The Van Wert County Courthouse

Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018

Editor’s note: This is the first of a three-part series on Lincolnview’s 1996-97 undefeated state championship boys’ basketball team in honor of its 20th anniversary. The team will be honored during halftime of Thursday’s 8:30 p.m. Division IV state semifinal game between Perry and Columbus Wellington School.

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent sports editor

1996-97 Lincolnview boys' basketball photos

The 1996-97 Lincolnview boys’ basketball team graced the cover of a number of sports programs, and even a Van Wert-Paulding County telephone book during its championship season. Scott Truxell/Van Wert independent

It’s been 20 years since the Lincolnview Lancers rolled to a undefeated regular season, then won seven post-season matchups, including a 76-60 victory over Zanesville Bishop Rosecrans to claim the Division IV state championship.

The 1996-1997 squad is generally regarded as one of the best small school teams in Ohio history, and the numbers lend credence to that notion.

The Lancers averaged an astounding 82.6 points during regular season games, while giving up just 51.5 points per contest. During sectional, district, regional and state tournament play, the team averaged 74.7 points per game, and gave up 56 points per game.

The seed for the championship season was planted the previous March, when the top-ranked but injury-riddled Lancers lost the title game, 75-52 to Springfield Central Catholic to finish 26-1.

“It was definitely something that made them work harder, and something that made them want to get back there,” former head coach Dave Evans said.

“I absolutely agree,” said Chad Pollock. “Losing Wes Dudgeon (concussion) and Brandon Pardon being injured (eye) was a huge motivator to return and finish the job.”

“There was no way we were going to let that happen again,” Pardon said of losing in the finals. “We had pretty much everyone back, and the expectations were really high. We expected to win every single game.”

Pardon was the point guard, and led the team in scoring in scoring (20 points per game) and assists (10.6 per game). He finished as Lincolnview’s all-time leading scorer, with 1,821 points.

While Pardon was the leader, it was hardly a one-man show. The senior-laden starting lineup also featured the 6-6 Dudgeon (16.1 points, 8.4 rebounds per game), 6-7 center Chad Pollock (14.4 points, seven rebounds per game), 6-5 guard Kyle Rabe (9.3 points, 3.2 rebounds) and 6-4 forward Frank Kill (9.1 points, 5.6 rebounds per game).  Dudgeon and Pollock finished their high school basketball careers with 1,507 and 1,010 points.

“Our team was completely unselfish,” Rabe explained.  “All five starters scored in double digits, and it all started with our point guard. In my opinion, he was the best point guard in the state. He had unbelievable control of the basketball and vision.”

“It was just a very talented group,” Evans said. “To get that many talented kids in one class at a small school, it’s maybe a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

The closest regular season games were a 63-51 win over Lima Central Catholic, and two 11-point victories: 83-72 over Parkway and 69-58 over Elida.

“Elida was really good that year,” Evans said. “They won the Western Buckeye League and it was a great game for us. We also picked up Lima Central Catholic to help beef up our schedule a bit.”

“We picked up New Knoxville and they were really good, and gave us some good competition,” Evans added.

When the regular season came to a close, the Associated Press poll champion Lancers (20-0) set their sights on the postseason and the ultimate goal, an on-the-court state title.

Tomorrow: the sectional, district, and regional tournaments.

POSTED: 03/20/17 at 7:07 am. FILED UNDER: News