Former Tribune sports writer recalls Freiboth’s ‘Shot of the Century’


 By Norm Clarke
Special to the Tribune

 
 
When Terry High School marks its 100th year of graduating classes during the July 27-28 weekend, the reminiscing will undoubtedly turn to many of the school’s golden sports moments.
  Terry’s football domination in the 1980s, with three consecutive state titles in eight-man competition starting in 1985, will forever be a source of community pride. 
But for pure drama, Lane Freiboth’s miraculous game winner in the 1963 District 4-C title game at Baker might be the Shot of the Century.
Bert Lee, the longtime owner of the Rialto Theater and Prairie Drive-In, put it best in his Terry Tribune column that was usually dedicated to upcoming movies.
But this was the stuff of legends, not a fabricated Hollywood thriller.
“Those who saw that last game against Broadus will probably never see anything like it again," wrote Lee. He added  “I’ve run some exciting movies in the past but nothing to equal that (championship) game.”
I was 20 years old, just a few weeks into my newspaper career when I covered the tournament for the Tribune. That was my moonlighting job. My real job was as a delivery boy at Super Valu and a big break of my career came when store owner Kenny Fischer asked me to deliver the grocery store’s weekly ad to Tribune editor Bill Spiller.
While handing off the ad, I asked Spiller if he was going to the tournament in Baker. He said no. He suggested I cover it. He later paid me $5 for covering it.  I should have paid him … in gold bullion.
I got the idea for this story when Freiboth, a longtime resident of Great Falls, sent me an email earlier this year. He and his wife, Sherry, were making their first trip to Las Vegas in May and the plan was to get together and catch up on 40 years.
On my way to join them, I made sure I had a notebook for our lunch that day at a French restaurant under a replica of the Eiffel Tower. No way I was going to miss the opportunity to pick his brain for every detail of that epic shot.
One of Terry’s finest all-around athletes, he was the team’s leading scorer his senior season, averaging nearly 20 points per game.  
The Terriers and Broadus Hawks had tied for the conference title during the regular season, but Broadus had come on strong under coach Jim Owens and had a height advantage in big man Ace McLain.
Terry led much of the game before Broadus inched ahead, twice taking three-point leads in the closing minute.
According to the radio play-by-play, Broadus went ahead 70-67 with less 21 seconds remaining. About 10 seconds later, Freiboth answered with a 10-footer that made it 
70-69. 
As Broadus attempted to run out the clock, Don Jasperson desperately fouled Bob Brodsky with three seconds left. "And that should be the ballgame,” said the game announcer.
Owens called a timeout.  His plan was to guard against an easy basket by putting two players downcourt. As Brodsky went to the line, Terry coach Dick Schmidt had responded by putting Freiboth on the right side and Kent Brubaker, a hot-handed sophomore with 18 points, near the left sideline. 
Even die-hard Terry fans knew it would take a miracle; even if Brodsky missed, it seemed improbable that that the Terriers could get a shot off in time.
“So Brodsky holds his breath," said the announcer. "He shoots."
As the ball left Brodsky’s hands, Brubaker broke down the sideline, freezing the two defenders, a ploy that gave Frieboth a better chance if he got the ball.
“It’s no good!” gasped the announcer. “Jasperson with the rebound to Freiboth and Freiboth with it.”
What was going through Freiboth’s mind at this point, I asked during the lunch.
“I don’t remember dribbling but I almost had to to shoot,” he said.
“Oh noooo!” screamed the announcer. “It’s made! His basket’s made! Freiboth! You hear the crowd!"
He continued, “Freiboth, one step into the front court, casts away with that ball and it was a swisher!”
As many of the 2,000 fans erupted in disbelief over the 45-foot game winner, it was all a blissful blur for Freiboth, who scored 25 points.
“The only thing I remember is Newell (Clarke) charging me, lifting me up," he said.
What made it more surreal, he added, was that Terry’s claustrophic bandbox of gym wasn’t a place where you considered practicing that kind of shot.
“You could shoot a jump shot from near half court,” said Freiboth. He not only propelled the Terriers to the state Class C tournament and won first-team honors but moved on to Mayville (N.D.) State, where he excelled as a quarterback.
 
(During his 12 years with The Associated Press and 15 with the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, Norm Clarke got to cover Henry Aaron’s 714th home run that tied Babe Ruth, Kirk Gibson’s  miracle homer in the 1988 World Series and the birth of the Colorado Rockies. But The Shot of the Century topped 'em all.)

Published July 18, 2012

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