Jay County High’s Frank Vormohr (22) clears the boards here during the Patriots’ sectional tourney championship game with Union City Saturday night (March 6, 1976) at the Jay arena. Looking on is Union City’s Don Enis (45). The Patriots took the title on a 58-50 verdict over the Indians. (The Commercial Review/Frank Kenyon)
Jay County High’s Frank Vormohr (22) clears the boards here during the Patriots’ sectional tourney championship game with Union City Saturday night (March 6, 1976) at the Jay arena. Looking on is Union City’s Don Enis (45). The Patriots took the title on a 58-50 verdict over the Indians. (The Commercial Review/Frank Kenyon)
Editor’s note: With a void in sports across the world, The Commercial Review will occasionally run past stories from key events in the county’s athletic history. This story, from March 8, 1976, describes the Patriots’ first boys basketball sectional championship after the newly consolidated high school opened at the start of the school year. It was the first of four straight sectional titles.

The Jay County Patriots, buoyed by Jay’s version of the “Spirit of ’76,” claimed the school’s first boys basketball sectional championship in its first try Saturday night.

The final count was 58-50 Jay County’s way, over Union City, in the title battle at the Patriot arena.

The next stop for the Patriots is New Castle’s Chrysler Fieldhouse. That’s where, this Saturday, the Patriots will take on Tri High in the first game of the regional tourney at the “world’s largest high school gymnasium.”

“I’ve been around basketball a lot of years. I’ve been a coach 18 years,” said an exultant Jay skipper Bob Collins after the net-cutting festivities Saturday, “and I’ve never been associated with a group of young men who deserved to win a sectional as much as this team.”

The Patriots led all the way against the Indians after junior center Brian Grady scored the first bucket of the ball game 17 seconds into the first quarter.

The Indians, who had proven themselves a capable outfit by stopping tourney favorites Wapahani and Winchester in earlier games, made a struggle of it all the way.

But an active Jay defense kept them from getting the key baskets that would have given them a tie or a lead at various times, and the Union City cagers found themselves in a constant come-from-behind situation.

The Indians did make the Patriots and their backers a bit uncomfortable in the late stages of the game.

At 5:27, the Patriots had the decision apparently all but wrapped up. Jay guard Mike Walters banked one in at that point and the Patriots held a 15-point lead on a 49-34 tally.

That basket was to be Jay’s last for a while. Tribe center Don Enis, who led the Indians’ attack in the second half with 13 points, scored at 5:14 to ignite a string of nine unanswered Union City points.

Jeff Maloon hit a 15-footer for the Indians after a Patriots time out, then sophomore forward Steve Reish drilled four free throws in a row. With 2:50 left in the game, Enis connected on a foul shot and the Indians were within striking distance. Enis’ free throw left Jay with a six-point lead at 49-43.

Jay senior forward Dean Hunt bagged a pair from the stripe for Jay at 2:22. Then Reish, who hit nine straight free throws in the last quarter, tickled the twines with a couple of one-pointers that pulled the Indians to within six again on a 51-45 difference.

But time was running out for the Indians. Just 1:42 was left in the contest after Reish’s free throws.

Moments later, Jay’s Scott Smith sent people heading toward the exits on a four-point play at 1:33.

Smith, a 6-1 senior forward whose action had been limited this season, scored the clincher when he powered in a layup at 1:34. He was fouled after the shot and awarded a one-and-bonus, both ends of which he converted.

After that it was 56-45 Jay’s way, and the countdown began.

Union City wound up with 22 points against Jay’s 17 in the last quarter, but it was the only round in which the Tribe produced more than the Patriots.

Jay County came out of the first quarter with a 13-8 lead after leading by as much as eight on a 10-2 tally.

Grady, who eventually fouled out but made everyone well aware of his presence before that happened, hit three buckets and a free throw to lead the Jay attack in the opening frame.

Union City approached to within one point of the Patriots early in the second period. Rob Young fired home a 15-footer and Reish canned two free throws to make the board read 13-12.

Then the Patriots took off on an eight-point streak, during which Cevin Collins, forward Dean Hunt and guard Dean Theurer all scored.

Theurer’s bucket gave Jay a 20-12 advantage at 2:39.

The Indians never got closer than four points after that outburst. By halftime, the Patriots led 26-18, outscoring the Indians 13-10 in the second frame. Collins’ long shot one second away from the buzzer provided the Patriots their eight-point cushion.

The first half was typical of Jay’s better efforts this season. The Patriots shot seldom, but well, in placing 11 of 21 field goal attempts through the ring. Meanwhile, the Indians bombarded the hoop with 27 shots but got only seven to go through.

The Patriots also outrebounded the Indians 18-14 over the first 14 minutes. The only thing they had problems with was turnovers. Jay lost the ball nine times on ball-handling difficulties while the Indians booted it just three times.

That got corrected in the second half. There were only five Jay miscues in the last two rounds against 11 for the Tribe.

The Indians had their worst problems of the night in that regard in the last session. Although outrebounding the Patriots 9-4 over the final eight minutes, the Indians booted away a lot of their chances by losing the basketball seven times.

Union City shooting improved to the tune of 11-for-24 from the field in the second half.

The Patriots still came out ahead, though, connecting at a 55 percent rate on 12 of 22.

It was 41-28 in Jay’s favor at the third stop after the Patriots had outpointed the Indians 15-10. Jay guards Collins and Walters, hitting 11 points between them led the Jay offensive in the third period. They broke through Tribe defenses with regularity in the round and Walters scored twice after steals.

Walters finished the game with 16 points. Collins notched 14. Hunt and Grady made it four Patriots in twin digits by scoring 11 markers each.

Collins and Walters were both six-for-nine from the field for the night

Reish and Enis paced the Indians with 19 points each but nobody else on the Tribe side was able to get more than four.

The Patriots shot 53 percent for the game on 23 baskets in 43 attempts from the field. Union City hit a tourney-low 35 percent on 18 of 51.

The Indians cashed in 14 of 23 free throws for 61 percent while Jay made 12 of 22 charities for 55 percent.

The Patriots won the rebound battle 30-26. Grady pulled down a season high of 15 caroms for the Patriots.

Collins and Walters kept the Jay attack rolling with seven and four assists respectively.

The two Jay guards were rewarded with places on the all-tourney team for their efforts. Other Jay players named to the honor squad vote of media representatives were Hunt and Grady.