Too many fans an odd reason to postpone

In the history of high school basketball in the Sunflower State, many games have had to be canceled or postponed for one reason or another.

Newspapers in the 1920s chronicled many games postponed because of illness, particularly scarlet fever and influenza. Other games were postponed due to physical problems in gymnasiums, such as a lack of heating, lighting or adequate water pressure.

And we can?t even begin to guess how many games have been alteredby the fickle Kansas weather.

What occurred on March 9, 1962, however, may just have been the first time a game was postponed for another unusual reason.

During the 1962 basketball season, two small schools in northwest Kansas were clearly the powers of the region: the Winona Tigers and the Selden Wildcats. The two schools, roughly 30 miles apart, played in different leagues, but as district and regional assignments were drawn, it was quite clear to player and fan alike that these two clubs would most likely face each other with just one team advancing to the state tournament.

So it came to pass. On March 9, 1962, the two squared off in the regional finals played in Leoville.

The Leoville gymnasium was designed to hold 600 people but as the teams tried to warm up, tournament officials saw red flags everywhere. Fans were jammed in every nook and cranny and even spilled out onto the edges of the court. Even more fans were in the lobby while others were outside standing in line waiting to purchase tickets.

Tournament officials huddled and hit upon a plan. They politely asked that fans who were not from either school to please leave so the game could be played. No one took them up on the offer. Miss the game of the year in northwest Kansas?

Plan B was much more drastic: Postpone the game for another night and refund all the money. The idea was reluctantly accepted, but first some extra muscle from law enforcement might be advised.

As players and fans wondered what was going on, calls were frantically placed to law enforcement officers around the area. Once they arrived in adequate number, the formal postponement was announced, money was refunded and fans were sent grumbling into the night.

The next night, the game was played in the larger Oakley High School Gym. The Oakley gym could accommodate 1,200 fans and they needed nearly every seat. The paid attendance was 1,162 basketball fanatics.

Winona prevailed 72-67 and advanced to the Class BB State Tournament where, one week later, the Tigers would secure the school?s only state basketball title.

The postponed game is just another remarkable story from the basketball courts of Kansas Hoopla.

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For ideas, comments or questions, contact the author at smf2guard@yahoo.com. ? 2010 by Steven Michael Farney. All rights reserved.

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