Leach brings pride to Vienna
His face said it all. The honor he felt and memories rushing back into his 76-year-old mind.
The legendary high school basketball player called Rex Leach sent the Vienna Flyers to the state Final Four in the mid 1950s.
Look at his remarkable stats, including the 1,266 points in a season, that may not be touched any year in my lifetime or my children’s as well.
That Vienna team averaged 97 points per game – 97 points in an era prior to the 3-point shot, which has been the great equalizer for most undersized teams over the years.
But Leach wasn’t an undersized man in his era, standing 6 feet, 5 inches. Looking at the humble living legend, it makes you wonder what it was like playing in those days. There are some of us who are destined to look at old black and white photos with players donning shorts that don’t even cover their thighs. It looks like a bunch of guys wearing boxer shorts. But that’s what we’re used to seeing now a days.
Then, things were much more simplistic. The value of a 10 to 15 foot jump shot was a must. Layups, not dunks were the norm.
Looking at those faces packed inside Mathews High School Friday night, it made you think, these people in Vienna were enthralled by Leach’s accomplishments and the man. They should be. He was one of their own.
Friday was Rex Leach night, dedicating the floor to the legendary Leach. It now bears his name, Rex Leach Court.
The gregarious former Vienna Flyer center first saw a rectangular plaque dedicated in his honor that will be displayed to the entrance of the gym. It had his No. 7 jersey, picture of his team and some of his stats encased in there.
His wife, Carol, and his son, Sean, and daughter-in-law Maureen surrounded him on the Mathews floor near the stage area underneath one of the baskets.
Leach was also flanked by some of his former teammates. Looking across from the home side toward those individuals one might and should think, these guys were the high-powered NAC before there were the high scoring teams like Bristol that made the state Final Four about at decade ago and the more recent Pymatuning Valley team making it to a regional final. Then, not to be outdone by a Maplewood team that could’ve set up an all-Trumbull County and all-cross country regional final between Maplewood and McDonald.
Back to Leach, his presence on the floor brought team spirit in a sports-rich community like Vienna, brought out the best in those wearing black and red.
All the cheerleaders, junior varsity and varsity players wore black warm-up T-shirt with white trim and some red highlights. The M for Mathews was on the front with a saying of “We are Mathews” in the front. On the back, in white block lettering was the words LEACH and with the No. 7 below.
Then, they hung up a gigantic banner with Leach’s arms outstretched. His achievements were at his waist in the picture and below.
Friday, it was all about honoring one of the best players in Ohio high school basketball history – something that should’ve been done long before this weekend.
For Mathews’ players and those fans entering the building, take pride.