Swank on Sports




Marion Harding Presidents High School Athletics




Clear Fork Earns a Share

Click here to listen to an interview with coach Steven Bechtel

Click here to listen to an interview with coach Don Worstell

Prince might have been partying like it was 1999, but the basketball faithful in the Clear Fork Valley are partying like it was 2002, that was the last time the Colts claimed a share of a conference title, until Thursday night.

Even Dennis Van Houten, was passed away in December, and who’s Indians helmet still occupies his seat behind the baseline was probably throwing a few down in that basketball arena in the sky.

The Colts beat Marion Harding (58-46) on Thursday night to claim a share. They can win it outright if they beat Galion next Saturday or if Marion Pleasant loses at Ontario on Friday night.

Clear Fork (17-4,11-2) never trailed in the game, but it seemed like they could never feel easy either. “It was definitely worth it. We played in spurts I thought. You have to give Marion a lot of credit. They came in here and they kept fighting, they kept executing. We just couldn’t get rid of them. Don does a great job over there. I credit those guys for a lot of that,” he said.

They scored the first six points of the game, two of the baskets from A.J. Blubaugh, and held a (15-7) advantage of after the first quarter.

They stretched the lead to as many as 13 in the second quarter (28-15) after a three by Brennan South with 3:10 to play in the half.

Harding could get no closer than nine in the second (48-39) with 4:11 left in the game, but the Colts responded with a couple of field goals by South.

Bechtel says his kids are good under pressure. “We are a veteran basketball team. We expect that when it does get to that crunch time we are going to make good decisions. We are going to take care of the basketball and get scores when we need them too,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “It was kind of just refocus them. The night was exciting. It was senior night and everything that way, so there was a lot of stuff going on too. They stepped up and made plays down the stretch and we were fortunate enough to win.”

Harding (7-14,7-7) could not get a lot going on offense and coach Don Worstell says they couldn’t cash in on the shots they created. “I thought our kids played really hard (Thursday) night. I was pleased with the effort. We just struggled to put the ball in the basket. Clear Fork is a very skilled team, very well coached, if you give them an open look, they are going to put it in the hole and it counts up on the scoreboard. I thought we executed things very well. We got a lot of clean looks we just didn’t shoot the ball very well,” he said.

Clear Fork tried to press, but really didn’t force a lot of turnovers from the Presidents. Bechtel says they were trying to get the pace of the game moving. “We knew they wanted to slow the tempo down and we wanted it a little bit faster, especially against those guys. We thought that was a way we could have more success. We just wanted to get the tempo up there and press. They did a great job in handling it and we were able to get some easy baskets a few times,” he said.

South led Clear Fork with 15 points, Blubaugh had 12 and Jay Swainhart 11.

The last time Clear Fork won an outright conference title? Yeah, it was 1979. That’s right, 40 years ago. Current Newark Superintendent Doug Ute was an all-state guard and Lexington assistant coach Jay Guth was the second leading scorer. Me? I was in junior high and that should tell you right away how long ago that was.

Clear Fork will get that opportunity on February 23 when they travel to Galion.

Bechtel says they are going to prepare hard for that game. “We want to go out and get them all, but that would be great. We have a week ahead of us to prepare for Galion. With what they have, they have a lot of weapons, so we will have to make sure we are ready to go. We will treat it kind of like a tournament game,” said Bechtel.

They had two previous opportunities put it way and Bechtel with an expression of relief on his face. “It feels really, really good. I am so proud and so happy for those guys. Not only those guys, but all of the other guys that have played for us too,” he said.

Published 2/15/19

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