After a dominant regular season of 14 wins and a scrappy four-game regional tournament run, the 2022-23 Lake County High School men’s basketball team is among the most successful teams to play in local basketball history.
This season the Panthers earned the highest winning percentage of any team in the last 20 years, posting an overall record of 17-6. In a recent interview with the Herald, the team – still basking in the glow of hard work paid off – said they hope to be remembered as the greatest Lake County team of all time.
In the spirit of celebrating all-time greats and historically significant seasons, we thought we’d take a look back at Lake County’s long lineage of stellar basketball teams, of which the 2022-23 Panthers will now join the ranks.
That history dates back to 1951-52 when the Max Schott Climax Blue Devils posted a record of 20-0 and won the state crown, according to the Leadville Lake County Sports Hall of Fame (LLCSHF). Of the 20 games the Blue Devils won in 1951 and 1952, two were against the Panthers of Leadville just a few minutes down the road. Three members of the 1951-52 team were also named to the Denver Post All-Star Team that season, which was considered a major accomplishment for the young athletes.
Fast forward to the 1955-56 season when legendary men’s basketball coach Heiko Kuhn led his team to the first state championship title in Leadville High School history. The Panthers posted a 10-2 record that season and a handful of players were named to the Denver Post All-Star Team. According to LLCSHF, that season was characterized by the masterful coaching tactics of Kuhn and is among the most memorable in local basketball history.
Another legendary men’s coach, Pete Pedersen led the next notable era of Lake County basketball more than a decade later. Under Pedersen’s guidance, the Lake County High School men’s team made three consecutive trips to the state tournament in 1968, 1969 and 1970. The 1967-68 team actually won the state title. During this time, the local gymnasium was routinely packed with spectators who cheered eagerly from the bleachers.
We can imagine the pride and excitement that must have radiated throughout the community as these basketball teams built their successful seasons. That same community pride was evident again this year when the Panthers drew a large crowd to this season’s regional tournament games, which were hosted in Leadville last weekend.
In this edition of the Herald, readers get a glimpse of the season that led to regionals and how the team came together to pull it off. Many of the players have been hooping together since they were kids, and those bonds grew deeper through basketball as they got older. For graduating seniors it feels bittersweet, but younger teammates are anxious to fill their shoes next season, according to the Herald’s reporter Emma Gadeski.
We don’t know what next season will look like, but one thing is for sure: In a long history of successful Lake County basketball teams, the 2022-23 Panthers certainly stand out and we’re still buzzing about the season they had. Will they go down as the greatest of all time, though, as the team hopes? As far as we’re concerned, the answer is absolutely.
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.