1930s Prep Basketball in No.14 County

Part #1—The Boys

(Season’s Greetings from the Stat Rat!  Cory Griffith gets a two-week break from chasing the local hoops teams around the state and asked the Verbose Vole to add some filler to the Herald’s B section, lining for your birdcage or both.)

The charts (see Page 2) list the season results from most of the 1930s, a time of unparalleled hard times in the entire United States as people braved a stock market collapse in 1929 and then a decade plus of hard times known as the Great Depression.  Both Lusk and Manville were playing basketball well before this era, but the Rat’s research dates from the ’31-’32 season because that was the first year the state activities association set up a tournament structure similar to the system used today.  Prior to that season, the state held an all-comers tourney at UW, that teams attending did not need to qualify for, but simply to attend.

The Lusk Tigers and Manville Panthers were part of the East Central District, an area that included bigger schools like Casper Natrona, Torrington and Douglas as well as small schools like Glendo, Shawnee, Ft. Laramie, Guernsey, Lingle and Sunrise.  There was only one classification in Wyoming hoops: all schools were in the same boat, large, medium or tiny.  [Lusk High had an enrollment that varied from 140 to 160+ during this time; the only count found for Manville was 72 in ’33-’34 which could be a grade 7-12 total.]  Playing the larger schools—yes, Manville played Casper Natrona (enrollment 1400+) a couple times as did Lusk more often—explains the majority of sub-.500 seasons for both schools.

Cat Fight—Tigers versus Panthers—Given their close proximity, Lusk and Manville played twice a year, usually one of the first games of the season and then again at the end of the regular season.  Even though the county’s events were covered by two newspapers—the Lusk Herald and the Lusk Free Lance—it is difficult to find write-ups about games between the two schools.  At times it’s even hard to ascertain the winning score.  The Rat speculates that both papers avoided the topic to keep their readers happy; the less said about the games, the better.  This philosophy served to sell more newspapers, since neither fan base would be offended that way.  [Lusk held a 12-2 advantage over Manville during this time.]

Snakebit—The best of the lot—By far the best team during this time was Lusk’s ’35-’36 crew, which put together a nifty season of .750 ball.  Two of their three district losses were to Casper Natrona and they split 1-1 with Douglas.  The district tourney to be held at Douglas was shaping up to be an excellent opportunity for Lusk to qualify for their first-ever state tourney.  Lusk’s stud player was senior Frank Burnaugh, of whom a high school scribe of the time for the Herald described as “Lusk’s first 1000 point player.”  [The Rat suspects the total was arrived at by combining Frank’s JV and varsity stats.  Winning scores from the era were in the 20 to 35 point range.]  A particularly nasty strain of flu had made the rounds throughout the state during the regular season that winter, closing schools and cancelling dozens of games.  Prior to district play the Wyoming Board of Health stepped in and used their influence to cancel the district tourneys as well as the state tourney in Casper.  Lusk’s chances at qualifying with a stellar squad went up in smoke and Burnaugh’s chances at all-state recognition—only players from teams that qualified for the state tourney could attain all-state status—disappeared, as well.

The Van Tassell—er, Vassals?—Although it wasn’t a grade 9 through 12 high school, the Van Tassell 9th and possibly 10th graders played two games versus Manville, once against their varsity and once versus the Panther reserves.  This occurred only during the ’35-’36 season and their record ended at 0-2 that year.

Forfeits for ’32-‘33—Lusk was involved in two forfeit games that season—hard times had cancelled their football season that autumn so hoops was the only game in town, so to speak —winning a game at Ft. Laramie who used an ineligible player, (although the Pioneers won on the scoreboard 30-7.)  Their loss was more controversial in Lingle, where Coach Kuns pulled his players off the court in protest of a ref’s erroneous call.  The ref had called a foul on a Lusk player, then assessed a 3rd and 4th extra shot because the Lusk crowd was booing during the free throw attempts.  The guilty party was removed from the gym but happened to be a Lingle citizen [no Fullmers lived there in 1933!].  Upon learning this, Coach Kuns tried to get the extra shots expunged from the record since they were assessed to the wrong side.  The ref refused and Coach Kuns and his crew exited, losing 15-12.

Part 2 will examine the Lusk and Manville girls teams from the same era.  Happy Holidays!

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