LAKEMORE — The ghost of Ronald Reagan can finally be put to rest.
The same goes for 91-cent gasoline, Beetlejuice, Micro Machines and Pictionary. The year was 1988 and all those things were trending back in the days of the mullet and trickle-down economics.
It was also the last season the Cloverleaf boys basketball team had a winning record.
With a 66-44 Portage Trail Conference Metro Division win over Springfield on Tuesday, Cloverleaf clinched its first winning campaign in 31 years — and every coach, player and fan in the building knew it.
“It feels like a huge 31-year weight has been lifted off me,” Cloverleaf coach Jack Banks said. “I’m happier for the kids. It’s been weighing on us for the last two years. We’ve kind of always had that weighing on us. We’ve done some good things over the past two years, but it just kind of all came together the last two years.
“The kids responded well. They didn’t have a really good start to the season, but I’m very proud of them.”
The season began with the Colts (12-6, 7-4) losing four of their first five games, but they’re now on a roll and the talk of the town.
Rick Hewit, who coached Cloverleaf’s basketball team in that magical 1987-88 season, has already seen the team play. Members of the squad that went 17-6 have emailed Banks. All offered congratulations and all wanted this squad to know just how important it was for them to see this season’s success.
“We’ve been working really hard since we were young,” Cloverleaf junior guard Brycen Holliday said. “We have the community’s support and our school’s support. It just feels great.”
The goal is still game by game, but the next step is to join the Colts of the ’80s with 17 wins or more. With four games left in the regular season and a postseason full of promise, the countdown is on.
“We’ve been working on it since we came into the high school,” junior center Sylar Jones said. “It’s been a goal of ours. We want to change the culture at Cloverleaf. That was one of our major goals this year. We wanted to get that 31-year hump out. The fact that it’s done is really good. We won’t look too much ahead of ourselves. We’ll take it game-by-game and see where we are.”
The Spartans (4-13, 3-8) made the Colts work for a half. Springfield held an 18-9 lead after the first quarter and was down only one at the break, but Cloverleaf turned up the volume and the Spartans faded.
Holliday scored 15 of his game-high 24 points in the third quarter and Jones had six of his 20 as the Colts pulled away.
“Momentum had a lot to do with it,” Jones said. “We were tired and lazy in that first half, but we came out with a lot of energy. We came out and made the big run and from there, the game just went our way.”
The run was incredible, as the Colts scored the first 16 points of the third quarter while Springfield went 0-for-5 and committed four turnovers in the first 5:39.
If not for a 3-pointer by Joel Justice, the Spartans would have put up a goose egg as Cloverleaf scored the next 10 points to win the quarter 26-3.
“That (matchup 2-3) zone defense added so much length to us, especially with our three bigs in there,” Banks said. “They were active and got in great rebounding spots. With that team, we can get a lot of fast breaks and get easy buckets. That’s what we need.”
Nate Riley finished with 12 points to round out Cloverleaf players in double figures.
The Springfield junior varsity won 46-25. Blake Benko paced Cloverleaf with 10 points.
Cloverleaf 66, Springfield 44
CLOVERLEAF 9 20 26 11 — 66
SPRINGFIELD 18 10 3 13 — 44
Cloverleaf — Tyler Webb 0-0-0, Nate Riley 4-2-12, Sylar Jones 9-2-20, Brycen Holliday 8-5-24, Cruz Severson 1-0-2, Matt Tanko 1-1-4, Ashton Newton 1-2-4, Tyler Webb 0-0-0, Logan Tierney 0-0-0, Nick Bailey 0-0-0, Colton Doss 0-0-0, Blake Benko 0-0-0, Drew Schreck 0-0-0. TOTALS: 24-12-66.
Springfield — Dylan Hanna 1-0-2, Shae Moles 1-0-3, Andrew Smith 3-2-10, Spencer Shannon 1-0-3, Zach Ickes 3-0-6, Bryce Baker 2-1-5, Joe Cole 1-0-2, Conner Beatty 1-3-5, Brysyn Frashuer 0-1-1, Aubin Wallenfang 0-1-1, Tyler Hoxworth 0-0-0, Chris Duffy 0-0-0, Shawn Terry 0-0-0, Joel Justice 2-0-6, Dylan Kochamn 0-0-0. TOTALS: 15-8-44.
3-point goals — Holliday 3, Riley 2, Tanko, Justice 2, Smith 2, Moles, Shannon. Rebounds — Cloverleaf 29 (Jones 7), Springfield 24 (Justice 4). Assists — Cloverleaf 19 (Holliday, Severson 5), Springfield 9 (Shannon, Smith 2). Records — Cloverleaf (12-6, 7-4), Springfield (4-13, 3-8). Junior varsity — Springfield 46, Cloverleaf 25.