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Gladiators last county school to win sectional

With consolidation talks well under way, county schools knew the days of the old sectional tournament would be coming to an end. By the time the 1970 sectional rolled around everyone knew they would have just two more chances to bring home a title and one of the school’s did just that.

Which school was the one to do it? That was the Waynetown Gladiators, of course.

Heading into the next-to-last sectional, the Gladiators had just two sectional titles to their credit. The school won the sectional in back-to-back seasons in 1944 and 1945.

The Gladiators weren’t really on many people’s radar as a sectional contender as they ended the regular season with just an 8-11 record. That included losing three of the final four regular season games.

However, the county schools got a bit of a break before the sectional ever started as undefeated Darlington wouldn’t play in the Crawfordsville Sectional, but instead was shipped to Lebanon. Without Darlington in the picture, the sectional was wide open as only two of the eight teams entered the sectional with a winning record.

On the first night of action, New Ross (who entered the tournament with a 3-16 record) stunned an 11-9 Waveland team 75-74 in double overtime. Larry Walters led the winners with 17 points and was one of four Blue Jays in double figures for coach Mike Mitchell’s team.

Fred Johnson’s Gladiators knocked off a 3-16 New Market team. The winners went to the foul line an amazing 50 times (hitting 25) and outscored the Purple Flyers by 14 from the foul line. The vicsiors were led by Steve Proctor who had a double-double with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Kim Suitors, Jeff Springer and Gary Sarver all reached double figures with 16, 12 and 10 respectively. Bill Ray led New Market with 14 points.

In the other first round games, Ladoga (5-14) knocked off Coal Creek (9-12) by a 65-60 score thanks to a 26-point effort from Dave Williamson. Coal Creek got great efforts from Don Stonebraker who had 20 points and a whopping 27 rebounds. Rick Calder added 25 points and the pair accounted for 45 of the team’s 60 points.

Crawfordsville (9-11) held off a spunky Linden squad (12-7) 64-61 thanks to 21 points from Barry Blackwell and Phil Churchill’s 18 points. The county’s all-time leading scorer Daryl Warren ended his brilliant career with a 29-point effort before fouling out with more than four minutes to play.

In the Saturday afternoon first semifinal, Waynetown cruised past New Ross 76-59. Suitors led the winners with 33 points, including 15 in the first quarter as the Gladiators took a 22-18 lead. Jeff Springer added 12 and Proctor had 11. New Ross was led by Don Morris had 18. In the other afternoon game, Crawfordsville nipped Ladoga 63-61 and Darrel Moore’s two free throws with five seconds sent the Athenians into the sectional final. Blackwell led the winners with 16 points. Ladoga was led by Williamson’s 35 points.

In the final game it was the Suitors and Jeff Springer show for the winners. The pair combined for 50 of the team’s 74 points in a 74-69 win.

Jeff Spinger, the team’s leading scorer on the season, fouled out with two seconds to play in the third quarter with the Gladiators trailing 53-49 and the Athenians appeared to be on the way to its 33rd sectional title.

Enter Suitors.

All he did was to score 17 of his game-high 26 points in the final quarter as Waynetown outscored Crawfordsville 25-16 in the final period. In addition to Jeff Springer and Suitors points, the Gladiators got 10 points from Mike Springer and eight from Proctor. Crawfordsville was led by Blackwell’s 23 points, while Steve Runyon added 13 and Bobby Reese tallied 12.

The All-Sectional team that year had two Gladiators — Jeff Springer and Suitors — along with Blackwell, Warren and Williamson.

Waynetown’s magical season came to a close at the Greencastle Regional, losing to Rossville 93-55.

Members of the sectional team for Waynetown were: Dave Finch, Lloyd Finch, Brad Moore, Steve Neal, Steve Proctor, Wayne Rush, Gary Sarver, Jeff Springer, Mike Springer, Greg Starnes, Kim Suitors and Bob Utterback.

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