DeKALB – It is hard to match the magic surrounding the 1967-68 DeKalb boys basketball team.
The Barbs placed fourth in the state that year – the best finish of any DeKalb boys basketball team.
Former Barbs guard Robert Snow remembers how the team brought the community together.
“It was the biggest sports story in DeKalb High School history. It’s never been repeated,” Snow said. “The gym was full every game we played. Thousands of people would came and watch us play. It was the story of the town.”
DeKalb held a special ceremony honoring the 50-year anniversary of the 1967-68 team before the Barbs hosted Morris on Feb. 10. Only four representatives (coach Jack Tosh’s brother, Dave, team manager Randy French, guard Jim Rhoades and Snow) from the team were in attendance due to the game being rescheduled from the night before because of a snowstorm.
“It’s a great feeling that our team was recognized,” Snow said. “We’re all very fortunate to be part of that team.”
The team had average expectations under first-year coach Tosh. The Barbs finished the previous season with a record of 9-15. With Tosh taking over the helm, his team was forced to learn a new system and was overlooked by the casual fan.
But the Barbs found new energy in transfers Mark Voreis and Ron Shoger.
“Boy, could they ball,” Snow said.
Shoger and Voreis helped shape a new culture at DeKalb. They led with shooting and physical dominance.
Voreis paced the Barbs averaging 16.7 points a game during the state tournament.
It wasn’t only physical ability that allowed the Barbs to turn in weekly supreme performances on offense. Snow and Rhoades recalled a game when DeKalb defeated Belvidere, 106-53, and both also pointed out the win was before the 3-point line existed.
Snow and Rhoades said the very next day Tosh was yelling at the Barbs during practice. The stern coaching helped DeKalb win a stretch of 15 straight games during the season.
“A lot of people were expecting good things from our team,” Rhoades said. “You don’t win 15 straight games if you’re not good. We were a very cohesive group.
“Coach Tosh is one of the greatest coaches I ever had. He’s a great guy. After we started winning a few games, we saw we did have something special there. As it played out, we did.”
The Barbs’ historic run ended in the state semifinals in a 63-60 loss to Galesburg. DeKalb, which shared the Upstate Eight Conference title with East Aurora, finished with a record of 29-4 after losing in the third-place game to Crane.
The wrestling team won a state championship that same year. Both teams endlessly supported each other.
Before a Barbs’ early-round tournament game at West Aurora, the wrestling team traveled from DeKalb to Aurora and took turns hopping out of a van and dribbling a basketball for about a mile at a time.
“We all loved each other,” Rhoades said. “If we weren’t at a basketball game, we were at a wrestling meet. If they weren’t wrestling, they were at our basketball games. That’s how it was.”
DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith graduated high school in 1966. The year before the ’68 season, Smith worked part time for WLBK and covered the Barbs in ’66-67.
Smith served in the U.S. Army in 1968, but kept tabs on the Barbs’ historic season.
“I remember following them,” Smith said. “They had several players who could really pop it from outside.
“Anytime you have a team who goes that far, people will always remember it. It’s nice to look back on.”
The Barbs’ unmatched success has always been a fun memory to reflect on during class reunions. Snow said his senior class of 1968 holds a class reunion every five years.
They’ll hold their 50th class reunion August 10.
“Our reunions always give us a chance to get reacquainted with our classmates and teammates,” he said. “[The 1968 boys basketball season] isn’t something that’s on my mind everyday, but occasionally I think about it.
“That was a very special team.”