Marion High?s 1918 team the first to make it to state

In 1918, the boys of Marion High School were the next team from Marion County to go to state. That team was coached by A.E. Issacson and team members included Marion Pierce, Dewey Monninger, Clarence Pyratt, Homer Butcher, Ernest Jones, Hazlet Jones and Leo Brose.

After the conclusion of the football campaign, the Marion Record reported on the changing sports calendar.

?Basketball spirit is running high in the community,? the newspaper noted. ?Good progress is being made in practices by the boys and the prospects for the team this year are fine. It is strictly understood that the boys are not wanted near where the girls are in action; therefore we cannot give a definite account on the progress the Marion girls are making.?

One of the early games of the season for the Marion boys involved a home game against Herington. The local team blasted th visitors, 74-12, in what was a long night, not only for Herington but also for Marion.

?The train from Herington was late (as usual) as a large crowd gathered at the depot prior to the game,? The Record reported. ?The crowd shivered in the cold until nearly nine o?clock. Finally the team arrived in town to play the game.?

Marion made the trip even more painful as the team quickly jumped on Herington and settled the contest in short order.

In another game, Marion played Peabody and won in a very ?vocal? affair. According to the Record, the fans were thoroughly entertained during the game by the singing styles of Marion star Dewey Monninger. It seemed he possessed talent both on and off the court.

Later in the year Marion traveled to Hillsboro, but lost the game 33-29. Normally, Marion rode the train to Hillsboro but on this night an impending blizzard forced the team to travel by car. With much snow expected, it was considered too risky to go by train. If the snow did delay the normal train schedule, it was quite possible that the team would be forced to stay in Hillsboro for several days. By using cars the team could make a quick exit should the storm arrive sooner than expected.

Marion played well in the game but in the final moments they fell by the wayside. Accord?ing to newspaper accounts, it was the team?s first loss of the year.

As best as can be determined, Marion concluded the regular season with a record of 8-1. The team next ventured into the Fourth District Tournament, which was held in Emporia. Sixteen teams participated in the event with an opportunity for a trip to the state tournament hanging in the balance.

?The local business men of the city opened their hearts and their pocketbooks and raised enough money to send the high school boys to the district tournament,? the Record reported. ?The tourney will begin on Friday evening and will conclude with the championship game on Saturday night.?

Marion opened the tournament with victories over Reading, Admire and Virgil before finally losing to Emporia. Emporia captured the district championship while Marion brought home a second-place trophy.

Despite the disappointing finish, Marion was still invited to attend the state tournament in Lawrence. A whopping 34 teams entered, with Newton the defending champion. Marion?s stay at the tourney was a short one. In the first round, the Warriors lost to Macksville, 27-11, and were eliminated. Macksville went on to win two more games before finally losing in the quarterfinals.

As best as can be determined, Marion ended the year with a record of 11-3.

The 1918 basketball season was a successful one for the boys of Marion High School. They became the first team in the school?s history to attend the state tournament. In the coming years the Marion boys would qualify for state in 1924 (a loss in the third round to Hutchinson), 1925 (a loss in the first round to Kansas City-Wyandotte), 1941 (a loss in the first round to Olathe), 1988 (a loss in the first round to Beloit) and 1990 (a fourth-place finish in Class 3A).

For Marion, March basketball madness began back in 1918. Next, we will travel to state with the boys of Hillsboro High School.

? 2011 by Steven Michael Farney. All rights reserved. Ideas, comments or questions: contact smf2guard@ yahoo.com

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