While researching a story about the 1937-38 Hillsboro High School basketball team last week it was hard to keep my focus on the topic at hand. It always is when I dig back through those old newspaper archives.
On this particular occasion I had a limited amount of time, so my focus did not drift too many times. Still, it struck me as odd that I was able to find a story in The Press-Gazette back then about every HHS varsity basketball game played that year, with a box score, several stories on many games other schools in the county played that year, and even write-ups on teams below the varsity level.
It was a different time. Gyms were much smaller, the action less fast-paced, and final scores were usually in the 20s or 30s. But apparently people took their basketball every bit as seriously nearly 80 years ago as they do today. Maybe more.
In those days there were just two divisions of schools – Class A and Class B. Hillsboro and McClain were class A. All the other high schools in the county, and there were lots of them, were Class B. The Class A and Class B postseason tournaments were different.
From what I can gather, the Class A teams went straight to the district tournament, and it didn’t take many wins there to advance to the state tournament.
It was different in Class B because there were so many more schools. There was a county tournament, a sectional tournament and a district tournament, all preceding the state tournament.
My parents went to Highland County high schools in the 1950s. Dad graduated from Hillsboro in 1956 and Mom was a cheerleader and homecoming queen at Lynchburg who graduated in 1959.
They have often told me about the excitement of those county tournaments, and having been inside most of those schools’ old gyms, I can imagine the sights and sounds that echoed through them on typical Friday night, let alone at tournament time. It seems that people were more proud of their communities in those days, and I’m sure they poured that pride into the support of their respective teams.
As I glanced through the pages of The Press-Gazette in late 1937 and early 1938, it also struck me how times have changed, at least as far as the written word goes. In February of 1938, The Press-Gazette ran a story with this headline: “Highland County Teams Won’t See State This Year; All Teams Ousted in District Tilts.” There were two stories under that headline, one detailing the Class A schools’ efforts in the district tournament and the other chronicling the Class B schools’ losses in the sectional tournament. There was another section under the main headline giving all the local tournament games and box scores.
Those old stories make interesting reading. Here’s how the Class A story read, reprinted as it appeared back then:
“Battling their way through their first two games at the sectional basketball tourney, held at Waverly last week, Lynchburg High school’s court aggregation, runners-up in the Highland county meet, was edged out in the semi-finals of the Waverly contest in a double-overtime duel with the heretofore near-unknown Kitts Hill squad. The Lynchburgers had opened their district drive Thursday night, with a 26-23 tally over West Union and then topped their old rivals, Fairfield, which had beaten the Lynchburgers in the county meet final by a 32-28 tally, Friday night. But in the semi-finals Saturday afternoon, the Highland countians met with defeat at the hands of the Kitts Hills boys, 30-29.
“Lynchburg’s win over West Union made them eligible to play Fairfield, Friday evening, after Fairfield had trounced Buckskin in a lopsided tilt, 41-21.
“Fairfield’s victory over the Bucks evened the count between these two schools after Buckskin’s 22-21 defeat over the Pauschman in the season’s opener last October. Wright and Simmons led the scoring with 14 and 12 points, respectively.
“Friday night’s Fairfield-Lynchburg battle proved to be another one of those rivalry tilts in which anything can happen. The Lynchburgers caught the Pauschman off guard at the outset of the game and garnered a six-point lead in the first two minutes of play. Simmons, Fairfield’s kingpin, was penalized with three personal fouls in the early part of the game and this has been attributed by some as the cause of Fairfield’s defeat.
“Lynchburg was abnormally jubilant over the victory since it evened the count with the Fairfielders. In the finals of the county fracas at Highland gym two weeks ago, the Lynchburgers found themselves on the short end of the count, 33 to 29. Pinkerton set the scoring pace of the winners in this game with a dozen counters while Wright and Simmons excelled for the losers with ten and nine points, respectively.
“Following their victory over Fairfield, Lynchburg entered the semi-finals and pitted their strength against Kitts Hill’s quintet which had gained wins over Chesapeake and Kingston the previous nights.
“The Lynchburg-Kitts Hill battle turned out to be a nip-and-tuck battle during the entire encounter. The winners led 7-5 at the end of the initial canto and led 14-13 at the intermission. But Lynchburg assumed the lead at the end of the third stanza 24-21. When the gun cracked, ending the fourth quarter, the game stood knotted 28 to 28. Two overtime periods of three minutes each were necessary to break the tie. The final count was 30-29 with Lynchburg on the short end.
“An opportunity to cop third place honors in a consolation game on Saturday was muffed by the Lynchburgers as they met Waterloo and lost 34 to 29.
“New Boston trounced the Kitts Hill lads in the finals, 47-29, to win the sectional title.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.