The girls of Goessel High School first made an appearance at the state tournament in 1974. The Bluebirds had narrowly missed attending state in 1973. losing to Centre in the regional championship game.
As noted in an earlier column, Centre would advance to state and place second. Goessel ended the season with a mark of 8-3. Now in 1974, Goessel returned many of those key performers.
The team, coached by David Smith, featured Karen Richert, Carmen Fensky, Becky Klassen, Kathy Goossen, Mary Goertz, Martha Unruh, Carol Goertz, Darlene Richert, Shelly Goerzen and Norma Peters.
The Bluebirds opened the season with three straight wins, including a 44-34 decision over McPherson. By today’s standards, a win of that magnitude would command major headlines around the state. But back in December 1973, the McPherson newspaper carried no report of the game.
This was not unusual, however. Around the state, girls’ basketball garnered little press coverage and the games were poorly attended. Thank goodness for the relatives!
“It sometimes seemed like a family reunion of sorts,” said one girls’ basketball fan. “We saw relatives at the game we hadn’t visited with for months. Other than the relatives, there were plenty of good seats to be had.”
Such was the plight of girls’ high school basketball in those early years. Around the state, many a girl demonstrated her basketball skills in front of empty seats.
After four straight wins to open the season, Goessel entered the seventh annual Berean Academy Basketball Tournament at Elbing. Approved by the Kansas High School Athletic Association in 1968, this tournament was considered the oldest girls’ tournament in the state at the time.
Over the years, the competition was tough and the event proved to be an excellent test for the girls. Goessel opened the tournament with a 57-52 overtime victory over Hesston. The Bluebirds’ undefeated season ended in the semifinals when they were nudged by Inman, 37-34. In the consolation game, Goessel was shoved aside by Berean and finished fourth.
Goessel went on to post wins over Hillsboro and Wichita Collegiate to end the regular season with a mark of 7-2. Now entering postseason play, the Bluebirds first ventured into the Canton-Galva regional. There, they dispatched Bushton, Canton-Galva and Garden Plain to grab the regional crown.
Next, Goessel hosted its own sub-state gathering. Joining the Bluebirds were teams from Norwich, Nashville-Zenda and an undefeated team from Gridley.
The Gridley five was a highly respected bunch, and one of the few teams in Class 1A that was still undefeated. They were favored to win this sub-state and advance to the state tournament.
It didn’t quite work out that way. After Goessel pushed aside Norwich (50-38), Nashville-Zenda upset Gridley. In the sub-state title game, Goessel trimmed Nashville, 46-38, as Darlene Richert tossed in 27 points.
Now with a record of 12-2, Goessel advanced to the state tournament at Pratt-Skyline High School. Joining the Bluebirds were teams from Protection (12-1), Rexford-Golden Plains (14-0), Hope (11-3), Sharon Springs (14-2), Westmoreland (13-1), Bird City (10-5) and Pratt-Skyline (13-2). Skyline was the defending champions and despite Rexford’s undefeated season, drew the top seed of the tourney.
Entering the tournament, there was little doubt which player was the lead songbird of Goessel: Darlene Richert. The talented 5-foot, 10-inch senior was averaging 22.7 points and nearly nine rebounds per game. Her scoring average was among the best in the entire state.
In first-round action, Goessel drew a tough assignment: Protection. The southern Kansas school had narrowly missed the state tournament in 1973 and had been a dominant team up to this point.
Led by Richert, Goessel stayed close the entire game. The Bluebirds trailed 20-18 at the half and the teams were tied at 36-36 in the fourth quarter. Down the stretch, Protection had all of the answers and finally claimed a 44-37 victory. In the contest, Darlene Richert tossed in 21 tallies to lead the Bluebirds.
Later on, Pratt-Skyline secured its second consecutive crown with a win over Rexford-Golden Plains. Protection, who had dispatched Goessel, would settle for third place. After the tournament, Darlene Richert was chosen as an all-state player.
The Bluebirds concluded the successful season with a mark of 12-3. Not only was the team the first girls’ team from Goessel to qualify for state, to date it remains the only girls’ team from Goessel to make the grand tournament. For today’s young girls’ basketball players from Goessel, that’s a worthy goal to aspire to.
Next up, off to state with Hillsboro.
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