Glens Falls Basketball: Lightning Strikes Twice in a Century

No doubt local sports fans will be talking for decades about JG3 and the Glens Falls Indians winning the Federation Tournament of Champions at Cool Insuring Arena in March.

Nearly a century ago, championship basketball lightning previously struck in Glens Falls for a hometown team.

 
Glens Falls High School Basketball Team - 1925. Photo courtesy of    The Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library   .

Glens Falls High School Basketball Team - 1925. Photo courtesy of The Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library.

 

“Shortly before 11 o’clock Saturday night, the basketball squad representing the Glens Falls High School was crowned champions of New York and New England, having emerged from the finals in the championship tourney held in the armory a victor,” The Post-Star reported on April 12, 1920.

Hometown fans were ecstatic when Glens Falls, known then as the Red and Black, captured The Post-Star trophy as winner of the debut interscholastic basketball tournament of New York State and New England.

“The presentation was made, and the local players, with the trophy in their possession, were carried on the shoulders of an admiring throng to their dressing room,” The Post-Star reported. “And in this manner, the tournament of 1920 was brought to an end.”

The annual tournament, which became known as the Eastern States Basketball Tournament, was held in Glens Falls, at the armory on Warren Street and at the high school, through 1955, except for a couple of years during World War II.

But a Glens Falls team would never win that championship again.

 
Glens Falls High School Basketball Team - 1927. Photo courtesy of    The Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library   .

Glens Falls High School Basketball Team - 1927. Photo courtesy of The Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library.

 

Much like modern high school basketball tournaments held at Cool Insuring Arena, a goal was to generate tourism and exposure for Glens Falls.

“So far as is known, no city in this state or New England has ever before attempted anything of this nature on so big a scale,” The Post-Star reported on April 2, 1920. “In all parts of this state and in New England eyes of followers of scholastic sports will be turned towards Glens Falls.”

By all estimations, it met that goal.

“Even though these visiting teams went home defeated, they had nothing but good words for the hospitable treatment accorded them here and the all-together excellent officiating.”

Visiting athletes received free lodging, a free movie showing at Rialto Theater, and a tour of Lake George.

Local businessmen donated use of their personal vehicles to transport athletes on the tour.

Students went door to door in Glens Falls in advance and sold 1,000 tickets, priced at $1 – the equivalent of $12.62 in 2019 dollars – good for all games in the three-day tournament.

“And those of you who go nowhere except to business and church on Easter Sunday, purchase these tickets,” The Post-Star urged on April 8, 1920. “Take the time to go to the armory each of the three nights, see forty or fifty clear-eyed, firm-fleshed, clean-souled young fellows competing hotly yet fairly for the honor of their respective schools and their respective teams. See all this and get a new outlook on life.”

 
Eastern States Basketball Tournament Program Cover - 1926.   Courtesy of    The Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library   .

Eastern States Basketball Tournament Program Cover - 1926. Courtesy of The Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library.

 

Profit from the tournament was contributed to athletic programs at Glens Falls High School and Glens Falls Academy.

When the tournament disbanded after 1955, leftover assets were contributed to Glens Falls YMCA, Saint Mary’s Academy and Glens Falls High School.

Glens Falls High School won the 1920 championship game 21-19 against Ithaca.

“Both teams were playing as they have seldom played before, and it was only because the laws of the game decree that both teams in a contest cannot be victors that Ithaca lost,” The Post-Star reported.

Ithaca led 14-13 at the half.

Roy Akins, who later was Glens Falls fire chief, scored the basket that put Glens Falls one point ahead, and then scored another basket about three minutes before the end of the game.

Edward Lance, with eight points, was high scorer for Glens Falls.

Glens Falls defeated Montpelier, Vt. in the semi-final round and Ilion in the first round.

Ithaca “nosed out” Glens Falls Academy by one point in the semi-final, to advance to the championship.

Other teams were North Hampton, Mass., Burlington, Vt., Ogdensburg Free Academy, and Troy.

 
Glens Falls Living NY
 
 
Maury Thompson
 

Maury Thompson was a reporter for The Post-Star for 21 years before he retired in 2017. He now is a freelance writer and documentary film producer specializing in regional history. Thompson is collaborating with Snarky Aardvark Films to produce a documentary about Charles Evans Hughes and the Adirondacks, which is expected to release in 2020. See the trailer here.

P.S. Check out our My Glens Falls with JG3 here.

Maury Thompson

Maury Thompson was a reporter for The Post-Star for 21 years before he retired in 2017. He now is a freelance writer and documentary film producer specializing in regional history.