NORTH ROBINSON — Colonel Crawford coach David Sheldon appreciates more than most the historical significance of Saturday’s 71-55 win over Clear Fork.
The son of former Wynford coach and 2005 Ohio High School Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee Rob Sheldon, David came of age during the golden era of Crawford County basketball. He played for his father during the old North Central Conference’s heydays in the 1990s before embarking on a hall of fame playing career at Bluffton.
For the past 15 years he’s piloted the Eagles to unprecedented heights, piling up more than 250 career coaching victories along the way.
None, however, was as meaningful as Saturday’s.
Junior point guard Mason Studer scored a game-high 27 points and classmate Carter Valentine added 20 as the Eagles put an exclamation point on just the second undefeated regular season in program history and first since 1962-63.
“To be able to do that … I’ve never been a part of that even back to my father’s two state tournament teams at Wynford,” Sheldon said. “It’s a credit to the guys in that locker room.”
Rob Sheldon led Wynford to a state runner-up finish in 1987 and a Final Four appearance in 1989. Both of those teams were 18-2 during the regular season.
“It means a lot to go undefeated,” Studer said while posing for photos with family members afterward. “In 20 or 30 years, nobody will remember you if you were 21-1. But 22-0, hopefully we have left our mark.
“Growing up, you don’t even think going undefeated is possible.”
The Eagles (22-0) played like a team burdened by the weight of history during the first half Saturday. Crawford built a 25-14 lead early in the second quarter only to be outscored 12-4 the rest of the half and limped into halftime with a 29-26 advantage.
“Pressure can get to anyone, but you can never get too high or too low,” Valentine said. “You’ve just got to stay calm and let the game come to you.”
A 6-foot-5 sharpshooter, Valentine did just that in the third quarter. He registered 12 points in the period as Crawford outscored Clear Fork (8-14) 27-9 to take control for good.
“We pushed the lead to 11 in the second quarter and they made a run, which we knew they would. That’s a good basketball team,” Sheldon said. “We did a better job in the second half of defending their ball screens. We changed up our coverages to give them different looks.
"We got hurt on ball screens early on and in the second half we did a much better job.”
Crawford’s lead ballooned to 63-39 early in the fourth quarter after a pair of Studer free throws. Clear Fork responded with a 12-2 run to cut the Eagles’ margin to 65-51 on a Luke Labaki 3-pointer with 3:14 remaining, but would get no closer.
“All of us are like brothers and we were just having fun,” said senior Chase Walker, who scored 10 points in his final regular season game. “It was just another day at the office.”
Ben Blubaugh led Clear Fork with 16 points. Bruce Swainhart had 14 while Brady Tedrow added 11.