Roger Lowe hasn’t coached Princeton High School basketball for 30 years. But he can’t help but feel he’s right back on the bench these days.
Tiger Central Live, PHS’ YouTube channel, is taking a trip down memory lane posting Tiger basketball classics during Lowe’s five-year stint from 1987-92 each Friday afternoon. If there was a big game played during that era, you will find it here thanks to Lowe’s library collection of old game tapes.
“I remember when Steve Morton (PHS IT Director) approached me with the idea it was real exciting and then to see it come to fruition with Brody Anderson doing all the work, it was really great,” Lowe said. “It brings back good memories. We had things going in a pretty good direction here and I just like how our teams guarded people and shared the basketball and things of that nature, which is fun for me to go back and reminisce on.
“It’s been a great thrill for me. I’m going to be sad when they end. I sure enjoy Fridays, I know that.”
The first game aired was Lowe’s biggest victory, the 1992 classic when the Tigers defeated rival Mendota 54-53 at home to bring sheer Prouty pandemonium with Princeton’s first sectional championship in 36 years. Current PHS athletic director Jeff Ohlson sank the game-winning free throw.
And the 1992 sectional semifinal game vs. Brad Bickett’s Buda Western team, which Lowe said “was probably the best game we played that year. They were very good and we beat them by 23 (64-41).”
And the barn-burner games of Dec. 17, 1989 vs. Ohio at home and the 1990-91 game at Ohio. The Tigers trailed by 18 points in the third quarter of the 1989 game and came back to beat the Bulldogs (72-70) with all-staters Todd Etheridge (26) and Brian Piper (30), who combined for 56 points. The Tigers had the answer with Doug Bruyn (24) and Corey Helle (22).
And the 1990-91 Plano Tournament victories over Marquette (57-49) and then Kaneland (49-44) for the championship.
There’s games from each of Lowe’s five seasons, including old NCIC games with Kewanee, Rock Falls, Ottawa, except the 1989-90 season, because he joked he wanted to forget that one, ending at 8-19.
Watching the games makes Lowe feel like he’s coaching them all over again.
“I’ll be watching the game at home and say, ‘Come on Sitt (Mike Sitterly) or come on Muff (Chris Potter)’” he said. “I’ll be grimacing when we throw the ball away or I’ll be clutching my fist when we take a charge or thrilled how we fought our defensive boards. I don’t remember a lot of the play by play, but it’s fun to see how we ran our offenses and played as a team and how hard we played in our man-to-man defense.
“I look forward to those Fridays so I can see those games. It’s been a great thrill for me.”
Lowe is especially enjoying the play-by-play radio broadcasts of the late Dave VanDrew and sidekick Greg Halbleib.
“You know when I taped those games, I never listened to the broadcast. I always had the sound down and then we watched it as a team, we never had the sound on,” Lowe said. “Being able to hear the legendary Dave VanDrew and Greg Halbleib was great. We were so fortunate in my years at Princeton to have two of the best play-by-play men that any high school would love to have.”
Lowe said his former players are enjoying the broadcasts.
“It’s been nice having former players writing me or calling me or when I see them, say how great it is to watch themselves play and not get critiqued like they did in film session and they can just watch on their own,” he joked.
Lowe said he talked to former Tiger Jeff Rowe about one game and he said, “Oh man, on that shot I got fouled, and I got fouled on this play. I said, ‘did the referees call it?’ No. ‘Then you didn’t get fouled.’ That type of thing. It’s fun to go back like that.”
Tiger families and fans will enjoy watching the boys like Matt McDonald, Scott Matthews, Jeff Ohlson, Tim Marquis, Scott Ross, Chris Waca, Jeff Rowe, Chad Hamel, Kai Wahlgren, Mike Sitterly, Mark Griswold, Caley Castelein, Chris Potter, Bruyn and Helle play again.
Seeing the kids so young, especially a vibrant Sitterly, who passed away from cancer in 2009, was both great to see and sad at the same time, Lowe said.
“It’s just heartbreaking,” Lowe said. “I remember calling him in his senior year and telling him, ‘Sitt, you’re not going to play this year unless you can guard. If you guard you can play and if you don’t, you won’t play.’
“He took that to heart more than any player I’ve been around. We put him on the opposing team’s best offensive player and it’s fun to watch him do that.”
The Tigers’ annual “Best Defensive Player” award is now named in Sitterly’s honor.
Lowe said it’s been especially meaningful to see his late father, Roger, Sr., in the crowd.
“The guy would travel everywhere to see us play. Just fun to see that,” Lowe said.
While Lowe said the game has evolved since he coached and that “basketball is faster and more athletic now,” you still need the same fundamentals in order to be successful.
Lowe said a highlight reel of the 1990-91 season is being planned right before the season starts “to get people excited about basketball again.”
Kevin Hieronymus has been the BCR Sports Editor since 1986. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.