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Former Lumberjack basketball star Charles Grover dies at 82

Chuck Grover shows off the 1948 state championship trophy to Bemidji fans during a homecoming celebration.

BEMIDJI -- Charles Grover, one of the stars of Bemidji's 1948 state championship high school basketball team, died last week in Arizona at the age of 82.

Grover was a junior captain on the Lumberjacks team that won 28 of 31 games in 1947-48. The 6-foot-2½, 190-pound forward scored 31 points in the three state tournament games in Minneapolis and proudly displayed the championship trophy to a throng of hometown fans when the team returned to Bemidji.

"He was an outstanding teammate, a great player," said Jim Musburger of Bemidji, who was a senior on the title team. "He could shoot the long ball, but he was a good defensive player and rebounder. A nice guy, very quiet and unassuming."

Bemidji went 20-3 during the regular season, then won the District 29 and Region 8 titles to earn a return trip to state. A year earlier the Lumberjacks lost two games in the state tournament.

But this time Coach Mike Lagather and assistant Clarence "Bun" Fortier took a more experienced squad to the big city, and the Jacks won it all.

They defeated Hutchinson 43-30 in the quarterfinals. Grover led his team past Mountain Lake 40-37 in the semifinals, scoring 17 points. In the final, Bemidji outlasted Hopkins 38-29.

"I remember the excitement when we won it," Musburger said. "There was a caravan of cars that met us on the Old Cass Lake Highway and stretched all the way to Bemidji. The town was really wild. It was a great experience."

Grover was named to the coaches' all-tournament team. Center Wes Sabourin led Bemidji with 33 points in the three games. Forward Dick Knutson added 29 and guard Chuck Aakhus 23.

It was the second of three state basketball championships for Bemidji. The first one came in 1936 and the third in 1974 when the Jacks won the Class AA title before falling to Melrose in a game between the winners of the two classes.

Grover's daughter, Pat Brown, said the championship season was a source of pride for her father. "It was always a highlight throughout his life," she said. "His roots to Bemidji were very strong. He loved not only the basketball but the hunting and fishing."

Grover attended Drake University and went on to establish his own business in the construction industry. He was inducted into the Bemidji High School athletic Hall of Fame in 2006.

A memorial service is scheduled Dec. 28 in Peoria, Ariz.