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Sports View: Memories of great teams are plentiful

by KEN LAHMERS | EDITOR Published: March 8, 2017 1:00 AM
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It's been a memorable season for the Greenmen girls basketball team, with a long streak of not winning a conference championship coming to an end. Ninety years to be exact.

Not only did the locals tie for the Suburban League American Conference title, they also won two Division I sectional tournament games -- something which they haven't done often in recent years.

Although the Greenmen suffered a 40-point loss to powerful Solon in the district semifinals, their 18-7 record will go down in history as one of the team's best years. Hats off to them.

The girls were fun to watch, and the season brought back some memories for me of other outstanding teams I've covered and watched closely in the past.

In my 30 years in Aurora, probably the most memorable season was the football team's Division III state crown in 2008. That 13-2 season saw the Greenmen beat Big Walnut 20-14 in the state semifinals in Ashland and Columbus Eastmoor Academy 21-10 in the finals at Canton's Fawcett Stadium.

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Another great memory was Gavin Sontag's 3-point shot in 1995 which gave the boys basketball crew an overtime win in the Division III district finals, and propelled them to their only regional tourney appearance in my tenure here.

The locals posted an 18-1 overall mark that season and finished first in the Associated Press Division III state poll.

A couple of other memorable seasons were 2013 and 2015, when the baseball team advanced to the Division I state semifinals, but lost both times to Cincinnati Moeller.

 

EARLIER MEMORIES

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Covering a team which makes it all the way to the state tournament is always exciting, and I have fond memories of two years when I did that in the late 1970s.

In 1978, while I was sports editor at the Daily Jeffersonian in Cambridge, I followed the Buckeye Trail girls basketball team to the state finals, where it lost to Ada 51-39. Then the next year, the Warriors went to the state finals again, that time beating Holgate 51-32 for the championship. After I left Cambridge, Trail advanced to the state finals the next two years.

I remember many exciting Trail games in those years at the old school in Old Washington, which was torn down a few years ago.

There's an empty lot and children's playground there now.

The East Guernsey district's new high school is located on Route 285 between Salt Fork Lake and Old Washington. I went by it for the first time on New Year's Eve just a couple of months ago.

Lori Heady was the team's 6-foot center, and it also boasted Lisha and Becky Starr and Connie Doutt. Dave Linn was the coach. I ran into him a few years ago when he was coaching the Trail boys in a game at St. Clairsville.

The unique thing about Buckeye Trail in the 1978-79 season was that the four high school teams -- girls and boys varsity and JVs -- posted an amazing combined 75-5 record. Terry Leggett was the boys coach.

In recent years, the Hiland Hawks (Holmes County) have become one of the state's most prolific small schools in girls and boys basketball. I covered that program in 1984-86 for The Budget in Sugarcreek.

The girls have finished No. 1 in the AP Division IV poll five times since 1999, including this year when they posted a 21-1 regular season record. They've gone over the 100-point mark twice this year, have advanced to the state tourney 14 times since 1989 (with four titles), and could be on their way to Columbus again this year.

The 14 state tournament appearances is the most in Ohio high school girls basketball history.

I really enjoy watching the Hawks play a few games each year. Coach Dave Schlabach is one of the winningest active coaches in Ohio, approaching 600 victories.

In 1986, I also covered the Hawk boys in the state semifinals when they were coached by the great Perry Reese, who sadly died of a brain tumor in 2000 after molding the school into one of the state's finest basketball programs.

Dave Schlabach's youngest brother, Mark, has guided the team for the last several years, and has had a lot of success. The Hawks won back-to-back state titles in 2011 and 2012. I watched both of those final games at Value City Arena.

Part of the time when I was at The Budget, a girls basketball team not far from Sugarcreek -- West Holmes in Millersburg -- established the state record for most consecutive wins -- a whopping 108 -- from 1983-87.

Lisa Cline was the outstanding player in those years, and she later found success at Ohio State. Jack Van Reeth was coach back then, and racked up 458 wins as a girls coach and more than 800, including his boys coaching tenure.

Growing up in Tuscarawas County, I can't forget the decade of the 1970s, when Indian Valley South had some outstanding teams. The Rebels went to the state tourney five straight years, winning three titles.

Charlie Huggins, another of the winningest all-time coaches in Ohio, coached those teams, and his oldest son Bob, now the feisty coach at West Virginia University, played for him, along with brothers Larry and Harry.

Charlie won two state crowns at I.V. South, and one earlier -- 1967 -- at Strasburg. My eighth-grade social studies teacher at New Philadelphia High let the class listen to Strasburg's state finals game on the radio.

Email: klahmers@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4189


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