As we have looked back at some great sectional championship teams over the past month or so there is one team in particular that we can’t leave out. Of course, that would be the famed 1969 Darlington Indians squad.
Not only were they a great team, which won its first and only sectional in 1969, but it was the last Montgomery County basketball team to complete the regular season undefeated. Yes, undefeated. They were 21-0 with no losses.
The Indians, coached by Dave Nicholson, ran past all of their opponents in the regular season. The team averaged more than 85 points a game. Now remember, that was back when there was no 3-point line.
They beat teams badly. Only five games during the regular season were decided by 10 points or less. The closest the team came to losing was a 73-70 overtime win over Thorntown in the fourth game of the season. That OT win came a game after Zionsville lost a close 82-76 decision to Darlington. Then the team cruised along until the championship game of the Four-Way Tourney when Coal Creek gave them a scare before the Indians won 64-62.
Five games later Coal Creek lost by a 59-50 score. The only other team to come within 10 points was Linden, who lost a 47-37 decision to the Indians late in the year. That game was also the only time an opponent held the high-scoring Darlington team under 50 points.
Did I mention the team liked to score points? How does a 117-point effort against North Salem (117-49) sound. In fact, the team had a stretch of six games where it passed the 100-point mark. In addition to the 117 against North Salem, the Indians piled up 107 vs. New Ross in the County Tourney, 104 against Roachdale and 100 vs. Waveland in the first round of the Big Four Tournament.
The Indians did not play in the Crawfordsville Sectional, but were instead sent to Lebanon. In the first game, Darlington ripped Pike Township 83-64 behind the 26 points of Don Threlkeld. Overall, five Darlington players reached double figures. Rich Douglas had 16, Tom Lehe scored 14, Roy Wright added 13 and Dan Nichols had 10.
In the semifinal, the Indians moved to 23-0 on the season with an 81-69 win over Zionsville. Douglas and Threlkeld each scored 26 points. Lehe added 12 points.
That put the Indians against Speedway for the final. It was quite the final, too.
Darlington led 56-54 but missed a free throw with four seconds to play. The rebound went to Speedway, and then a pass to midcourt followed by two dribbles and a shot. The shot was on line but hit the back of the rim, bounced straight up in the air, and when it fell down again, it was just to the right of the rim and the Indians had claimed it first sectional title by beating the Marion County champions.
In the title game, Threlkeld had 20 points and Douglas tossed in 15.
In a bit of irony, the Indians, 24-0 at that point, met Crawfordsville, who was 12-11, in the first game of the Frankfort Regional.
Crawfordsville ended the dream season for the Indians by a 70-66 score. Cold shooting hurt the Indians in that game as they hit just 27 of 92 field goals. Yes, they took 92 shots. And they were only 12 of 27 from the free throw line.
Threlkeld led the way with 17 points for Darlington while Nichols scored 16 and Douglas added 12. Nichols, Lehe (who scored eight points) and Nichols all fouled out. Crawfordsville was led by Steve Templeman’s 21 points while Kirk Links added 18 points and Kent Smith had 10.
Crawfordsville went on to lose in the regional title game to Rossville by a 75-71 score.
It should come as no surprise that Darlington dominated the All-County team. A total of three Darlington players were named to the First Team — Dan Nichols, Don Threlkeld and Rich Douglas. Nicholson, a 27 year old head coach, was also named the Coach of the Year.
Members of the 1969 undefeated Darlington team were: Gary Dale, Rich Douglas, Jim Gable, Tom Lehe, Gary Mahoy, Mark Maxwell, Dan Nichols, Don Threlkeld, Fred Warren, Bob Waye, Stan Weliever and Roy Wright.
Barry Lewis has covered local sports for over 30 years. If he hasn’t witnessed it, he’s researched it and now he’s sharing the history of Montgomery County sports every other Wednesday in the Journal Review.