2 Middletown teams headed to Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame

Two Middletown High School boys basketball teams that won back-to-back state championships will be inducted into the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame next year.

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Paul Walker Jr., son of legendary coach Paul Walker, told the Journal-News that he recently was notified by the Hall of Fame that the 1951-52 and 1952-53 MHS teams will be inducted in May 2019 in Columbus.

Walker nominated the teams in January of 2017 and was “very hopeful” of their selection to the 2019 class, he said. He’s in the process of trying to contact as many of the living members of each team to inform them of this honor, he said.

Walker wrote that the teams were “intertwined” in many aspects. Each team had outstanding senior leadership, but was “very dependant” on underclassmen. Nine players were on both teams. Each starter on both teams graduated from college, he wrote.

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During those two seasons, their overall record was 49-3.

The 1951-52 Middies finished 25-1, the only loss was to Hamilton. In the state tournament, the Middies raced through the districts, regional and beat Steubenville, the No. 1 ranked team in the state, 63-53 in the state final.

The 1952-53 Middies finished the regular season 16-2, then breezed through the district, regional and state tournament beating Newark 73-35 in the final. The 38-point margin of victory stood as a state championship record for many years, Walker wrote.

Four Middies — Owen Lawson, Eric Back, Cliff Hafer and Tom Dillman — were named to the All-Tournament Team.

Besides 1951-52 and 1952-53, the Middies have won five more state boys basketball state titles in 1943-44, 1945-46, 1946-47, 1955-56 and 1956-57. The seven state titles was a state record for one school until Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary won its eighth this season when it beat Trotwood Madision for the Division II title.

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1951-52 starting lineups

Don Barnette, 5-11, senior

Tom Dillman, 6-2, junior

Cliff Hafer, 6-4, junior

Owen Lawson, 6-0, sophomore

Dick Vice, 6-1, senior

1952-53 starting lineups

Eric Back, 6-1, junior

Tom Dillman, 6-2, senior

Cliff Hafer, 6-4, senior

Owen Lawson, 6-0, junior

Ed Payne, 5-10, senior

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