After the merger of Franklin and Monroe high schools in the early 1950s, Franklin Monroe fielded its first team in 1953 and is presently in its 65th season of boys basketball while the girls started playing in 1975 and are in their 43rd year of play.
That is a total of 98 basketball seasons between the two teams, involving many memorable teams, players, coaches and games.
The girls team has two district championships to their credit in 2004-05 and 2007-08, both coached by Ned Gray, who in 12 seasons as coach compiled a 179-99 record and a .644 won-lost percentage.
The all-time leading girls scorer is Katrina Spitler, who scored 1,654 points from 1999-03 and who also holds the record for most points in a season with 512 in 2001-02.
She is also in the Ohio all-time girls basketball record book five times. She is No. 14 in 3-point field goal point percentage in a career with 40.1 percent from 2000-03, No. 7 for a season with 49.5 percent in 2002-03, No. 13 in free throws for a career with 465 from 2000-03, No. 18 in free throws in a season with 168 in 2001-02 and No. 21 in free throws in a season with 163 in 2000-01.
Abbey Davenport also is in the all-time Ohio record book, tied for No. 5 in 3-point field goals made in a game with 10 in 2005.
Besides Katrina Spitler and Abbey Davenport, Mara Howell (1,230), Kim Clawson (1,111), Erin Gray (1,079), Elaina Kakatolis (1,060) and Sierra Bruner (1,011) have all scored more than 1,000 points in a career for the Lady Jets. For the boys the leading all-time scorer is Mike Cross with 2,204 points, which puts him in 24th place all-time among all Ohio high school boys players. His 27.7 points per game average and 804 points in the 1973-74 season are also tops for an FM player.
It is no surprise that he played on the only FM team to play for a state championship, which the 1973-74 team coached by Phil Dubbs did, losing to Lorrain Clearview 74-69 in the championship game.
For his efforts Cross was named all-state first team in both his junior and senior years.
The Jets also had two undefeated regular season teams in 1966-67 and 1987-88. The 22-0 1967 team was upended by Arcanum in district play, and the Trojans were led in scoring by above mentioned Ned Gray, who scored 24 points.
That team featured two of the school’s best all-time players in Irv Besecker and Dan Franz. Besecker was the point guard and was selected third team all-Ohio while Franz set the rebounds in a game record for all Ohio high school players ever with 43.
And while that team did not get a state title, Irv Besecker did as a coach for Marion Local in 1975 over the Charlie Huggins-coached Gandenhutten Indian Valley South in a 59-56 overtime win.
The 1987-88 team was coached by Richard Cline and featured Todd Robbins, who holds the FM record for points in a game with 44 against Brookville in that season. That team too lost in the district.
For the boys team Jack Oliver had the longest tenure as coach. In his 11 seasons his teams compiled a 179-59 record and had the highest won-lost percentage of any FM coach with .752.
Former Jet coach and player and now Arcanum coach Marcus Bixler is in the state record books tied for second all-time in assists in a game with 21 and is No. 6 for a season with 264 in the 1998-99 school year.
Another FM alumnus that is coaching in Darke County is Travis Swank, who holds down fourth place in all-time scoring for FM with 1,152 points, helped the 2003 squad get to regional play and who is presently the coach of the Versailles Tigers.
Present FM coach Troy Myers, Swank and Bixler and current girls coach Abbey Moore make at least four FM alumni presently coaching in Darke County.
Besides Mike Cross and Travis Swank, the other 1,000 point career scorers are Jon Sass (1,550), Brian Myers (1,195), Irv Besecker (1,146), Rod Nealeigh (1,105), Travis Feitshans (1,062) and Kip Gray (1,031).
In addition to his single game rebound record, Dan Franz holds the No. 9 spot for rebounds in a season all-time with 488.
This past year has also been a good year for FM basketball with both the boys and girls teams having winning records and FM having six players named all-Cross Country Conference.
Corina Conley, Belle Cable and Audrey Cable represent the Lady Jets, and Ethan Conley, Mason Conley and Kyle Ressler represent the boys team and as only one of those players is a senior the future looks bright for FM basketball.
Ron Griffitts is a contributing columnist for The Daily Advocate.