We are continuing our journey through the decades of Montgomery County basketball this week.
We have looked at the 1950s and 1960s and this time we move into the 1970s. The 1970s was the end of county basketball as it has been known for decades as North Montgomery and Southmont came into existence in the fall of 1971.
That left two seasons —1969-70 and 1970-71 — and the curtain call for the eight county schools. They did not disappoint.
In the 1969-70 season, Darlington ran the table and went 21-0 under the leadership of Dave Nicholson. Some call this one of the best basketball teams ever assembled from Montgomery County. The team cruised to the county tourney title by beating Waynetown 90-59, Waveland 84-60 and then Linden 89-51 in the final. That season did not end with a sectional title as the Indians were shipped to the Lebanon Sectional and fell to the host Tigers 84-70.
The team had four players average in double figures as Rich Douglas led the way with a 21.2 average — which was third in the county behind Daryl Warren (29.7) and Dave Williamson (23.6). Dan Nichols averaged 17.5, Gary Dale added 13.7 and Roy Wright tossed in 11.3.
Another highlight in that season was the sectional championship won by the Waynetown Gladiators.
Waynetown, coached by Fred Johnson, ended the regular season with just an 8-11 record, but started the sectional with a 75-69 win over New Market. They followed that up with a 76-59 win over New Ross and then capped it off with a 74-69 win over Crawfordsville.
This ended up being the final sectional won by a county school. Team members were: Gary Sarver, Bob Utterback, Jeff Springer, Mike Spinger, Steve Proctor, Kim Suitors, Lloyd Finch, Dave Finch, Steve Neal, Greg Starnes, Brad Moore and Don Pittman.
The final season two teams dominated play. Darlington, led by new head coach Gene Morrison, and Linden, coached by Tom Speaker.
Darlington led the parade as it went 17-1 in the regular season, while Linden, led by high scoring Warren, ended with a 17-4 regular season record.
Linden captured its last of six county titles in the final year of being open. Linden opened county Tourney play with an 80-71 win over New Ross. The semifinal was the game everyone wanted to see - Darlington vs. Linden. Linden prevailed 73-70 before going on to win the title with a 67-59 win over Waveland.
Linden was unable to end its storied history with its first sectional title though. The Bulldogs beat New Market 60-53 but fell short of a sectional title falling to Crawfordsville, the eventual champion, 68-64 in the semifinal. Linden ended its history never having won a sectional title making it to the finals five times but falling short each time.
Team members of the final county championship team were: Warren, Keith Airey, Mike Klinker, Keith Winger, Mike Stephens, Jim Rodgers, Rick Jorgensen, Clay Cunningham, Carl Binford, Tom Faust, Steve Harrison and Jeff Oswald.
Scoring was not a problem for players in the county that final season as five (the most in any season) tossed in more than 20 points a game. Warren led the way with a 29.0 which was his second-straight season where he averaged more than 29 points and led his way into the record book as the county’s all-time leading scorer and the only county player to ever score more than 2,000 points. Darlington’s Terry Cain was second in the scoring race at 25.9 points per game. Also breaking the 20-point barrier were Coal Creek’s Tom Slaughter (21.7), New Market’s Tom Deck (20.8) and Crawfordsville’s Bobby Reese (20.2).
And then just like that the county was down to three county schools and it has been that way for the past 48 years.
Barry Lewis has been playing or covering sports in Montgomery County for more than 40 years and enjoys helping to keep our sports heritage alive with his bi-weekly column for the Journal Review.