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


Girls’ Basketball Tournaments

In 1974 many schools were still in the process of starting their girls basketball programs. In spite of that, the first WIAA girls state tournament was held.

Central Washington University was the site, where sixteen teams came together to decide the first state basketball champion. Since competition was so new, small schools sometimes had a stronger program than their larger counterparts. Because of that, the initial tournament was for all schools, regardless of size.  For example, little Northport High defeated Sammamish and then narrowly lost to eventual runner-up Everett.   

Wapato won the first title, beating Everett for the championship. No Spokane team was in Ellensburg. Ritzville was the closest eastern Washington school competing. Very little coverage was given the event in state newspapers.

In 1975, the tournament went to regional playoffs, with a final four format, same as the boys.  East Valley, under the leadership of Karen Gilmore, was the first Spokane school to make regionals, but Walla Walla was the only east side school to make the finals at Pacific Lutheran University. Jeanne Eggart was Walla Walla's star player, and led the Blue Devils to three straight tournaments. In 1977, as a senior, she was named Inland Empire woman athlete of the year. Later, as Jeanne Helfer, she would coach Mead to three state titles in the 1990s.

In 1976 both Central Valley and Shadle Park made regionals, with neither advancing to the finals. It was 1978 when a Spokane school made it over the mountains, with Shadle playing a loser-out contest with Woodway for 5th place.

From its lightly covered debut, today almost all Washington schools compete to play in the six girls state tournaments. Greater Spokane League participation has improved. The GSL has won 16 state championships to date, including four of the last five 4A titles.

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

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