Sixteen teams beginning state tournament play on Tuesday afternoon. From all corners of the state and sizes of towns that may have one main street to interstates running through them.It was the "Sweet Sixteen" and fans around the state knew the girls on a first name basis by the time the week was over. These sixteen teams were placed, unseeded, in a bracket with the best teams finding a way to Championship night. One champion rather than one based on the size of school and district.
That was how the Iowa Girls State Basketball Tournament played out for a number of years.Games began at 1pm on Tuesday afternoon in Des Moines. For a number of years at Drake Fieldhouse and then later in Veterans Memorial Auditorium. Two games in the afternoon and two games at night. This lasted for three days and games were broadcast on radio by a number of radio stations, including the 50,000Watt Station, WHO broadcasting nationwide at night. Fans from around the state would take the week off to travel to Des Moines, weather or not their team participated, to enjoy a week (or two with the Boys the following week) watching the best of Iowa's teenagers on the hardwood court.
The Iowa Girl's State Basketball Tournament was unique for many reasons. One had to do with one champion for the entire state at the end of the week. The Iowa Boys determined either 3 or 4 champions over the years, but in Iowa, the girls decided one champion on Saturday night.
The other reason it was unique was the style of play. The Iowa Girls played 6 on 6 up until 1992 (1984 was the last year before there was a division of 5 on 5, too). Only one champion with sixteen teams qualifying to play on the main stage in Des Moines.
Starting Monday the Iowa Girls Tournament begins play again. However there won't be sixteen teams, nor will there be one champion. Four classes will play, each with eight teams qualifying. The emotion and satisfaction of winning state will be as special for these teams as it was for any of those in the days of 16 teams with one champion. But what the tournament was like before multiple classes was very special. Something I'm glad I could experience, and will never forget.