Learning to Win: Sports, Education, and Social Change in Twentieth-Century North Carolina

By Pamela Grundy | Go to book overview

CHAPTER EIGHT
From Amazons to Glamazons
The Decline of Women's
Basketball, 1936–1956

On the afternoon of March 12, 1951 the members of the women's basketball team from Lincolnton High School stood waiting in the wings of the Southern Pines High School gymnasium, poised to defend the championship they had captured in a surprise run through the inaugural Girls' Invitational State Basketball Tournament the year before. As the players shifted nervously from foot to foot, the lights dimmed, the packed gymnasium grew quiet, and a spotlight illuminated the center of the floor. An announcer began to call each player's name, and Lincolnton forward Ramona Hinkle savored the mingled sensations of tension and excitement. The Lincolnton High players, by far the most successful athletes at their school, were used to special treatment—favors from parents and teachers, attention from town officials, admiring coverage in the local press. But the thousands of spectators that flocked to the weeklong Girls' Invitational, and the pageantry that accompanied the events, lifted them to even loftier heights. More than four decades later Ramona Hinkle broke into a smile as she described the scene. “That was elegant,” she explained. “That was just wonderful,” chimed in teammate Billie Martin. “That was big time.” 1

The Girls' Invitational had been designed with just such effects in mind. The event's founders, Aberdeen coach Robert E. “Bob” Lee and Southern Pines principal A. C. Dawson, sought to usher high school women's basketball into the statewide spotlight, giving young women a prominent place amid the array of postseason tournaments—the CIAA championship, the NCAA competition, the newly organized white men's high school tournament—that were turning the final weeks of March into a season of basketball obsession. The Girls' Invitational, drawing on the state's rich tradition of women's basketball, got off to a strong start, with close, high-scoring games and plenty of spectator enthu

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