Luana Girls’ Basketball team reminisces about state tournament appearance and their lasting friendship with Coach Downing

Members of the Luana basketball team met recently with their coach, Craig Downing, to visit and relive their state tournament memories. Pictured with their coach (in no particular order) are  Joyce Nelson Heins, Beverly Nelson Bacon, Dixie Land Johnson, Jane Panncke Blumhagen, Dorothy Wagner Heins,  and Ruth Jones Hamm.

The year was 1950 when a group of young ladies from Luana High School surprised all of Northeast Iowa when they defeated Monona and their superstar, Norma Schoulte, to win the district girls’ basketball title on their way to the state tournament in Des Moines.
 
Perhaps, even more amazing is the fact that many of these women have continued to keep in contact with one another along with their coach, Craig Downing, who is now 95, as they have met him for lunch several times throughout the years. Last month seven of the women who played under Downing met him to reminisce about their state tournament appearance, their families and much more.
 
Several of the women met at team member Jane (Panncke) Blumhagen’s home last month to visit about their team as well as their relationship with Coach Downing. Stepping back in time for a morning of memories were Dixie (Land) Johnson, Dorothy (Wagner) Heins, Nola (Enyart) Palmer, Ruth (Jones) Hamm, Bev (Nelson) Bacon, Joyce (Nelson) Heins and Blumhagen.
 
These women, who were all Luana-area farm kids, recalled Downing as a kind man who was passionate about basketball. That passion for life, the women noted, has not waned. His keen mind and wit made this year’s visit enjoyable for the former coach, who now lives in Sigourney, and the women he mentored. 
 
Read the full article in the Wednesday, September 13, 2017 edition of The Outlook.