© 2024
Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

March 19: Epping-Hillsboro Game

Ways To Subscribe

Today marks the anniversary of one of the most memorable basketball games in North Dakota history as the Hillsboro Burros took on the Epping Eagles for the 1977 State Class B championship.

The Burros had been to State eight times, had been champions in ‘73 and ‘74, and had an enrollment of 210 students. Tiny Epping had a total of 23 students, and during the late ‘60s, they suffered 96 straight losses.

The Burros were led by legendary coach, Ed Beyer. During the Region 2 tournament, the Burros had beaten 5 of the state’s top-10 class B teams.

In Epping, Bob and Don Allard, Clyde and Mike Vinger and Jay Bingeman (Bing-a-men) had practiced all summer and knew this could be their year. During the season, they lost only once – against Beulah. Now they were going to State to represent a town so small, the streets weren’t even paved.

In the Prairie Public documentary One Shining Moment, Jay Bingeman told filmmaker Matt Olien, “We wanted to win that first game so we could stay on TV. It was just wild. The teachers – we’d go to class, and all we talked about was going to Bismarck.” Epping didn’t even have a bus. Everybody had to get to Bismarck in cars.

By championship night, the team had taken on Cinderella status, and Hillsboro’s starting five were booed before the game. But the Eagles had the jitters and couldn’t make their shots, and by the end of the first quarter, the Burros led 16 to 5. Then, during second quarter, the Eagles settled down and started chipping away at Hillsboro’s lead. But Clyde Vinger fouled out by third quarter. Then Mike Vinger fouled out, too. Led by Bob Allard, Epping still fought back, and by the end of the third quarter, Hillsboro’s lead was down to five.

During a jump ball in 4th quarter, Bob Allard gave Don Allard a look, and Don knew what to do. Heading toward the basket, Don caught the ball on the run and made a basket. In a controversial call, the referee called Don for not dribbling, and the shot didn’t count. It was a blow the Eagles couldn’t overcome. They lost 52 to 56.

Despite the loss, the Epping players were treated like heroes. In fact, many people still mistakenly say they remember the game where Epping won State.

Dakota Datebook by Merry Helm

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Related Content