Behrens hits mark again in Southeast Hall of Fame

Saturday, December 6, 2008
Southeast Missouri State University inducted six individuals and one team into its athletic hall of fame Friday night. The individual inductees were, from left, Kerry Robinson, Doug Berg, Rick Wadlington, Jack Behrens, Jim Lohr and Joey Haines.

Jack Behrens isn't sure how good a shot he might be these days.

There was no doubting Behrens' aim in 1943, when the Southeast Missouri State basketball player hit the winning bucket in the NAIA national championship game.

"I could still fire one up there. How accurate is another thing," the 86-year-old Behrens said.

Behrens is part of Southeast's 2008 Athletic Hall of Fame class that was inducted Friday night during a ceremony at the Show Me Center, which was attended by several hundred people.

Other individuals inducted were Joey Haines, Jim Lohr, Doug Berg, Kerry Robinson and Rick Wadlington, along with the 1990-91 women's basketball team that finished second in the NCAA Division II tournament.

Despite being the hero of a game played 65 years ago, Behrens seemed to recall it as vividly as if it had been held the other day.

Squaring off against Northwest Missouri State for the NAIA title, the squads were tied in the closing moments.

"I remember Maryville had the ball at the other end. They took a shot and missed it," Behrens said. "Carl Bidewell got the rebound and got it out to Rolla Anderson."

Anderson then fed the ball to Behrens.

"I got the ball, took a couple of dribbles, looked up and there were about 6 seconds to go," Behrens said. "I was outside the circle. ... I figured I'd better shoot it."

Behrens' shot from the top of the key found its mark with 6 seconds left, and the then-Indians had a 34-32 victory for the university's only national championship in basketball.

Behrens, a Cape Girardeau native who still resides in the community, said without a trace of boasting that he never had a doubt the final shot would find its mark.

"You know how you know a shot's going in? I knew it was going in," said Behrens, an all-conference performer that season who later spent 22 years as an administrator at Southeast. "I was in the right place at the right time. It was a good memory.

"I'm pleased and honored to go in as the old timer."

Behrens, also a part of Southeast's first Hall of Fame class in 2002 when the entire 1943 squad was inducted, laughed when describing some of the differences between basketball then and now.

Behrens mentioned the "short shorts" players in his era used to wear compared to the extra long version of today.

As far as shooting, "in those days, we took two-hand set shots [from outside]. If you shot with one hand like they do now, the coach would sit you on the bench."

Finally, after a bit of prodding, Behrens said with a smile: "I still think I can make one."

The other five individual inductees seemed just as pleased and honored as Behrens.

Haines retired this summer after 26 years as Southeast's track and field coach. He won the Ohio Valley Conference coach of the year award 20 times and led Southeast to a pair of Division II national titles.

"It's a big honor," Haines said. "When I came here 26 years ago, you're just wanting to survive, not make it to the Hall of Fame."

Lohr, one of Haines' former athletes, was the Division II indoor and outdoor high jump champion in 1985, his indoor title helping lead Southeast to the team championship.

Lohr, a Jackson native who now coaches high school track in St. Louis, mentioned his family history at Southeast as his father played football at the university while his uncle -- also Jim Lohr -- is a former Southeast football player and coach.

"It's such an honor, especially because my family has such a history here," Lohr said.

Robinson, a former Southeast baseball star, had the NCAA's longest hitting streak in 1995 when he hit safely in 35 straight games, still a school record.

Robinson, who batted .385 that year, went on to spend parts of seven seasons in major league baseball between 1998 and 2006, including three seasons with his hometown St. Louis Cardinals.

"It's awesome. It's a big honor. I was really surprised when I found out," said Robinson, who lives in the St. Louis area. "It's a real big deal. Even after I die, I'll be in here."

Berg, a two-time Division I-AA All-American football player, was the OVC defensive player of the year in 1994 after leading the league in sacks (11.5) and tackles for loss (19.5).

"I was surprised. I didn't even know they had a Hall of Fame," said Berg, a St. Louis native. "I'm very honored. It's a great deal."

Wadlington, a Scott City native, was a Division II track All-American in 1971 after placing second at the Division II national meet. He still holds the Southeast outdoor shot put record at 59 feet, 1/2 inch.

"It's a great honor," said Wadlington, who now lives in the St. Louis area. "And it's really been a surprise to me that the record has held up this long."

All of Friday's inductees also will be introduced during today's basketball games against Tennessee State at the Show Me Center.

Southeast's Hall of Fame now includes 55 individuals and 11 teams since it was started in 2002.

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