If you were a player, coach, fan, cheerleader or manager in the Clinton or Highland county basketball tournaments, Bob Pittser wants you.
A Roundball Reunion for Clinton and Highland counties will be held 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 13 at Wilmington College, highlighting a long-ago time when basketball was local royalty and the county tournament was king.
This event, being held in the McCoy Room at Kelly Center on the Wilmington College campus, will honor all those players, cheerleaders, team managers and coaches who participated in the high school county basketball tournaments in Clinton and Highland counties.
Those who attend this event are encouraged “to bring memorabilia, including, but not limited to, team pictures, newspaper articles, tournament programs, etc.,” Pittser said.
The Roundball Reunion will include a state champion team and state runner-up team being honored, Pittser said.
For information, contact Pittser via email ([email protected]) or by phone (937-725-2821).
Pittser, who played for Lynchburg in the Highland County tournament, is organizing this event on the 60th anniversary of the final year for county tournaments in Ohio.
“I’m 76 and I’m one of the youngest people still alive (who played in the county tournament),” said Pittser. “If we don’t do it now, it’s probably never going to happen.”
Pittser was a junior in 1964 and teamed with senior Ron Duncan to lead the Mustangs to the Highland County championship. Duncan went on to have a storied career as a coach and athletic director at Blanchester High School.
The last Highland County Basketball Tournament was held in 1964. The last Clinton County Basketball Tournament was held in 1963. The first was held in 1916. County tournaments were used to qualify teams to the sectional/state tournaments for the first time in 1925.
For the 1964-65 season, all basketball teams were eligible to participate in the Ohio High School Athletic Association sectional tournaments.
Prior to that, based on the number of “county schools” in each area, the county tournament determined which small schools were eligible to compete for a state championship. Larger schools such as McClain and Hillsboro were generally not eligible for the county tournaments and automatically qualified for their respective class in the sectional tournaments.
But rural Clinton County high schools such as Adams, Blanchester, Clarksville, Cuba, Jefferson, Kingman, Martinsville, Mt. Pleasant, New Vienna, New Kenton, Port William, Reesville, Sabina, Simon Kenton and Wayne Township, along with Highland County schools such as Belfast, Buford, Fairfield, Highland, Lynchburg, Marshall, Mowrystown, Penn Township, Sinking Spring and Whiteoak were county tournament participants.
Most of those small schools were consolidated into a larger school and therefore county tournaments were no longer needed.
For many communities throughout the state, the annual county basketball tournament was the highlight of the high school sports season. Prior to the current high school landscape, most small communities had a high school and when that high school basketball team was in action, the community attended. Because each class was so small, football was only part of the athletic landscape at bigger schools.
When the county tournament brought all schools together at a central location for a multi-game extravaganza, the communities shut down.
Mark Huber is the sports editor at the News Journal in Wilmington.