Cottrel: 1940 New Carlisle state champs a team worth remembering

A state championship is historically a tremendous event for a small town and in 1940 it was New Carlisle’s turn on be in the spotlight.

Now this was well before the formation of the Tecumseh District so the winning team was the New Carlisle Tigers. The school was located on Madison Street and is still standing although slated for demolition.

In winter of 1940 the New Carlisle High School basketball team led by Captain Lowell Collins was having an amazingly successful year.

With a record of 23 wins and one loss, New Carlisle became Clark County champion by defeating South Charleston, 40-27.

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The Tigers then went on to win the Class B state championship game by beating Canfield, 43-26. Canfield is in Mahoning County near Youngstown.

New Carlisle’s final season tally was 30 wins and one loss. Awesome.

In the first game of the tournament, Leonard Kouse, a forward, scored 19 out of the team’s 53 points. Kouse scored 15 in the championship game.

The all-tournament team included two New Carlisle Tigers, center Ed Morris and guard Joe Dickman.

When the team returned to New Carlisle their bus was welcomed on Main Street by an enthusiastic crowd of city residents.

After graduation, Kouse played professional basketball for a short time but, as it did for all those on the team, the attack on Pearl Harbor and the beginning of World War II interrupted plans.

In 2017, in preparation for the 80th anniversary of the state championship in 2020, the surviving member of the team, Kouse, met with descendants of Coach Hubert Cole for a presentation at a New Carlisle Historical Society meeting.

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Kouse was 95 and shared his memories with the group. At that meeting he represented the team to receive special recognition from the governor.

There was a display of basketball memorabilia. Kouse’s daughter Sheri said he was thrilled to see that one of the team uniforms had been saved.

At the event, when Kouse was asked to sign a basketball, she explained, he would not sign it for himself. He would only sign it for the team. Being a part of the team was still that important to him after 80 years.

During the war Kouse had been in the Seabees and spent the entire time building things on Trinidad. After returning to New Carlisle he met and married Doris Leapley. They first lived in Alconey where they ran the general store, and then they moved to Cincinnati where he worked in sales. They had two children, Sheri and Mark.

When Kouse retired they moved to Troy, but they always had close ties to New Carlisle with old teammates, friends, siblings, and cousins in the area. They also enjoyed wintering in Florida where Kouse enjoyed playing golf. Into his 90s he still enjoyed shooting baskets.

After his wife passed, Kouse lived with Sheri and her husband, John Brady, in Troy. Recently, at the age of 98, he took up residence in Brookdale assisted living in Troy.

“He called the other day to make sure I brought the team photo for his room,” said Sheri Kouse Brady.

Sheri said he always kept photos and other memorabilia from his basketball championships not so much to brag as to enjoy and share his stories with others who loved basketball.

The pandemic kept us all from celebrating the 80th anniversary of the state championship but it seems to me that a sign at the edge of town remembering that the New Carlisle High School Tigers were state basketball champs might be a good thing. World War II probably distracted any efforts of doing it back in the 1940s, but nothing is stopping us now.

David McWhorter, president of the New Carlisle Historical Society, is hoping to get signs up and get the 1940 state championship team in the Tecumseh Sports Hall of Fame.

It will have to be the entire team because Leonard Kouse doesn’t want to be there alone.

“Put the team in. I’m not going to be the only one,” Kouse told his daughter more than once.

What a wonderful lesson that is for teams today. No one does it by themselves.

The New Carlisle and Tecumseh community needs to make sure everyone remembers the 1940 New Carlisle High School basketball team, the 1940 state champions.

Let them remind future athletes about the enduring importance of teamwork.

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