The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio


January 1, 2014

A Don McCormack column: County-wide galas

For almost four decades, Ashtabula County came together for high school basketball tournaments

As we flip our calendars ahead to 2014 as we bid adieu to 2013, wouldn’t it be an extremely edifying experience if we could, at least in our minds and our hearts, flip it backward?

As in, a half-century, or so?

Consider, Loyal Readers, there are presently eight schools in Ashtabula County that field high school boys basketball teams -- Conneaut, Edgewood, Geneva, Grand River Academy, Grand Valley, Jefferson, Lakeside, Pymatuning Valley and St. John -- seven, of which also field girls squads, save for Grand River Academy.

Now, imagine, if you will, if all eight boys teams and all seven girls squads convened in one place to take part in an Ashtabula County Tournament.

Considering the fractured relationships in terms of conference affiliations that exists between county schools, it sounds like a pipe dream, I know.

However, for the younger generation, which is probably not aware, the exact scenario played out each and every year, for decades, generations, in fact.

Back in time

Even before the 20th century began, there was high school basketball -- boys and girls -- being played in Ashtabula County.

In fact, our research documents high school games being played as early as 1896.

By the time 1900 rolled around, games were being held all across the county.

When the 1917-18 season began, Ashtabula County Tournaments began to be held.

Girls and boys tournaments were contested, mostly at Jefferson (at the now-demolished Jefferson Elementary building, which served as the high school in town through the 1960-61 school year) or at Braden Junior High.

Interestingly, using the phrase the tournaments were "staged" at those locations could be taken literally as both arenas had the playing surface up on a stage in an auditorium setting.

Girls tournaments were as well attended as the boys, at least until the Ohio High School Athletic Association decided to do away with high school sports for girls after the 1937-38 school year, mostly because, believe it or not, "strenuous sporting activity was not lady like." That’s a bit of a paraphrase, but the stated mumble-jumble rationale was akin to that. State tournaments were not put in place for girls sports until the 1975-76 school year.

Meanwhile, the boys tournaments were held in the county through the 1956-57 school year.

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