LEWIS: Montgomery County Remembers: Basketball 1972-79
May 21, 2019
Our run through the decades of Montgomery basketball will conclude this week.
Over the past several columns we have looked at the basketball scene from the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s up to consolidation. While consolidation took place and all the little schools no longer existed the level of basketball continued at a high level.
North Montgomery got out of the gate early and went 18-5, 12-9 and 19-5 in its first three years under the leadership of Chuck Kristin. It took just three seasons to win its first sectional title as the Chargers beat Southwestern (89-48), Crawfordsville (81-79) and Wainwright (98-81) to chain its first title in 1974.
That year the Chargers were a scoring machine as they went over 90 points 10 times. The team went over the century mark three times — 102 vs. Southmont, 110 vs. North Vermillion and 100 vs. Fountain Central. Senior Hal Shelton led the team with 543 points, which was a school record that stood for many years. Roger Campbell added 353 points and Steve Pruett also eclipsed the 300-point mark with 344. A fourth starter, Mark Millbern, also averaged in double figures scoring 268 points.
The Chargers did not have another winning season until it went to 13-9 in the 1978-79 season and fell to Crawfordsville 55-54 in another classic sectional final between the two county rivals.
Southmont did not enjoy the early success it’s rivals to the north had enjoyed.
The Mounties started off 9-12, 10-12, 5-16, 9-12 and then 0-21. The 0-21 is the school’s only winless season was the final season for head coach Rick Ford. The following season the Mounties had the biggest turnaround in the state going from zero wins to a 12-9 record under coach Phil Waddell.
The Mounties closed out the decade with records of 12-8 and 9-12.
It was business as usual for the Crawfordsville program. The Athenians posted a sparkling 16-9 record in 1971-72 and then went 20-5 the following year winning the first two North Montgomery sectional titles and each year advanced to the regional title games before losing.
The following year CHS posted another 16-7 record but lost to North in the sectional 75-73. In 1975-76 it was back to a sectional title and trip to the regional final before losing and ending the year 15-9.
The first losing season came in 1976-77 when the team went 10-11. In the 1977-78 season the Athenians had a losing record at 12-14 but won the sectional and lost in the regional finals again.
Finally, the Athenians saved the best for the last season in the decade as they advanced all the way to the semistate championship (Final 8 in the state — one class). The team beat North Montgomery 55-54 in the sectional final and then disposed of Lebanon (58-53) and Moorseville (66-62) to advance to the Lafayette Semistate at Mackey Arena. Gary Rosevelt was the next team to fall to the Athenians by a 60-52 score. The dream season ended with an 87-55 loss to Anderson and the team ended 17-9.
That team was led by a trio of seniors — Kerry Seward (404 points), Jim Clark (353 points) and Jeff Bonifield (336 points). Other seniors on the team were: Jim Willhite, Craig Harmon and Rick Vaught. Junior team members were: Steve Bonifield, Mike Page, Duane Miles, Matt Dailey and Brad Balch. The lone sophomore was Jim Coyle.
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This will be the last column under school resumes next fall but I have a homework assignment for all my readers. We are still planning on honoring North Montgomery and Southmont on their 50th year anniversary in the fall of 2021-22. We are wanting to honor the Top 50 all-time athletes at each school. In order to do that we need your help. Ideally, we would like to pick 10 athletes per decade. Please take a minute to down some names you think should be on this list. Yes that’s still two years away but we need to get started ASAP so we have time to track these people down, do research and honor them properly. Please send your names and any comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. See you next fall.