included Elb Stucky, Fritz Lehman, Mort Kneuss, Merlin Inniger, Boomer Baumgartner, Carl Muselman, Bob Isch, Fritz Liechty, Charlie Abraham and Jerry Stucky. The coach of that team was Ned Shuck.
Of the players, only Kneuss and Isch are still alive.
Both Isch and Kneuss were on hand Tuesday for the ball presentation to Swiss Heritage Village administrator Debby Neuenschwander. Each had their own take of the success of that 1945 squad.
“When we got to Huntington, they had 6-4 guys, which was more than we could handle,” observed Isch. “We beat Dunkirk in the afternoon of the regional. Huntington went to the final four that year.”
Isch described Fred Liechty as the “team scrapper” and Baumgartner as “big fellow” on the team. Fred Lehman led the team in scoring.
“The team played man to man defense; we would fast break if we could,” Isch said.
Isch recalls riding the fire truck into Berne following the sectional championship.
“The next Monday we skipped school and rode around the county,” Isch said. “I recall that when Decatur saw us coming, they locked all of the doors in the school.”
Kneuss said that he had four different coaches in four years. He played his first two years at Hartford and then his family moved to Berne. Ironically, he was part of a county tourney championship in Hartford and then the sectional title at Berne.
“Eli Graber was a big supporter of the team,” said Kneuss. “He told us that if we won, he would have us to his house for supper.”
Kneuss said that Berne High School didn’t have school busses at the time, so all trips, such as the one to the Huntington Regional, the team rode in cars escorted by private residents.
Kneuss noted that Menno Eicher, one of the drivers, also told team members that he would feed them if they won the sectional.
“At age 10, I was lucky enough to go to the regional and see those two games,” said Liechty. “Because no one claimed the ball, I decided to keep it. Now it’s time to put it away for posterity and the museum.”
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