More than 50 years ago a collection of senior boys led London High School to its best season ever on the basketball court.
The 1964-65 Red Raiders won a school-record 20 games (to just two losses), won a Mid-8 League championship and had an average margin of victory of 21.4 points per game. That team however had its season ended prematurely with a loss to Columbus East.
A collection of players off of that 1965 team reunited recently and won a championship in the 3-on-3 Ohio Senior Olympics basketball tournament held at the Westerville Community Center.
John O’Connell, coached and played on the team which included classmates Karl Burr, Larry Garrard, Bill Hackett and Tom Hennigan. Hackett was the leading scorer and the team’s Most Valuable Player.
The event featured teams in age brackets 50-54, 55-59, 60-64, 65-69 and 70-74.
“Back in 1964-65 was the last time we all played together,” O’Connell said. “Back when we all had hair and youth and weren’t wearing glasses.”
It was Hackett who stepped up and led the way for the team, he led the squad in scoring and was the go-to player.
“I told those guys to get in shape, I could pass the ball and grab some rebounds but it was all on them,” O’Connell said. “Bill probably scored 50 percent of our points.
“It was just a lot of fun to get those guys all back together again.”
The players spent the weekend reminiscing about their time in high school and the years prior. All five players graduated from Saint Patrick’s in 1961.
The 1964-65 Red Raiders were coached by Hall of Fame coach Ray Chadwell. The coach was tough on his players but got the most out of them. His team’s played hard and got results.
“Coach Chadwell is in the Ohio High School Coaches hall of fame for basketball and baseball,” O’Connell said. “He was a real tough guy, nobody wanted to mess with him.
“Coach always really handled things well, he was a guy you wanted to play for.
London High School played in the Mid-8 League back in ′64-′65 which included Marysville, Hilliard, Mifflin, Westerville, Groveport, Grove City and Gahanna. London beat each of those teams twice that season, winning each of those 14 games by over 15 points.
London was lumped in with the division with the bigger schools across the state and that reality likely caught up with the Raiders when they ran into a powerful Columbus East squad.
“Back then there were only two classes A and AA,” O’Connell said. “We were in the big schools, there were 110 kids in our class. Columbus East probably had 2,500 kids in their school, that’s just more kids to pull from. If it were today we’d probably be in D-III or D-IV.”
What also made that class so special was the fact that a third of the 110 graduates went on to college.
“There wasn’t any crazy drinking or doing anything like that,” O’Connell said. “For us it was sports. We had 37 of the 110 graduates that went on to college. That was different for that time, that was a big number.”
Reach Chris Miles at 740-852-1616, ext. 1618 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.