You think it’s good now? Just wait 30 years

It was 30 years ago today that Monroeville won the state title in boys' basketball.
Joe Centers
Mar 24, 2014

   Time for some new memories.

   Prior to Saturday’s Division II state championship game in Columbus between Norwalk and Columbus Bishop Watterson, I saw Jeff Clark, an old Monroeville buddy roaming around Value City Arena.

   “It was 30 years ago today,” Clark pointed out with a big smile on his face.

   Of course, Clark was talking about the day 30 years ago that the Monroeville Eagles defeated Columbus Wehrle 66-62 to win the Class A state title. To be exact, it was March 24, 1984, so the actual 30-year anniversary is today.

   In 30 more years, Norwalk fans will be talking about Saturday’s 65-58 win over Watterson to win Norwalk’s first-ever state basketball title the way Monroeville fans talk about Augie’s Eagles.

   It’s something you can never take away.

   The school’s only other state championship came in 1974 when the football Truckers won the Class AA crown.

   Until Saturday, Monroeville was the only Huron County school to win a state basketball championship. Other area champions include three from Erie County — Bellevue in 1945, Margaretta in 1932 and Sandusky St. Mary in 1936 and 1980.

   Comparing the 1984 Eagles and the 2014 Truckers, there aren’t a whole lot of similarities other than the results.

   Monroeville finished 27-1. Norwalk finished 29-1.

   Both went 8-0 in the tournament, playing the regional in Bowling Green and the Final Four in Columbus.

   But the Eagles were a wild-shooting, run-and-gun team. The best thing coach Dave Augspurger did was roll out the ball and let the boys go. There wasn’t a shot anybody on that team didn’t like. That team just ran and ran and ran until they ran the opponent right out of the gym. Four times the Eagles broke the century mark, including a 119-58 win over Edison.

   And that was without a 3-point shot. Slap that line down and that Edison score could have approached 140. They were that good. Those guys were in shooting range when they crossed half court, especially in their cozy little gym.

   Some said they were in shooting range when they got off the bus.

   The Truckers are a welldisciplined team that will pick you apart like a surgeon. They had their strengths and knew how to use them. Coach Steve Gray went move-for-move with the best of them this year and never missed a beat. Take away one slip-up at Ontario and you would be looking at the state’s first-ever 30-0 team and a a 65-game regular-season winning streak.

   But I don’t think anybody is complaining today.

   This was a team where the players knew their roles. Slow ’em down and they’ll slow dance. Speed ’em up and they’ll twist you right into the ground.

   It was a great weekend for the Truckers and senior guard Ben Haraway, who had 49 points in the two state games, including 29 on Saturday — half of what the entire Watterson team scored.

   Haraway and classmate Jeff Thomas, who had 38 points in the two state games, have led the Truckers to four straight NOL titles, three sectionals, two districts, one regional and now one state championship.

   That’s a lot of hardware.

   The Truckers proved all of the experts wrong. A prediction in the Cleveland Plain Dealer had Dayton Thurgood Marshall vs. Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary in the finals.

   “The Irish have been very motivated from last year’s loss to Columbus Bishop Watterson in the state finals and bring a deep team to Columbus in search of redemption,” Tim Bielik said in his story. “(Jalen) Hudson is playing his best basketball, and (VJ) King is fully healthy. The depth and defense of St. Vincent-St. Mary should send the Irish to their seventh state title.”

   Both went home Thursday.

   Watterson was the defending state champion with four returning starters so very few people gave the Truckers a chance in the finals.

   Throw in the whole public vs. private school debate and that’s another story.

   People complain anytime a private school wins a state title. The best way to stop the discussion is to do it on the floor.

   Gray and the boys said bring ’em on, and they beat all comers.

   Case closed.

   By the way, when the Norwalk football team won in 1974 the Truckers topped Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary in the semifinals and Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas in the finals.

   Norwalk’s dynamic duo of Haraway and Thomas are both headed off to college to continue their careers. Thomas is going to Division I Georgia State, while Haraway will continue his career at Division II Malone College in Canton.

   Malone College? Division II?

   I wonder how many Division I coaches were sitting in the stands this weekend watching Haraway play? He may be undersized, and I know you can’t coach size, but he would look awfully good in the right situation. I have a feeling Haraway’s phone will be ringing off the hook this week.

   They always say Monroeville will never have five basketball players on the same floor at the same time like they did in 1984 when Don Farmer, Don Beck, Dan Jordan, Mike Landoll and Chris Ott took to the court.

   And people will be hard pressed to find a time when Norwalk will put two better players on the court at the same time as Thomas and Haraway. And what will set those two apart from the competition is the mainstays Gray put around them — Grant Hull, Jordan Johnson, Breck Turner and Kaleb Cashen.

   It’s been quite a run — and the best is yet to come.

Joe Centers is the Reflector's managing editor. He served as sports editor at the paper from 1979 until 2000, when he was promoted. He can be reached at jcenters@norwalkreflector.com.

Comments

Bay

Just curious, when did the city of Bellevue move into Erie County?

JakeMac25

I was wondering the same thing. I am pretty sure that Bellevue actually sits in 3 different counties? If one of them is Huron Co. then wouldn't the statement about Monroeville being the only team be false?

shovelhead's picture
shovelhead

I remember sitting in the stands in Columbus for that game. Landoll walked out of the locker room & went straight over to the hoop to see if it was a break-away rim or not. (I think all rims are now) That's usually a good sign that you're center is gonna do some damage. "Mad Bombers"....the whole team could drop 3 pointers from all over the court. Farmer stole the ball from behind with a "tying his shoe" trick 4 or 5 times too. Place was loud.

happyhack

Case Closed? As you well know, the public vs private case isn't closed, it's only recently opened! It is indeed another whole story. Feel free to tackle it. The OHSAA Competitive Rules Committee certainly disagrees with you. As do the vast majority of all public school A.D.'s and Coaches. Did you notice a change in the high school football divisions last year? What's in store for next year? The fact that a public school from a small rural area can defeat a private school from the largest metro area in the state of Ohio, is a HUGE component of this incredible story. We are so proud of Coach Gray, and the entire Trucker Basketball team.

happyhack

By the way (your words), compare the schools from 1974 to 2013.
Norwalk : 2 playoff years. 1 State championship.
Akron St. Vincent/St. Marys: 18 playoff years, 6 State Championships, 1 State runner up.
Louisville St Thomas Aquinas: 8 playoff years, 1 State Championship, 2 State Runner Up.
That's just football. Feel free to look at their state dominance in a multitude of other sports. Hell just look at the private schools within 15 minutes of each other in Summit County. St Vincent/St Mary, Akron Hoban, Walsh Jesuit, Louisville St Thomas…..