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New coach, new gym for HHS in 1965-66

Bob Patton-
The 1965-66 SCOL basketball season opened in mid-November with non-league competition.  Last season’s league basketball champions, the Circleville Tigers, began the season with a new head coach, Chuck Hill. Hill was formerly on the coaching staff at Mt. Vernon. 
    Circleville lacked height and experience. This figured to be a rebuilding year for them.
    McClain had brought in four lettermen from nearby Buckskin (of Ross County) via consolidation; 6’1” Bob Bristley, a sophomore forward, from Buckskin, would make a strong run for a starting role.
    In addition, the Tigers returned Sam Daugherty, Paul Harris and Jim “Tate” Taylor from last season. The Tigers, in their second year under Coach Dale Allen, were something of an unknown quantity in the South Central Ohio League.
    Miami Trace also sported a new coach, Gordon McCarty.  McCarty would be in his fourth season on the coaching staff at M-T, but his first as head coach.  The Panthers had good size and some experienced players returning and should be in the thick of the race for the league title.
    Coach Al Burger, at Wilmington, would have five lettermen returning, along with several excellent prospects coming up from Wilmington’s tough reserve team of the ’64-’65 season. Although not as big as Miami Trace, the Hurricane promised to be a leading contender.
    At Washington, Coach Virgil Morgan listed some of his problems as “inexperience, small size and no defense.” He had 48 candidates out, but no returning lettermen.
    Hillsboro, under new coach Harry Hall, had graduated nearly all of their size, but had some good speed returning. They were an unknown commodity who could be tough when everything clicked properly, especially at home.
    Also, the Indians would be playing in their brand new gym, which featured a regulation-sized court, seating for 1,250 fans and strange lighting, which made red uniforms appear orange. Still, anything was an improvement.
    Coach Hall’s charges lost their first game in the new gym to Portsmouth by a score of 84-65.  Eddie Robbins, Jim Dixon and Benny Rhoads appeared to be the Indians’ most solid players.
    On Dec. 3, Hillsboro took on Wilmington. The Indians played the Hurricane tough in the first half, but faded badly in the second half and lost the first league outing of the season, 59-38.
    The following Friday night Washington came to the Hillsboro gym. This was a knock-down, drag-out battle, in which the Indians were charged with 28 personal fouls and two technicals, had one player ejected, lost two regulars on fouls and had several playing with four fouls when, mercifully, the final buzzer sounded with Hillsboro on top, 54-50.  The Indians outscored WCH, 40-28, from the field, but the Blue Lions canned 22 for 38 from the charity stripe to make it a game.
    Following this win, Hillsboro quickly added three more consecutive victories, 77-63 over visiting Circleville, 74-68 over Paint Valley, and 82-76 over the Blanchester Wildcats. One of the highlights of these games was the emergence of 5’10” junior John Strain as a scorer. In the Paint Valley contest, Strain racked up 10 fielders and 7 of 9 free throws for a total of 27 points. He had found his confidence and his shooting eye.
    Over the Christmas holidays, Hillsboro sponsored a cage tournament on the local court. Entered, along with the Indians, were the McClain Tigers, the Lebanon Warriors and the Mohawks of Scioto Northwest.
    Hillsboro, riding a four-game winning streak, was treated rudely twice in two nights on their home floor. Lebanon, featuring a 6’7” player, edged the Indians, 56-55, on the first night. The locals were then thoroughly outclassed by McClain the second night, 82-66.
    On Jan. 7, 1966, the Indians celebrated the New Year by losing their third straight home game. This time to Trace, 86-78, in overtime. The same night, Washington beat Circleville and Wilmington trounced McClain 91-59.
    At this stage of the young season, Wilmington was in the lead with a 4-0 league record, followed by Miami Trace ( 3-1), Hillsboro (2-2), and McClain, Washington and Circleville, all with league marks of 1-3.
    On Jan. 14, the Indians traveled to Greenfield and gained a measure of revenge, 97-88. Actually, it was a very, very close game, with numerous lead changes. The score was tied at 80-80 with 3:28 remaining, when the Indians scored six straight goals.
    Wilmington downed Hillsboro, 78-65, on Jan. 21. The Indians poked some holes in the vaunted Wilmington defense, but the Hurricane shot better from the field and the free throw line.
    Midway through the season, the Hurricane still led the way in the South Central League. The standings were:
    Wilmington — 6-0, 11-1
    Miami Trace — 5-1, 7-4
    Hillsboro — 3-3, 7-4
    McClain — 2-4, 4-8
    Circleville — 1-5, 2-9
    Washington — 1-5, 1-10
    Hillsboro approached the end of their season by being upset at Washington, 79-78. Then, the Indians lost at Trace, 101-79. February 18 saw the Indians drop their final league game to McClain, 86-75. But Hillsboro rebounded in their final game of the regular season, and upset Waverly, 67-55. The Indians’ most consistent scorer, John Strain, led the way with 23 points.
    The final SCOL standings for the 1965-66 season were:
    Wilmington — 10-0, 17-1
    Miami Trace — 8-2, 10-7
    McClain — 4-6, 6-12
    Hillsboro — 3-7, 6-12
    Circleville — 3-7, 5-12
    Washington — 2-8, 2-14
    Hillsboro and McClain have been playing each other in football and basketball since the very early 1900s, but 1965-66 may be the only time they have played each other in basketball four times in one season. They split two games during the league schedule; McClain beat the Indians at Hillsboro during the Holiday Tournament and they would collide in the class AA Sectional Tournament at Paint Valley. The winner would meet top-seeded Lancaster Friday, March 4.
    In a roughhouse contest, in which 87 free throws were attempted, Hillsboro downed the McClain Tigers, 75-63, to advance. But the Lancaster vs. Hillsboro semifinal game was no contest. The Golden Gale blew the Indians almost out of the gym, 98-66.
    The All-SCOL selections were announced at the league meeting at Miami Trace. Wilmington and Miami Trace, first and second place finishers, dominated the teams. First team selections were:  Bob Lanman of Miami Trace, Tim Stonerock of Circleville, Jim Conner of Wilmington, Bob Bristley of McClain, David Bihl of Miami Trace and Mike Cowman of Wilmington.
    Second team selections included: Mike Smith of Wilmington, Jim Conley of Miami Trace, John Strain of Hillsboro, Jim Diltz of Circleville, Eddie Robbins of Hillsboro and Tim Ruddick of Wilmington.
    Bob Patton is a Highland County sports historian and a contributing writer to The Highland County Press.[[In-content Ad]]

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