The 1949 “county tournament” in high school girls basketball here was one of the most remarkable in the event’s 40-year history. The county tournaments were held during the regular season, usually mid-to-late January, and were especially popular because they were the only times all six Greene County high school girls teams played in the same tourney field. The six were Grand Junction, Dana, Paton, Churdan, Cooper and Rippey. Neither Jefferson nor Scranton offered girls basketball back then. When it came sectional tournament time at the end of the regular season, the county’s teams would be assigned in different directions.
In the ’49 county tournament, which was played at Paton, the favorite was Churdan, based on the Gremlinettes’ deep run in the ’48 post-season, when they did not lose until the district finals. Rippey was defending champion of both the ’48 conference race and ’48 county tourney. The Dana girls had won back-to-back county tournament titles in ’46 and ’47.
Fans were rewarded with several thrilling games, especially when host Paton nearly upset favored Churdan, 49-45, in the semifinal round. The Paton Pantherette fans were rewarded the following night when their girls got by Rippey in a hard-fought 63-59 win in the consolation game. Churdan dominated the championship game, beating Cooper 47-28 in a defensive struggle.
Grand Junction’s Globe-Free Press, a weekly paper which covered all of eastern Greene County, had extensive coverage of the county tourney.
A front page news story featured a bold-faced headline, “CHURDAN GIRLS WIN,” with recaps of the championship and consolation games and picture of the first-round Cooper-Grand Junction game. Photos and articles of the Rippey and Paton teams’ games were featured in the Globe’s “Paton Portrait” and “Rippey News” pages.
What made the 1949 season especially memorable is that Paton, Rippey and Churdan each won their sectional tournaments and advanced to four-team district tourneys. Two of them reached district championship games.
Local history books note that Churdan won the Harcourt district and made the “Sweet Sixteen” state tournament, played then at Drake Fieldhouse. But what they don’t show is that the Gremlinettes had to beat Paton in the semifinal round to get to the Harcourt finals. Meanwhile, Rippey upset two ranked teams in the first of its four sectional games, and then beat Cooper 57-54 in the sectional final. The Bulldogettes then advanced to a district tourney played at Drake Fieldhouse, along with Thayer, Slater and Waukee. Rippey beat Waukee, 55-53, in the district semifinal but Greene County’s hopes for a second team reaching the state tourney ended with Rippey’s heartbreaking 48-44 loss to Slater in the final.
Slater was a complete buzz kill for our Greene County teams in 1949, as it knocked out Churdan, 45-42, in the first round at state.
The author Alan Robinson, of Grand Junction, is a Greene County Historical Society board member. He will be making a presentation on girls basketball in Greene County at the August meeting of the society in Grand Junction. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.