There are many good basketball programs in the Upper Peninsula and a few great ones. But maybe no program has a greater combination of wins, titles and individual records than that of Ewen-Trout Creek. Located in southern Ontonagon County, this consolidated school district has produced some of the finest players and coaches in Upper Peninsula sports history.
This tradition of greatness began even before the schools were consolidated in 1968. Before that, Ewen and Trout Creek had separate basketball programs and these arch rival programs both produced great teams and players. Trout Creek won the Class E State Title in 1955, 1956 and 1958 and U.P. Class D titles in 1935 and 1937. Ewen would win the U.P. Class D title in 1940.
Over the past 40 years since those State Championships, Ewen-Trout Creek has continued to be one of the most dominant programs in the U.P., compiling an impressive list of conference and regional championships. Both the boys’ and girls’ teams have returned to the state finals (Boys-1982; Girls-1974 and 1985), but have not won another championship. Regardless, the programs produced two of the winningest coaches in U.P. history; Tom Caudill and Nancy Osier (see other panels).
In 1972, the new Ewen-Trout Creek put together maybe its finest squad. The Panthers, coached by Rudy Perhalla, went undefeated throughout the regular season and the playoffs, soundly defeating Flint Holy Rosary in the final by the score of 74-62. Leading the team were All-State standouts, center Gary Fors and guard Bob Bessen.
Not to be outdone, the Ewen-Trout Creek girls basketball team has developed into a dominant program as well. Girls basketball had been played off and on for many years around the U.P., but there hadn’t been a state tournament until 1973. In that year, the Panthers, under the leadership of Betty Neilsen, won the first girls Class D state crown, defeating North Muskegon by the score of 57-48.