Basketball fans across the state have certainly embraced the girls’ high school game and why not? Each year, the state produces some outstanding players and teams and those players and teams provide no shortage of exciting action.
Like the boys, the girls’ season culminates with the state basketball tournament. Although many may think the girls’ tournament is a rather new creation (post 1972), they gathered for state tournaments many years before that.
The first state basketball tournament in Kansas was held in Lawrence in 1908. Officially known as the University Invitational Tournament, it was hosted by the University of Kansas.
In 1908, invitations were sent to both boys’ and girls’ basketball teams. In the boys tournament Halstead took home the trophy with a thrilling 30-29 victory over Topeka.
The girls tourney had much less drama. Although numerous teams were invited from around the state, only Hutchinson “showed” and as such was awarded the first state crown.
In 1909, girls’ teams from Chanute, Reno County, Hutchinson and Beloit made the trip to Lawrence. Beloit claimed the title, defeating Chanute,16-8. In that game, the Lawrence Daily Gazette described the girls’ play as “anything but lady-like as the two tried to cop goals.”
Chanute remained a strong team and claimed titles in 1910 and 1911, defeating Reno County High (Nickerson) on both occasions.
In 1912, the state began formally organizing and sponsoring these state tournaments. That year nine girls’ teams entered the tourney. Reno County finally bested Chanute to take the girls’ crown. The champions received a silver cup and each winning player was awarded a gold button that could be worn as a lapel pin.
W.O. Hamilton, who at the time was the basketball coach at KU, trumpeted the play of all of the tournament participants. “This was the most satisfactory tournament we have ever staged,” he said. “Five years ago the play was ragged and comical. This year it was as finished and as perfect in form as that of varsity basketball.”
In the coming years, the girls’ state tournament continued. After 1921, the tournament ended. The reasons shall be detailed in a future column. Over 50 years later, in 1973, the girls’ tournament resurfaced, this time fully sanctioned and sponsored by the state activities association.
Another remarkable story from the basketball courts of Kansas Hoopla.
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