Past Benton Harbor state champ celebrates new champions

NOW: Past Benton Harbor state champ celebrates new champions

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- As the Benton Harbor High School Boys Basketball Team paraded through the city on Thursday to celebrate its first state championship win in 53 years, one of the co-captains of the 1964 and 1965 championship teams reminisced, while celebrating this new milestone.

It was in Lansing last weekend that the team won its first state title in over half a century – coincidentally winning the game 65 to 64, following a 53-year drought after the '65 and '64 teams won back-to-back.

In the hours leading up to Thursday’s victory parade -- that went from city hall to the high school for a pep rally -- one of the men behind that legendary 1960s team was looking back.

“Around the area, everybody could play pretty good,” said L.C. Bowen, who was co-captain of the Tigers’ basketball team in 1964 and 1965. “Once the game is here, if you don’t get off of work and leave from work, you’re not going to get into the gym. I mean, it was just loud and we had a good following.”

In a plaque he has from the 1965 win, Bowen is pictured right in the center of the championship team.

The Tigers won back-to-back state titles during his junior and senior year.

“We just got together and everything just clicked,” Bowen said. “We just liked each other and we just loved to play.”

The ’64 trophy sits inside Benton Harbor High School to this day.

But it took over half a century for Tiger Pride to once again celebrate a boys basketball championship.

Bowen, who stands 6’5” and went on to play as a forward for Bradley University and professionally in France, said it’s clear what made this year’s team stand out.

“Man, that everybody on that team could play and that they really enjoyed being around each other,” he said. “[They] had a good coaching staff. And they had some darn good fans too.”

While Bowen looks back, he’s joining his fellow Tigers in looking forward to this new chapter.

“The 2018 championship team can sit right in front of that 1964-65, so we can look at them, they can look at us,” he said.

Bowen planned to attend Thursday’s parade and said he hoped the team could ride on the fire trucks like he got to back in the 60s.

He said he hopes this victory will bring the community – which is dealing with the school district going through big changes in an attempt to stay open and the first double murder in over a decade – closer together.

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