hen the Griffithville District was informed in 1939 that the school would lose accreditation unless a superintendent was employed who could meet the standard of an Administrators Certificate, one of the school board members asked me if I knew of any person available at that late hour who would qualify and who had experience in consolidation schools. (School had been open two weeks.)
I told him that I knew a young Pleasant Plains principal, Mr. Orvall Blagg, who was in college with me. He had the necessary credentials and had been looking for a superintendent’s job. He had also just gone through an experience with his superintendent, Mr. T.D. Lindsey, in consolidating several rural schools at Pleasant Plains. Mr. Blagg was employed by the Griffithville Board, and devoted most of his time to consolidating the rural schools in the area. The man who had been hired earlier but failed to qualify ran the school that year.
The 11 girls and boys who had transferred to the West Point District as 11th graders continued to attend the West Point school until they graduated. We also received several students from rural schools north and west of Searcy who provided their own transportation. These students not only strengthened the athletic program but also our academic program.
My wife Wilma was added to the faculty, which also helped to upgrade our English department. All other teachers remained. This made the second year begin more smoothly because the faculty already knew all the students, and the students (most of them) knew the faculty and were familiar with our school program.>
The girls basketball team lost only one girl by graduation, but we had a bench of reserves that were able to improve as the year advanced, and with the aid of a few new transfer players from other schools, we were a stronger team than the previous year. The girls did not lose any games that year. They ended the season with a record over the two years they had played together: 74 games won, 0 games lost. They won a total of 18 tournaments. (In those days schools had a lot of invitationals. If you did not attend another school’s tournament then that school would not attend your tournament. That is why we won so many trophies in two years. We won all the tournaments.) This record held for many years. Finally, Marked Tree School over a three-year period won 105 games with the same team.
So far as I know, 1940 was the first and only time that a national high school girls tournament was ever held. It was held at St. Joseph, Missouri, in connection with the national women’s tournament. Only one high school team was invited from each state. We represented Arkansas. The Lewis-Norwood Flyers were coached by Billy Dunaway, a former basketball star from Hendrix College. Out of the 11 trips to the Women’s National Tournament Billy had won 10 national titles.
Since West Point was representing the state high schools in the national tournament and the Lewis-Norwood Flyers were representing the state women in the tournament, there were a lot of fans in the state who wanted to see the two teams play an exhibition game before going to the national tournament. We got permission from the State Athletic Association to play the game in West Point gymnasium. West Point had one of the largest and best gymnasiums in the state. Even though the gymnasium had a large seating capacity, we could not begin to seat everyone who came for the game.
Both high school girls and independent women used a divided court: three guards and three forwards in each half of the court. The only difference was that in the women’s rulebook, the person who passed the ball over the line went across the line with the ball and her opponent to finish the play. This meant four forwards on the forward end on offense. Both teams played mostly man-to-man defense. We agreed before the to play the first half by high school rules and the second half by independent rules. Our girls had no experience playing independent rules… We had only one week to practice before we met for the game. You know you cannot get a group of high school girls to perfect any new rules in only one week of practice.
Playing high school rules, the score was 8 to 7 in our favor at the half. The fans were about to take the roof off the gymnasium with yells and screams. The second half with independent rules was very different. The Flyers had trained. Hazel Walker, the famous All-American player, would pass the ball over the line each time. She could run like a deer and shoot with either hand, one-handed shots from any and all positions. She never missed a free throw. The game ended with the Lewis-Norwood Flyers winning by such a large score that I did not want to try to remember it. We went to the national tournament with the Flyers. We got to the semifinals, and the Flyers won the tournament as expected. Hazel Walker won the free throw contest with 99 throws through the basket to 1 miss. She also won the most valuable player trophy. Two of our girls, Maxine Showalter and Maxine Sanders, played independent basketball with the Flyers for a number of years. Maxine became a national basketball star while playing with the Flyers.
That was the end of a great basketball era for West Point. vvv