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Franklin honoring back-to-back hoops state finalists


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Among the prominent photographs hanging on a west wall inside Franklin Community High School are those displaying the 1972-73 and 1973-74 boys basketball teams.

Comb-overs, knee-high socks and jackets loud enough to warrant technical fouls provide those who gaze only the most basic components of coach Dick Harmening’s back-to-back state finalists.

The picture on the left falls short of advertising how a junior-dominated squad made it all the way to Indiana University’s Assembly Hall, host of the IHSAA State Finals during construction of Market Square Arena. On the right, lost in the colorful magnificence, is how the Grizzly Cubs managed to live up to expectations born the previous season.

One program. Two teams. Hundreds of stories.

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the first of Franklin’s most recent boys basketball state finalists, the school is honoring both teams at halftime of tonight’s Mid-State Conference game against visiting Martinsville.

 

Harmening, 76, who continues to live in Franklin, will be present, as will a collection of former Cubs players, coaches and cheerleaders.

The coach, for one, can’t wait.

“The thing about those teams is the way they drew the community in,” Harmening said. “That team jelled, and the community really jelled.”

“As you grow up playing basketball, your dream is to play in the state finals. That bandwagon got real big,” remembered Darrel Heuchan, 57, the Cubs’ 6-foot-5 starting center both seasons. “We filled up our quarter of Hinkle Fieldhouse both years for the semistate. It was capacity both times and a loud place.”

Heuchan was one of four juniors making Harmening’s starting lineup in the late fall of 1972, the others being 6-3 twins Jon and Don McGlocklin at the forwards and 5-11 guard Ed Trogden. Running the show was 5-10 senior point guard Garry Abplanalp, whose sturdy frame enabled him to score inside, as well.

“He was a coach on the floor,” Harmening said. “Just a very good quarterback for our team and the one who knew what we were going to do before I called it.”

The general feeling around Johnson County was that Franklin might be a year away. Harmening, who took over the Grizzly Cubs program in 1968, wasn’t so sure. After all, he had been in Franklin long enough to witness his junior players’ many successes during earlier stages of basketball. He knew the group was special and capable.

“I think that first year we were ranked about 10th in the state at the start,” Harmening said. “I thought the team was ready, but most of the people in town thought their senior year would be the year.”

Both parties were correct. With all five starters averaging between 11.7 and 15 points a game, Franklin captured the Whiteland Sectional and Columbus Regional before defeating Speedway and Richmond at the semistate level.

Playing the morning semifinal against New Albany at the State Finals, Harmening’s team failed to take advantage of opportunities at the free-throw line and lost in overtime, 77-76. A controversial blocking foul on Heuchan late in the game fouled out Franklin’s big man.

Salt was added to a community’s open wound that evening when New Albany, led by Julius Norman, Norman Mukes and Jim Webb, beat South Bend Adams in the title game, 84-79.

“That was very disappointing the way we lost because there were some very questionable calls down the stretch,” Harmening said. “That next season everyone was shooting for us because we had everyone back except Garry.”

Trogden moved over to the point in 1973-74, while sharpshooting senior Chris McCarty took over at shooting guard. Franklin’s bench also was a strength, with 6-6 Jim Thomas (father of current Grizzly Cubs’ starting forward Tyler Thomas), 6-10 Jerry Jewell and 6-1 Steve Yount being consistent contributors, along with junior Ted Server.

This time the Cubs cut down the nets at the Franklin Sectional, Columbus North Regional and Hinkle Semistate before dropping a 63-52 decision to Jeffersonville in the early semifinal at Assembly Hall.

The program hasn’t made it to a State Finals since. The 1996-97 Grizzly Cubs came close, losing 61-54 to Delta in the semistate championship game at Hinkle in what was the final single-class state tournament.

“That just tells you how hard it is to get there,” Heuchan said.

Even though both fell short of the ultimate objective, Franklin’s 1972-73 and 1973-74 teams made history that will stand the test of time.

Franklin is the only school in the 81 seasons (1917-97) of single-class mental attitude awards to go back-to-back: Abplanalp took the honor in 1973 and the McGlocklin twins the following spring.

One of Harmening’s assistants, Tom McKinney, later would coach the Cubs for eight seasons. He was Bloomington North’s coach in 1997 when the Cougars knocked off Delta to win the state’s 87th and final single-class state title.

Harmening coached at Franklin through the 1978-79 season and later resurfaced at Center Grove, where he stayed from 1984 to 1992. Those magical moments of the early 1970s still seem like yesterday to the coach, who even today marvels at those ballclubs.

“The camaraderie among both of those teams was so good. The kids ate together and were always doing something together,” Harmening said. “During games they shared the basketball very, very well.”

Doors open at 5:15 p.m. today with the junior varsity game scheduled to start at 6 p.m. The varsity game tips off at about 7:30 p.m. A student-produced video documenting the highlights of the 1972-73 and 1973-74 teams’ successes will be shown before the varsity game warm-up.

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