Girls' basketball has had two lives at Marion High School, thriving until the 1920s as an interscholastic sport, and then vanishing into intramurals until restored in the 1970s. Here are key members of the 1921-'22 team, with capsule commentary from that year’s yearbook.
Bernice Siebert, captain and guard:
“MHS will not find a guard equal to Bernice. Her defensive work was a feature of every game, as was also her sure passing of the ball.”
Mary Miesse, forward:
“Mary is really graduating in basketball for she has served four years on the team. When the sidelines see the ball in Mary’s hands, they are always sure of another goal.”
Mildred Revo, second center: “What Millie lacked in height was there in speed, and her ability to catch flying balls was her chief characteristic.”
Bonnie Davis, second center: “Bonnie played her last year for MHS this season. She fought in a seemingly never tiring manner, very seldom failing to put the ball where it should go.”
Josephine Bowlby, center: “Always up on her toes, Jo played her position in a speedy, skillful style. Like any good center, Jo did not play for her honor but always for the interests of the team as a whole.”
Dorothy Williams, guard: “Dorothy made the other half of the invincible guarding twins. She never failed to stay at her post, and much credit is due her for the low scores of the opposing teams.”
Olive Roberts, forward:
“Olive’s fast, hard playing had much to do with the one-sided victories of the team. Her goal shooting was very consistent and dependable.”
Swishing in and out of sports lineup
It didn’t take Title IX to bring girls’ basketball to Marion High School. In fact, it was one of the school’s first interscholastic sports, arriving in 1908.
Boys’ basketball had been around for eight years, arriving a year after its creator, James Naismith, brought the sport to the University of Kansas.
High school football had been played for just four years when girls’ basketball was added as the school’s third sport.
Basketball had a tradition of being popular among both girls and boys. In some communities, girls’ basketball actually started before boys’ basketball at the high school level.
The first mention of girls’ basketball here came in 1903, when the Record reported: “Not only has the game become popular with the male sex, but the women have taken to it as naturally as a duck.”
Three years later, a one-time exhibition game against a traveling team from Chapman fanned interest in officially adding the sport.
Two years after that, the Headlight, later to merge with the Record, noted: “There is quite a number of girls in school who want to play basketball, and as there is quite a bit of material, it has been decided to organize a girls’ basketball team. Required grades will be necessary, as in the boys’ team.”
Results were impressive. By 1914, the girls’ team involved more students than any other sport at Marion High School.
A total of 15 girls were on the team compared with 12 boys who went out for football and 13 boys on the track team.
Popularity grew as the team became regarded as a regional powerhouse.
“During the basketball season, the boys are not the only ones who have a chance to fight for MHS,” the high school yearbook reported in 1922. “The girls know something of basketball, too.”
The coach at the time was a former star player from — J. Edna Frazer (later Shahan), who graduated in 1917.
“The girls’ team, under the fine coaching of Edna Frazer, had one of the one of the most successful seasons in the history of the school, losing only two games during the entire season.”
Only once did an opposing team score more than 19 points. The most lopsided victories of came in a 30-2 drubbing of a team from Burns and a 28-7 victory over a team from Florence.
The team’s success was short-lived, however. At season’s end, the Kansas
High School Athletics Association voted to eliminate girls’ basketball from all district and state tournaments.
By 1925, there were no further mentions of interscholastic competition in girls’ basketball at Marion High School until 1973-’74, when the sport began being offered again after passage of federal Title IX provisions requiring at least as many girls’ sports as boys’ sports.
No reason was offered when tournament play was eliminated in 1922, but six years later the state athletic association disclosed that the move had been made in response to a request from the Association of Deans of Women in High Schools and Colleges.
Proceedings of that group from prior to the 1922 decision hint at potential reasons.
“At these public games, yelling goes on just as if men were on the floor. Girls are called by their last names. I consider it very demoralizing,” one dean of women was quoted as saying in 1907. “After every one of the games we had girls go into genuine hysterics.”
Another dean of women reportedly asked: “You would not allow a girl on the floor who had her menstrual period at that time, would you?”
The first dean reportedly responded: “No, I would not, but I have found that the girls prevaricate about that. Suppose a girl is a good center and the date interferes. Sometimes the girls will not tell me the truth.”
Girls’ basketball continued without official tournaments for some time. Some schools — notably Council Grove nearby — continued to field teams. But by the 1930s, the sport had been reduced to mainly intramural teams and traveling amateur teams not affiliated with high schools.
When it returned to Marion in 1973-’74, the Warrior yearbook complained: “With the absence of experience, a permanent facility, a full schedule, and not enough practice, the girls’ basketball team started out with a great handicap. But the team put forth an effort to represent Marion High School.”
Scores from that winless season were lopsided. Marion lost 44-23, 51-23, and 72-42 in the regular season. Its B team was even more challenged, losing 70-7, 74-0, and 74-3.
“We needed more practice and harder work,” junior Denise Magathan was quoted as saying.
Other team members that year were Cheryl Break, Gail Bruner, Lynn Colburn, Teresa Costello, Shelley Cowan, Cindy Friesen, Terrie Friesen, Jean May, Sandy Marler, Marissa McFadden, Robin McFadden, Joyce Whiteman, and Joni Wiens.