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Amy Wilhelm and Cheryl Dreckman in a Classic

Amy Wilhelm and Cheryl Dreckman may have been their individual schools’ best of all time, but both teams were loaded with talent in the 1986–87 season. Morningside was coming off their first 20-win season and a trip to the NAIA nationals. Briar Cliff had broken a four-year spell of losing campaigns the season prior by playing .500 ball (13-13) in Cindy Kiser’s first year as head coach. As the team’s met on Wednesday the fourth at Allee, much was on the line. Although Morningside (13-7 overall) led the IO-KOTA with a 6-0 record, it was Briar Cliff (19-3, 4-2) that had the  number 16 national ranking at the time. The Lady Chargers needed a win to get within a game with three to go. A Lady Chiefs’ victory would ensure they’d share the title at worst. Though Morningside had won the last 11 against their rivals, only one of the most recent four had been a comfortable win, and this night, leading rebounder Paula Hunter was sitting in the stands, a victim of the “mumps.”

Once again, Terry Hersom of the SC Journal had a front-row seat for the action. He would be told by Wilhelm after the game, regarding Hunter’s absence, “We still had the same game plan; get the ball inside. Unfortunately, we didn’t do a very good job of that.” It really wouldn’t matter, though, as Wilhelm would score 43 points, one short of her then school record, on 16 of 25 from the field and 11 of 12 from the line. Briar Cliff won the battle of the boards, 45 to 33, but 24 turnovers kept the BCU offense at a disadvantage in the second half after trailing by just one at the break. Dreckman had a solid line for the night—22 points, seven rebounds, and four assists—but she had been “held in check for much of the game by Morningside’s Val Uken.” Rhonda Kujawa and Beth Sibenaller both scored 25 for the Chargers, but Morningside came out of halftime on fire, hitting 12 of their first 16 shots to outscore BCU 24-8. Even with Dreckman’s late-game streak—she scored 14 of her 22 points in the final six minutes—Morningside never let their rivals closer than eight points down the stretch, winning the shoot-out 105-93. Hersom quoted Wilhelm on the rivalry after the win: “Briar Cliff is the biggest game on our schedule every year, and this is the biggest one yet.”

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Another excerpt from RCR – Tom Betz

Tom was one of my very first interviews and provided more than significant help in contacting other former players and coaches. You’ll get real enjoyment from his remembrances and stories about the series: this is just a taste. 

Few people who have played in the Briar Cliff-Morningside series have as much connection to both sides as Tom Betz has. A former Bishop Heelan graduate, Betz was close to heading to BCU. “I went to every Briar Cliff game growing up, and the two biggest rivals were Northwestern and Morningside. Playing at SC Heelan, the natural progression would have been to go to BCU, but things didn’t work out and I ended up at Morningside. No regrets!” Speaking of Bishop Heelan High, Betz went back to his roots and was the head boys’ basketball coach there from 2001 through 2015. His teams went 264-83 (76 percent), won three state titles, and finished runner-up twice. In 2016, Betz was elected to the IHSAA Hall of Fame. He’s now director of advancement at Bishop Heelan.

Tom’s toughest opponent in the series? “Hands down, Fernando Pinillo, probably the most underrated BCU player, just tough as nails. Also, Amado Martinez, BCU post man. Now we’re friends, but back then we had some battles underneath the basket. It’s never been a cutthroat rivalry. After the games in the late ’80s you could find players from both teams at dance clubs. It’s a tough rivalry but once it’s over, you were okay, there weren’t any off the court issues. My son, Jared, says the teams don’t hang out today like we used to. We played twice a year, but being in the same league now, there’s more on the line. The BCU 50th reunion a few years ago was like a reunion for me, too.” So well thought of is Betz that even as a Morningsider, he was the Master of Ceremony for Briar Cliff’s 50th Anniversary of Men’s Basketball, held in 2016.

 “One game Mario Galvez—it’s a tight game, I was a freshman, on the bench watching. They threw a long pass to Galvez. As he goes up for the ball, over the out of bounds line, he catches it, turns, and shoots it over the backboard; all net! That’s when you knew how great he was. I’d like to forget that shot, but it’s the best I’ve ever seen in the series.” How did Betz think Briar Cliff could have fit into the NCC when he played? “They would have been very competitive, when they had the talent in the Panamanians they could definitely play with the NCC teams.”