This Is Its History
By Paul G. Sturges

Sixteen of the state's out-standing high school basketball teams are here this week for the 20th annual championship tournament; for a four-day play-off that annually marks the end of another season of the maple court sport.

The preppers have come from the north, the east, the south and the west, each seeking to fight it out and take home the coveted state crown now worn by the smooth-performing Bulldogs of Baker high.

The 16 teams gathered here represent every portion of the state with the exception of metropolitan Portland, and it is a far cry from the bare handful of squads that was on hand for the first tournament far back in 1917.

History of Oregon's state championship tournament is packed with stories of good sportsmanship, great players and thrilling games. In this respect the 20th annual tourney should be no disappointment.

In 1917 the state play-offs were first inaugurated by R.L. Mathews, Willamette university coach. Only the winners from the Willamette Valley sections and Southern Oregon were invited.

The first true "all-state" tournament followed three years later, in 1920, when 12 teams bid for the championship. Salem won the title by nosing out Lincoln high of Portland, 12 to 11.

It is from that year that the present tournament dates.

But the life of the prep classic has been an ever-changing, rocky one.

In 1921, Portland teams withdrew from the big Oregon state conference to form their own organization in the Rose City, and for three years there were no metropolitan entries bidding for the championship.

In 1925 Portland re-entered the state association and also the tournament, providing for four years of smooth sailing, with ten "best" quintets competing in the state play-offs.

The year 1930 produced another change, as tournament officials, in answer to ever-increasing demands of smaller high schools that they be given a fair chance at the state title, divided the state into districts, making it possible for 12 teams to again compete, as it was in 1920.

This arrangement proved not entirely satisfactory, however, and in 1932 the state districting system was completely revised. For the first time 16 teams were brought into the championship tournament.

Three years elapsed, and in 1935 came the first division between "A" and "B" schools, making it possible for the latter group, which includes schools with enrollments of 150 students or less, to stage its own title tournament on Wednesday and Thursday, opening two days of the tourney.

The "B" champ is thus assured of a place in the semi-finals, an opportunity which Bellfountain capitalized on in 1937 to march on through, down Portland's best, Franklin and Lincoln, and win the state championship.

This stilled the clamor of the smaller schools for a fair place in the championship bracket, but just when everything appeared smoothed out, the state association again had trouble with the Portland schools.

Refusal last spring of the Portland association to adopt the state association's ninth-term rule, which prohibits students from competing in athletics after their fourth high school year, forced state officials to cancel Rose City registration and entry in the big four-day court classic.

This is the second year of the Portland-less state tournament, and thus the 1939 tourney finds a parallel in the ones of 1922, 1923 and 1924 - a state championship play-off without the usual two entries of the Rose City.

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