Southmont boys’ basketball coach Roger Fleetwood and his players both knew they had to win the 1994 IHSAA Sectional title.
“I can remember Jeff Nelson interviewing me and I told him we have to win,” Fleetwood, who is now the coach at Owen Valley said on Thursday afternoon. “Anything short of winning will make it an unsuccessful season.”
The Mounties carried a 15-5 record into the sectional tournament, and advanced to the final after beating Western Boone 74-55, setting up a date with Crawfordsville, a team they had beaten 60-58 in the regular season.
While Fleetwood was so confident he had a ball painted gray and red so they could bring it out on the floor after the game to show everybody they knew they were going to win, the Athenians and Matt McCarty did everything they could to stop the Mounties.
“The Game starts and Matt is making them from downtown Freddy Brown,” Fleetwood recalls. “He single handily almost won the game for them.”
McCarty ended the game with over 30 points, but Crawfordsville failed to convert game-winning shots at the end of regulation and the first overtime, and Southmont took control in the second overtime and clinched their first and only sectional title in school history with an 84-81 win.
“Mr. Tandy, basketball was really important to him,” Fleetwood said about the former Southmont superintendent, who was the basketball coach at New Market before consolidation. “We put him on the ladder first (to cut down the net), he had waited all those years.”
Southmont trailed by five points with 50 seconds to go, but Michael Ward hit a 3-pointer at the 30 second mark, and after the Athenians missed a 1-1 at the free throw line, the Mounties tied it up in regulation.
Fleetwood also remembers a Mountie super-fan and former player that was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, but continued to follow Southmont basketball throughout the 1993-94 season.
And courtesy of Barry Lewis, Fleetwood’s memory is almost identical to what he said about Steve Caudill following the sectional game.
“Steve is what Southmont is all about,” Fleetwood told Lewis and the Journal Review after the game. “I didn’t really know who this guy was at first, but coach (Steve) Simmons knew him. Every game you looked up and there he was, even though he had to use crutches to get around. Then at the Cloverdale game it was 25 below and he made the trip. That tells you something. We started talking as a team at that point that if we won he would get a piece of the net. We didn’t want to win this for just ourselves. We wanted to do it for everyone who has ever been a part of Southmont basketball.”
Lewis, a Southmont graduate and a longtime sportswriter who still lends a hand to the Journal Review, remembers the sectional title game like it was yesterday.
“I have covered someplace between 1,500 and 2,000 or more high school basketball games and that one still stands out like it was yesterday,” he said. “Partly because I was a South grad and had lived through the 0-21 season while in school, but also because it was the first sectional for the school. It was a great game and both teams left it all on the court which is the way you want a sectional final to be. Little did we know that 26 years later and that was still the only title in the school’s history.”
Bob Cox, who is as much of a Charger as Lewis is a Mounties, was the official scorer for the sectional that season played at North Montgomery, and remembers the Southmont sectional win as a feel good moment for Montgomery County basketball fans.
"Watching the game and the Southmont fans from the scorers table was fun," he said. "Everyone knew this game was a great chance to get that monkey off their back by winning that first sectional title. As the game got closer to the final horn, the Mountie fans were loud. It was feel good moment for a lot of Montgomery County basketball fans in that packed gym."
Fleetwood has won nine sectional titles in three states, and while each is special, he said the nine seniors on the 1994 team is what made it a championship season.
“Senior leadership means so much,” he said.
“I’m just at a loss for words to describe how I feel,” Fleetwood told the Journal Review 26 years ago. “I just hope we can now start to get a little respect. People kept saying Southmont couldn’t win the big game — well, they can’t say that now.”