The DeKliene's streak of attending the high school basketball finals ends after more than 60 years

Jake and Betty Lou will miss this years finals
Posted at 4:35 PM, Mar 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-26 18:18:15-04
Couple misses basketball finals for the first time on over 60 years

John C. DeKleine was born and raised in Byron Center, where he still lives today.

"Oh I love basketball," John, who is known to most as Jake, said. "I've always loved basketball and I always will.

Sixty six years ago he attended the high school basketball state finals at Jenison Field House in East Lansing.

"I started in '54 my junior year of high school," Jake remembered. "We would get tickets supplied to the high school the coach got them for us and we went. I just loved it and I just went back and back."

And for the last 66 years he not missed the semifinals or the finals, though there have been challenges along the way.

"The tickets would be hard to get," Jake said. "You learn to connive and get your tickets. You work people outdoors and buy them on the sidewalk if they had extra."

The last sixty one years Jake has been joined by his wife Betty Lou. She didn't know much about the sport when she started going but did not want to be left behind.

"The basketball games were fun, I enjoyed them," Betty Lou said. I learned more about them, but it was just a nice weekend away the two of us so that part of it was good for me too."

This year the semifinals and finals may not happen at all because of Covid-19, but the DeKleine's streak was going to end anyway.

"My legs are giving out on me," Jake said. "I got neuropathy and I just slowly don't walk as well."

Still, the pause in the season is disappointing for the basketball die hard.

"They were going to be on television," Jake said. "I was planning on watching them there."

All great things must come to an end, but the DeKleines will always have over sixty years of great memories.

"You just got to where you seen so many people year after year you recognize," Jake added. "You didn't know their name but you recognized them."