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21 win for this '36-37 team

And a Class B state tournament contender

Here’s the impressive 1936-37 Bluffton High School boys’ basketball team that advanced to the state tournament.

Front from left, John Stonehill, Paul Kliewer, Herb Kindle, Bill Murray, Dale Reichenbach, Marion Fisher, Evan Soash.

Second row, from left, Bryan Basinger, Kenneth Gable, Herb Oyer, Dale Good, Bert Smucker, Justin Gratz, Richard Wenger.

Top from left, J. Clark, Harold Balmer, Garfield Griffith (coach), L. Vermillion, Charles Schumacher, Charles Hankish, Millard Herr, Walter King and Evan Sommer.

The team won the Western Buckeye League and finished its season with a 21-2 record. This only one of three Pirate boys' basketball team to win 20 games or more.

The 1928-29 team finished 23-1.

The 2021-22 team continues in tournament play on Thursday with a 21-2 record.

Herb Kindle, for many years a clerk in the Bluffton post office, related this story about playing on Bluffton’s 1936-37 boys’ basketball team that advanced to the Class B state finals.

He said that he remembers the feeling when he first stepped into the Columbus Coliseum as the team entered for pre-game warm-ups. He said that he’d never been in a building so large and with so many people that he gave him a sort of queasy feeling.

He added that the rest of his life when he entered a similarly large building with a large crowd, that same feeling came over him.

A 27-point spree by a future major league baseball star was needed to eliminate one the strongest of the seven teams Bluffton High School sent to boys’ state basketball tournaments.

The villain was Frank Baumholtz, later a basketball star at Ohio University and an outfielder for the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago Cubs, who led Midvale to a 39-32 win over Bluffton in the second round of the 1937 state tournament.

One of the tallest teams in Pirate history, this club swept to 20 victories in its first 21 games, won the Western Buckeye League title in the first year of the WBL’s existence.

This team’s only regular season loss was a non-conference defeat by Wapakoneta 27-22. Bluffton later avenged the loss with a 40-35 win at Wapak.

Six seniors

Starters for most of the season were Herb Kindle and Marion Fisher at forwards, Dale Reichenbach at center, Bob Murray and Paul Kliewer at guards with Kliewer and Fisher occasionally switching spots.

First line reserves were Evan Soash and John Stonehill. Soash, a junior, was the only underclassman among these players.

Garfield Griffith, himself a member of earlier Pirate state tournament teams (1930-31 and 1928-29)) coached the club. Following 1936-37, Griffith accepted a coaching position at Gallipolis.

“Our strong point was our height advantage, recalled Herb Kindle, who was voted the team’s honorary captain at the close of the year.

Reichenbach was 6-4 ½ and Murray 6-4, one of the tallest guards ever seen in this area, Soash was 6-3, Kindle and Fisher stood 6-1. Kliewer and Stonehill were carried on the roster at 5-11.

Those treetops

Joe Halberstein, sports editor of the Lima News in the 1940s, spoke once of his schoolboy days when Bluffton went down to play St. Marys.

“You had a couple of treetops named Reichenbach and Soash in your lineup and we couldn’t get our shots halfway to the basket before they were batted away,” recalled Halberstein.

The record book bears him out. The Pirates swamped St. Marys 60-6 for their biggest margin of the season.

Sixty points was considered a near miracle in 1936-37, when teams hitting the “point-a-minute” figures in a 32-minute game were considered powerhouses.

The Pirates also remembered St. Marys as the place where Bob Murray was led astray. The old St. Marys gym had a narrow balcony running around the playing floor with a limited seating capacity there, much like the old gymnasium at Lima South.

“Bob took a set shot from the back court and as he shot, I glanced up at the basket and saw a real good-looking girl in the balcony right behind the backboard.

“Bob must have had his eyes on the same thing all that time, because that shot went over the rim, over the backboard, and right up into the balcony” Kindle recalled.

Nearly as unlucky as St. Marys was Pandora, which fell a 46-9 victim.

Scores dwindled later in the season as teams tried stalling to overcome Bluffton’s offensive thrust. Ada tried it twice, and Bluffton had to work for five-point and three-point victories, and Bellefontaine held the Pirates to 25 points in a stalled game.

The old set shot

“We weren’t good shooters, according to today’s terms,” Kindle recalled. “The two-handed set shot was the standard weapon for everything except the lay-up and the tip-in, and if we’d tried one-hander Gar might have benched us.”

“With our height we had good rebounding and got plenty of points on tip-ins,” he added.

Dale Reichenbach, the tallest man on the club, was the top scorer. He scored 254 points in 21 games, an average of 12.1.

Celina, Wapakoneta, Harrod and Lima South gave Bluffton their toughest games on the way to Columbus.

Lima South, an entry in the state Class A tournament that season, led Bluffton 28-24 with only a minute to play. Marion Fisher and Bob Murray hit fielders to tie the game.

Murray had fired from mid-court, but the ball bounded off the rim. Then the big guard drove into the pile under the basket, scooped the ball off the floor and fired the game-tying shot just as the closing gun cracked.

Kindle sank two free throws in the overtime session to win the game.

A pair of last-minute fielders by Fisher were needed to give Bluffton a 38-34 win over Celina.

Against Harrod in the semi-finals of the Shawnee sectional, Bluffton lost a 29-19 lead in the fourth quarter and trailed 31-30 with only a minute and a quarter to play.

After their four straight victories in the Shawnee sectional, the Pirates advanced to Columbus where 16 teams were to battle for the state title.

The roster included the seven regulars plus Bert Smucker, Richard Wenger and Sam Tripplehorn.

Bluffton’s first opponent was Lucasville, who was defeated 32-30. Bluffton lost in the next round to Midvale 39-33.


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