Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Bill Pierce’s almanac: Nonleague basketball games still important

Depending on the size of the league a school finds itself in, contests against outside opposition can often make up a large portion of a team’s basketball schedule. Over the years, the Spokane schools have found themselves either with a large number of non-league contests in a given season, or none at all.

In the early years of Spokane City League play, schools occasionally used to make lengthy trips to visit non-league opponents. In December of 1925, North Central athletic director J. Wesley Taylor announced an ambitious holiday trip through Idaho and Montana, in which the Indians would play nine schools on nine consecutive days in cities from Sandpoint to Great Falls. By the time the trip actually took place, it had been winnowed down to five contests, with the last game being on New Year’s Day against Kalispell.

A few days earlier, Lewis and Clark had played at Walla Walla. The team then traveled to Portland where they played Benson and Franklin high schools, before finishing up the road trip in Salem against the Chemawa Indian School.

In the early years of high school basketball, accommodations could be bleak while on the road, and often the games turned into social events, especially for smaller schools. Sometimes team members would overnight in the homes of opponents, and a potluck would be held after the game at the school or a nearby church.

Today, the WIAA allows schools only 20 regular season games a year. Because of the size of the Greater Spokane League, that leaves only two openings for non-league contests. The Great Northern League, with fewer teams, fills their schedules with five outside games. Other leagues, depending on their numbers, also can have the majority of their schedules as non-counters in conference. The only exception to the 20-game rule is if a school plays a touring Australian team, as some local teams did recently by hosting Tenison Woods from South Australia.

Non-league games give players the opportunity to test themselves against an unfamiliar foe, and often visit other towns and cities for the very first time.

Bill Pierce
Bill Pierce is a sports blogger who writes the weekly nwprepsnow prep sports almanac.

Looking for a Grip on Sports?

Vince Grippi's daily take on all things regional sports has been moved to our main sports section online. You can find a collection of these columns here.