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Before there was the Milan Miracle, there was the Monroeville Miracle.
It happened in 1948, when tiny Monroeville High School took on area powerhouse Central High School at North Side High School for the sectional championship.
Don Lehrman and Ned Brenizer were on opposite sides in that game. Lehrman suited up for Monroeville, and Brenizer played for Central in one of the most memorable basketball games in the history of northeast Indiana.
In a 38-32 victory, the Monroeville Cubs became the first Allen County school to beat an in-city institution for a sectional championship.
It was the only time Lehrman and Brenizer played against each other during their careers.
By a twist of fate, the two have been able to reconnect after 66 years.
Joni Zeigler has been a housecleaner for Brenizer and his wife, Ady, for quite some time. One day, Brenizer took Zeigler down to his basement where he has mementos from his playing days. When Zeigler commented that her father, Lehrman, also played basketball during that time, she and Brenizer made the connection that the two had played against each other in that game.
Brenizer and Lehrman, both 83 years old, got together this week in at Brenizer's home in Fort Wayne to swap memories and share scrapbooks.
While time has faded some memories, Lehrman remembers the game clearly. Monroeville jumped out in front early and never really let Central back in the game.
“Our sectional semifinal (against Concordia Lutheran) was the second game and we didn't have much rest,” Brenizer says. “Coach told us during warm-ups to take it easy. Well, I thought at the time that was a mistake. You don't want to start and come out flat, but we did.
“We started off flat and never did catch them.”
Brenizer does not recall many specifics but jokingly says it “seemed like (Monroeville) got a lot of lucky bounces.”
Lehrman, with a smile on his face, disagrees. He remembers defending Brenizer in the game.
“I went after him,” says Brenizer, who has lived in Monroeville for 64 years.
Monroeville advanced to semistate in 1948 before falling to Muncie Central and ending the season 24-4, notching the only sectional and regional crowns in the school's history before it was closed in 1968.
The next year, Monroeville went undefeated in the regular season but lost in sectional play.
While the decades have passed, the legacy of the 1947-48 Monroeville Cubs has not faded. The team was a regular in parades in Monroeville for many years.
Lasting relationships were forged between the teams and have lasted ever since.
Another relationship was bonded together this week.