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Lakeland to honor first basketball sectional winner

Lakeland High School will honor its first boys basketball sectional championship team and regional finalist this Friday night in LaGrange before the Lakers’ varsity game against Central Noble.

Head coach Richard Butt and several of his players from the 1967-68 Lakeland hoops squad are expected to attend the event. Among the players still living from that club include Jerald Miller, Paul Lauver, Phil Schlemmer, Jim Larimer, Jim Hooley, John Frederick, Gary Peisert and Rich Smith. Deceased team members include Pat Malone, Dennis Kretschman, Bob Speicher, Delevan Sherman and assistant coach Doug Hendricks.

The 67-68 Lakers won nine of their last 11 games to finish the regular season 14-6. They would avenge one of those losses in their East Noble sectional opener by a 72-70 count over Middlebury. Lakeland then defeated Westview (60-57) and West Noble (76-72) to take home the title.

In the regional opener, played in front of 8000 fans at the Allen County Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, the Lakers avenged a second regular-season loss by defeating DeKalb, 61-53. The tourney trek ended for Lakeland later that night with a 72-50 loss to powerful Fort Wayne Central Catholic.

Malone led the Lakers in scoring that season with 413 points. Lauver and Schlemmer were next with 363 and 319 markers, respectively. Miller topped the assist chart with 114 and Kretschman, who passed away this past January 8, was the leading rebounder with 279.

Roger Nelson was the Lakeland statistician, while Larry Watson and Gail Hirschy served as team managers. Cheerleaders were Kris (Smyers) Hampshire, Kathy (Gage) Gallup, Cheri Merriman and Barb (Rowe) Gitt.