South Dakota

Snowbound Basketball Tourney 1952

Conde Gym post 52
Conde Gym post 52
Sometimes lousy weather can create a lot of fun. Residents of Conde, South Dakota still remember the District Tournament of 1952.

South Dakota, like so many Midwestern states, had a state-wide playoff system for boys’ high school basketball. The district tournaments were the first round, followed by a series of region tournaments, and ending with the exalted State Tournament. It was a system that provided season-long motivation for every player in the state because, regardless of wins and losses during the regular season, every team had a chance to redeem themselves by miraculously going to the State. Eight teams, representing small towns in the area, played in this District Tournament.
Conde, population around 400, with its new gym, hosted the District 13 Tournament. The town was crowded with students, families, and a lot of fans. High school basketball was a big deal in those days; whole communities turned out for every game. The first round of games began in the afternoon of that March day in 1952. Weather forecasting had greatly improved by then but most people probably ignored the warnings because of their determination not to miss the tournament. The gym was filled to capacity with cheerful, noisy fans and there was a bit of snow on the ground outside. It was standard that everyone stayed for every game so the gym was again full when the first evening game started.

According to recollections of those who were there, as the first evening game got under way, several fans were seen going to the exits from time to time and looking out. Soon the word “blizzard” was working its way around the stands.

Did fans gather up their things and head for home? Of course not—this was the District Tournament, after all. It was soon clear that it would be very unwise to get out on the highway which was at time still a rather narrow gravel road; visibility was near zero. The result was that nearly everyone who was in town was destined to stay there for a couple of days. Every home in town was opened up for the out-of-towners. The gym was kept open and many of the younger folks played basketball all night long or slept in the stands when they could. Local cafes and pool halls did record business. By the morning of the third day the storm had quieted and the snowploughs began to make progress. After the final buzzer of the championship game, which was still played in front of a packed house, fans were able to go to their cars and head for home.

Conde residents still claim that anyone involved in this experience remember it as a terrifically good time.

Author: EVM STAFF on 03/02 2011
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