Prep Basketball

Timeline: 100 years of the Iowa girls' state basketball tournament

It all began in 1920, when Correctionville won the championship game, 11-4

West Central's Virginia Henniges takes a shot during the 1956 state tournament. (Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union)
West Central's Virginia Henniges takes a shot during the 1956 state tournament. (Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union)

DES MOINES — A partial timeline of 100 years of girls’ state basketball tournaments, courtesy the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union: 

1920 — Twenty-seven teams are invited to play in what becomes the first girls’ state basketball tournament at Drake University. Twenty-four teams compete in four rounds of competition on Friday and Saturday. Correctionville beats Nevada, 11-4, in the championship game.

1924 — Audubon wins its fourth straight championship at the tournament held in Iowa Falls. It will be 81 years before another school wins four consecutive state championships.

1925 — School administrators vote to discontinue sponsorship of girls’ basketball amid concerns that it is unhealthy and inappropriate for girls. Mystic Superintendent John W. Agans warned a statewide meeting of opponents of girls’ basketball would find themselves on the wrong side of history. “Gentlemen,” he roared, “if you attempt to do away with girls’ basketball in Iowa, you’ll be standing at the center of the track when the train runs over you!” Twenty-five mostly small rural school districts vote to form a separate girls’ interscholastic organization, the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union, the first and only organization dedicated to girls’ interscholastic athletics.

1930 — The IGHSAU announces the state tournament will move to the Drake Fieldhouse in 1931 and the number of qualifiers will increase from four to eight. Also, the round-robin format is being dropped in favor of quarterfinals, semifinals, consolation game and championship game schedule. The tournament will remain at Drake until Veterans Memorial Auditorium opens in 1955.

1934 — The IGHSAU adopts the state tournament format it will use until 1993 for the 6-player game: 16 qualifiers playing first-round, quarterfinal and semifinal games, with a third-place game and championship game.

1934 — Before the 1934-35 season, girls’ basketball was played on a court divided into three sections with two players from each team in a section. Looking to make the game more appealing for fans, the IGHSAU adopts a two-court system that puts three forwards and three guards in each half of the court and eliminates the two centers from each team who had roamed the middle section of the floor.


1947 — Rod Chisholm is named the first full-time executive secretary of the IGHSAU. Before his appointment, various school administrators had filled the top position on a part-time basis. Chisholm, superintendent of schools at Exira, is the Union’s president.

1951 — Media coverage of the state tournament continues to increase and for the first time, the event is televised. WOI-TV in Ames shows the semifinals Friday night and the consolation and championship games Saturday night. Additionally, 10 radio stations broadcast the finals. According to one source, an estimated 160,000 people watch the grainy telecast from the Drake Fieldhouse.

1954 — E. Wayne Cooley, 32, is named the IGHSAU’s executive secretary. Cooley, who has been an assistant to the president at Grinnell College, will bring a sharp business sense and P.T. Barnum-like showmanship to the state tournament, turning it into an extravaganza that will become the most popular high school basketball tournament in the nation.

1955 — Goldfield wins the first state tournament played at Veterans Memorial Auditorium, the massive 15,000-seat structure that will become known affectionately to generations of fans and athletes as “The Barn.” A crowd of 15,333 sees unheralded Goldfield edge Holstein, 53-51, for the title. Total attendance for the five-day tournament hits 70,000, more than twice what it drew at the Drake Fieldhouse.

1959 — A snowstorm socks Des Moines and forces thousands of fans to spend the night at Veterans Auditorium after Gladbrook upsets West Central in the championship game. The arena eventually becomes the scene of a giant sock hop as young people dance the night away to records spun by Des Moines DJ Frosty Mitchell, who has slogged six miles through wet, blowing snow to reach the auditorium with his music. Mitchell later becomes a prominent radio voice of the state tournament.

1962 — The IGHSAU is forced to move the state tournament to Waterloo’s Cattle Congress because Veterans Auditorium is occupied by a national bowling tournament that runs for weeks. The venue change doesn’t bother Van Horne, an unranked team with only one starter taller than 5-feet-5. Van Horne knocks off teams ranked No. 1 and No. 4 before beating Mediapolis, 62-59, for the title.


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1968 — Union-Whitten defeats Everly, 113-107, in overtime for the state championship. That championship is the first game broadcast in color and the telecast reached nine states. At the time, 47,000 TV sets were in Iowa. WOI-TV, which carried the last two nights of the tournament, estimated an audience of 260,000 saw the championship game. The game marked the matchup of the sport’s two most prolific scorer’s: Denise Long of Union Whitten and Jeanette Olson of Everly.

1969-71 — Montezuma wins 89 consecutive games and two straight state championships. The win streak remains the longest winning streak in state history.

1977 — “The Cleanest Show in Town” begins with high school boys dressed in tuxedos, sweeping the floor under spotlights.

1980-81 — Ankeny and Norwalk meet in back-to-back state championship games, with each team winning a championship. Ankeny prevailed in 1980 while Norwalk won in 1981. Both games featured buzzer-beating shots to win the games. Ankeny’s Jacque Meyer hits a short jumper at the buzzer in 1980. With two seconds left, Norwalk’s Brenda Weed hits a 23-footer as the buzzer sounded in the 1981 title game.


1985 — The IGHSAU sponsors 5-on-5 basketball and schools are allowed to choose either game, 5-player or 6-player. Linn-Mar defeats Cedar Rapids Washington, 56-40, in the first 5-player championship.

1987 — Ventura’s Lynne Lorenzen breaks the 6-player career scoring record with 6,736 points. She leads the Lady Vikes to a 31-0 record and a state championship.

1993 — The final 6-player state championship is played. Hubbard-Radcliffe defeats Atlantic, 85-66.

1994 — The state tournament is divided into four classes for the first time. Champions are Bettendorf (4A), DeWitt Central (3A), Solon (2A) and Treynor (1A).

1997-99 — Lynnville-Sully wins three state titles with 83 straight victories and a four-year mark of 103-2.

1999-2001 — Washington wins three consecutive 3A state championships. Stephanie Rich is named captain of the all-tournament team all four years she plays at state, a first for any player.


2002 — E. Wayne Cooley retires as executive secretary of the IGHSAU after a 48-year career. Troy Dannen replaces Cooley as only the third director of the organization.

2003 — Rock Valley’s Deb Remmerde’s sets a five-player scoring mark with 2,756 points. Remmerde leads Rock Valley to three state championships (2001-03).

2005 — Ankeny wins the last of its four consecutive Class 4A championships in the final girls’ game played at Veterans Auditorium.

2006 — Wells Fargo Arena is built in Des Moines with Vets Auditorium repurposed as meeting space. The first state tournament is held in the new arena.

2013 — Schools divided into five classes for the first time.

2013 — Gene Klinge becomes the first (and still only) Iowa girls coach to win 1,000 games. He will finish with a 1,009-252 mark over 52 years at West Central and Waukon.

2017 — Pocahontas Area’s Elle Ruffridge sets the 5-player career scoring mark, surpassing Remmerde’s mark. Ruffridge finishes with 2,951 career points and leads Pocahontas to the 2016 and 2017 state titles in Class 3A.

2019 — The IGHSAU celebrates the 100th state basketball tournament, with 352 teams beginning regional play.

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