It has happened just three times at Hillsboro High School since the South Central Ohio League originated during 1923-24 school year. And it won’t happen again since this is the last season for the venerable league. But in the 1937-38 season Hillsboro clinched its first back-to-back SCOL basketball titles.
The other two times it happened were in 1988-89 and 1989-90, and 2009-10 and 2010-11.
In the 1936-37 season Hillsboro finished in a three-way tie with McClain and Wilmington for the SCOL title with identical 4-2 records. McClain was 10-6 overall, Hillsboro was 12-9 and Wilmington was 8-5.
But entering the following season there were question marks, according to the Nov. 30, 1937 edition of The Press-Gazette, a forerunner of today’s The Times-Gazette. That edition of newspaper said: “With the opening of the season the local tribe will ring up the curtain on one of the most difficult schedules which they have faced since basketball was initiated into the local athletic program. In addition to seeing the Indians make their first court appearance this year, local fans will witness the basketball debut of Coaches Delmar Anderson and Robert Cox, both of whom are new to the school’s tutelage staff this year.”
“… The watchful eye of Coach Anderson and the expert advice of Assistant Coach Robert (Reddy the Fox) Cox is doing all of the necessary molding to develop the local red skins for their initial basketball schedule,” the newspaper continued. “Gruelling practice periods, both on the hardwood and on the blackboard, for long intervals are oiling up the rusty cogs in the local machine for Friday’s tilt.”
Hillsboro’s first game that year was on Friday, Dec. 7 against West Union, the defending Adams County champions, and there were many predictions that the Indians wouldn’t get past that first game.
When West Union jumped to a 14-8 halftime lead it looked like those predictions might prove correct. But the Indians pulled to within 23-22 after three quarters and outscored their guests 11-2 in the final quarter for a 33-25 victory that set them on a 12-game winning streak.
The primary starters on that year’s team were Bill Stanforth, Bud Stanforth, Lewie Lamb, Johnny Lamb and Rodney Kellis, although Squeaker Collins started a couple games early in the season. Other key players were Dick Faris, Duane Wilkin and Ellic Rhoads; and Lewis Carrier, George Collins, Jim Williams, Charlie Cole, Blair Dennison and Bob Stanforth were also part of the team.
Bud Stanforth was the team’s leading scorer and he set the pace in that first game with 19 points, while Johnny Lamb scored 10.
Following are the scores of each of the next few games along with the leading scorers.
• Hillsboro 29, Dayton Stivers 16 (Bud Stanforth scored 16 points)
• Hillsboro 21, Wilmington 13 (Bill and Bud Stanforth scored 6 points each)
• Hillsboro 44, Georgetown 28 (Bud Stanforth scored 16 points and Kellis and Johnny Lamb each scored 11)
• Hillsboro 20, Chillicothe 18 (Bud Stanforth scored 9 points)
• Hillsboro 35, McClain 22 (Bud Stanforth scored 15 points)
• Hillsboro 30, Dayton Stivers 19 (Lewie Lamb scored 10 points)
At that point, The Press-Gazette reported, Hillsboro was one of just seven of Ohio’s 1,140 high schools that had not lost a boys basketball game. And the winning streak continued:
• Hillsboro 27, Wilmington 18 (Bud Standforth and Johnny Lamb scored 8 points each)
• Hillsboro 34, Georgetown 22 (Kellis scored 14 points and Johnny Lamb 10)
• Hillsboro 50, Ironton 25 (Bud Stanforth scored 21 points)
• Hillsboro 53, Hamilton Catholic 17 (Bud Stanforth scored 17 points and Bill Stanforth 13)
• Hillsboro 45, Washington 13 (Lewie Lamb scored 11 points)
The winning streak had reached 12 games, and the Indians had notched their three highest offensive outputs of the season in three straight contests. But unlucky 13 was on the horizon and that’s when things started to unravel.
The next game was at Greenfield. Coming into the game Hillsboro was the only remaining undefeated Class A team in the state, but the Indians couldn’t find the bottom of the net. Hillsboro made just 7 of 63 shots in the game, and the Tigers outscored the Indians in all four quarters to capture a 34-20 victory. Bud Stanforth scored 9 points to lead Hillsboro, but McClain center Clements dominated the game with 15 points.
Next up was Washington and the Indians held on for a 25-23 victory, despite scoring just three points in the fourth quarter. Bud Stanforth led the scoring with 11 points.
The next night the Indians traveled to Portsmouth and trailed almost the entire game before pulling out a 36-35 victory at the end. Lewie Lamb was the leading scorer with 11 points.
In the last game of the regular season cold shooting struck Hillsboro again and Indians suffered a 34-31 loss to Chillicothe. Hillsboro made just 13-of-44 field attempts compared to 15-of-29 for Chillicothe. Bud Stanforth scored 11 points.
Hillsboro drew a tough Marietta team in the opening game of the district tournament in Athens (there was no sectional for Class A teams in those years) and lost 30-28. It was poor shooting at the foul line that cost the Indians this time. They made just 6-of-22 free throws and shot under 30 percent from the field. Bud Stanforth was the Indians’ leading scorer with 10 points.
But the season saw the Indians wrap up their second SCOL title with a 5-1 record in the four-team league and finish 14-3 overall. McClain and Wilmington were 3-3 and Washington 1-5 in the league.
It was 52 years before the Indians claimed back-to-back SCOL titles again.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.