Girls Basketball - The Beginnings
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Girls Basketball – The Beginnings In 1891, the women who observed the world’s first basketball game knew that this would be their game! Before inventor James Naismith worked out the kinks from the original rules, women had organized teams and begun league play all over the country. Prior to 1896, any number of players made up a team. The only requirement was that each team plays with the same number. In late 1895, the rules committee determined that five players per side made the best game and changed the rules accordingly. The women felt that six was a better number and modified the rules for women to use six players in three zones of the court. When the first basketball game was played in New Mexico is not known, but by 1899 women’s basketball was serious enough for an Albuquerque team to travel out of state to play a game. On December 21, 1899, exactly eight years after the first game ever, the Albuquerque women traveled to El Paso by train, and beat the Texans 5-2. Through the early years of the twentieth century, women’s basketball was played in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Las Vegas. But the East Plains provided the most teams and the strongest competition. Every town on the east side of the state had a town basketball team for the women as well as the men. As new high schools were built in these towns, each school formed boys and girls teams. Tournaments would be held on Saturdays with as many as 24 teams competing. The games would last all day and most teams would play about four games. The championship would be the last game of the day between the teams with the best records. All games would be played on one of the outside courts of the host. Very few schools had the luxury of a gym. Many tournaments were called due to darkness! In 1921, the boy’s state tournament was organized at the last moment. On March 6, 1921, all of the boy’s teams in the state were invited to the state tournament which would be played two weeks later. It was because of the lack of time that only boy’s teams were invited. During the tournament, the High School Athletic Association (predecessor to NMAA) was formed. One of the items discussed in the meeting according to reports in The Albuquerque Journal was the organization of a girl’s tournament for 1922. Nothing materialized in 1922, or throughout the twenties. Several state newspapers gave reports of girl’s high school games and county tournaments were played all over the state. However, the NMAA never received the support from the member schools to support a girl’s state tournament. Each school with a winning record proclaimed itself the State Champion, but rarely did the girls have an opportunity to prove it. One of the exceptions occurred in 1929, when Floyd and Capitan met in Roswell for the State Championship! Both teams were undefeated and both had won their county tournaments. Both teams had played tough schedules which included teams from outside their own area. The rest of the state had no other challengers. Yes this was truly a State Championship game! “They were just too big and played too rough for our girls,” recalled Coach Ray Lofton some fifty years after Capitan defeated Floyd 26-19. Roswell, the host of the game, failed to schedule a referee, so at game time the referee was selected from the crowd. “The game developed into a fair exhibition of indoor football, and because Capitan, with its superior size, had a big advantage. “ Because of the referee situation, a rematch was scheduled for March 30, 1929, in Roswell. As often happened, the rematch never materialized. Capitan was the State Champion – or were they? By 1932, the physical harm to girls playing basketball had become one of the most controversial subjects in athletics. There were efforts to prohibit girls from participating in any sport. Also the depression required school districts to eliminate costs and girl’s basketball was a common target. However, there were still a lot of people trying to get a State Tournament for girls just like the one for boys. 1932 The City of Santa Fe and St. Michael’s College made an all out effort in 1932, to get a State Tournament for Girls. They invited 48 high schools girls’ teams to play in what was call the First Annual Girls State Basketball Tournament. All of the girls in the state were invited, but they were willing to send out more invitations if they missed someone. On Thursday, March 17, 1932, (One week after the Boys State Tournament) eleven teams were entered. The only team considered a potential State Champion that did not enter was the Quay County Champion, Forrest Pirates. The McAlister Eagles, who lost to Forrest 27-19, in the Quay County finals would represent Quay County. From the north came the undefeated Capulin Mountaineers, and from the Las Vegas area came Mora and Immaculate Conception. Santa Fe was represented by the High School Demonettes, Loretta, and Cathedral Sodality. Cerrillos Golden Nuggets also came in from Santa Fe County. No teams from the southwestern part of the state entered. There were just a few teams playing and the distance was just too great. From the Pecos Valley area came the Capitan Tigers, the 1929 Champion. The final entry was one of the favorites, Melrose. Melrose was very strong and had claimed the “State Championship:” in 1930 and 1931. This time they were out to prove it. The tournament opened on Friday with Capulin keeping its undefeated record intact by edging Capitan 24-21. Mora beat Immaculate Conception and the Santa Fe Demonettes beat Albuquerque Old Town 30-24. In the quarterfinals, Capulin won its second contest of the day, beating Loretta of Santa Fe 21-20. Melrose smothered Mora 64-0 (Yes, the score is correct). McAlister defeated Cerrillos 22-16. Cathedral withdrew from the tournament, forfeiting to Santa Fe. Capitan beat Old Town 37-9 in consolation play. In the first game Saturday morning, Capitan downed Loretta 23-20. The semifinals started with Melrose handing Capulin its first loss of the season, 25-20. All that Melrose had to do was to beat the winner of the McAlister-Santa Fe game. But without explanation, Santa Fe withdrew from the tournament and forfeited to McAlister. Neither the coach nor any other person gave a reason for quitting. Tournament Directors didn’t want to return the ticket money to the fans, so they advanced McAlister to the finals, but had them play and exhibition game against Capitan in the time allocated for the McAlister-Santa Fe game. Capitan won the exhibition 25-23. For third place, Capitan once again played Capulin. Capitan won the rematch of the first game of the tournament 23-18. For the Tigers, it was their third win of the day! Led by Velma Green, the McAlister Eagles upset the Melrose Buffalos 29-23 in the Championship. A school without a gym was the State Champion. The All-State Team was selected by Tournament Officials. Position Player School Forward Forward Center Center Guard Guard Frances Ferguson (Most Valuable Player) Velma Green Marcella Gurley Ruth Sprinkle Tina Morris Mary Frances Pinson Capitan McAlister Loretta McAlister Melrose Capulin Why the girls failed to get organized could be foreseen by what happened in this tournament. Certainly the unexplained withdrawl of the host Santa Fe team didn’t help. Nor did the lopsided 64-0 score in the quarter finals. But an attempt was made to hold a tournament, and this was more than had ever been done before. Another attempt to have a tournament was made in 1933. This tournament, held in Artesia, was the last for forty years Most teams disbanded, but a few teams in Quay, Curry, Roosevelt, and Lea Counties stuck it out. It was not until Title IX in 1973 that opened the door to Girls.