Mathews honors Leach

VIENNA – Rex Leach’s 6-foot-5 frame still stands above the rest of the crowd.

His feats on the basketball court are unattainable to most, making him a living legend not only around the halls of Mathews High School and in Vienna but the state of Ohio as well.

His 1,266 points – a 43.7 points-per-game average – led the then Vienna Flyers to the 1954-55 state Final Four. The Flyers averaged 97.42 points per game. Leach, 76, still holds the Ohio record for most points in a season.

His field goals (493) and free throws (280) in a season rank second in the OHSAA record books, along with fifth overall for points in a career with 2,581.

Then there’s also the time he scored 72 points against Southington in 1955.

Friday, between the junior varsity and varsity games of the Badger vs. Mathews contest, Leach’s accomplishments and his famed No. 7 jersey were displayed in the Mathews High Gymnasium.

Then, there’s the court, which on both sides reads “Rex Leach Court.”

“It’s unbelievable. I never dreamt it would come to this, especially with the consolidation,” said Leach, speaking of the consolidation of Vienna and Fowler to make Mathews decades ago. “It makes it a little more difficult. I’ve worked through consolidations before. I really appreciate everything the community and the people in the school did. I really appreciate it.”

A capacity crowd huddled inside the gym to listen to the presentation and heard Leach speak. The Mathews players heard a few words loud and clear – that Leach wanted Mathews to win the first game on Rex Leach Court.

The Mustangs delivered with a 64-53 victory over Badger in a Northeastern Athletic Conference matchup.

Wyatt Ford, who scored a game-high 25 points, made two free throws with 7:37 left in the first quarter for the first two points ever scored on the newly named court.

“It felt good to go out there and make those first two free throws in honor of him,” Ford said.

Once Mathews coach Jason Lee heard those words uttered from Leach, he wondered how his team would respond.

“My team came in and said to me, which is really big of my guys, that there’s no pressure,” said Lee, whose team is 6-6, 4-3 NAC. “The way we’ve played against Southington. They way we’ve played against Badger. The guys have come together tonight. It’s a big team win for us, especially being in the league.”

Badger (4-8, 2-6) cut the Mathews’ lead to nine in the fourth quarter.

“We wanted to bring more pressure in the game, but got into some foul trouble. It kind of took us out of what we wanted to do,” Badger coach Chris Mott said.

Jeremy Forsythe added 12 points, while Wade Sharp put in 10 for Mathews, which hosts Lordstown on Tuesday.

Brandon Bates had 15 points, while Jared Meikle added 12 for Badger, which hosts Ledgemont on Tuesday.

As for Ford, he said he is happy he and his teammates can honor Leach by playing on his court each and every home game.

“It’s going to be a great feeling that we’re not only representing Mathews, but we’re representing Rex Leach as an individual and as a player,” Ford said.