Wed., Jan. 28, 2015
Bill Pierce’s almanac: NC makes long run in 1924
The 1923-24 basketball season had been a good one for the North Central Indians and their coach, J. Wesley Taylor. Although they lost the city series to the Lewis and Clark Tigers, who had represented Spokane in the State Tournament, NC rebounded the week after state and won the Inland Empire Tournament beating Vera in the championship game 21-9.
The Indians were led by Fred Mitchell, Jack Graham and Melvin Sohns -- all named to the city all-star team.
Coach Taylor could look to a satisfying 17-4 record to end the year. As it turned out, there was more to come. Less than a week after the win over Vera, Taylor received a wire inviting North Central to the National Interscholastic Basketball Tournament, to be held April 1-5, and sponsored by the University of Chicago.
The Spokane School Board approved the trip, and Coach Taylor figured he would need approximately $1,150 in donations to make the trip possible. That proved to be no problem as $1326.92 was quickly raised by alumni. On March 28, 1924 approximately 2500 fans gave the nine members of the team a resounding send-off at the Great Northern Station. Joining them on the train was state champion Walla Walla, another invitee.
North Central’s first game in Chicago was against El Reno, Oklahoma. NC was defeated 18-17, ending its championship hopes and putting them into the consolation bracket. The following day NC defeated the Chicago city champion, Lane Tech, 16-14. As the tournament continued, the Indians posted wins over two state champions, Superior Wisc., 33-18, and Maitland, Mo., 36-20.
In the semifinals they faced Elgin, Ill. It was a close game, tied at 21 going into the final quarter. Elgin broke away for a 35-24 win. On the final day of the tournament, NC faced another state champion, Simpson High of Birmingham, Ala., for third place in the consolation bracket. Trailing for most of the game, Mitchell, the captain, hit a half-court shot as time ran out to win the game for the Indians, 30-29.
Chicago University’s Athletic Director and football coach, Amos Alonzo Stagg, awarded a golden bronze shield for third place to the team and each player also received an individual medal. Stagg was the originator of the tournament, which ran from 1917 to 1930 until opposition from state associations led to its demise.
North Central returned to Spokane proud of their strong performance on the national stage.