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College Grove reigned as 1929 state basketball champs

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Most passionate basketball fans have seen the movie “Hoosiers,” the uplifting story of the Milan High School boys’ basketball team winning the 1954 Indiana state championship in Indianapolis over the mighty Muncie Central Bearcats. The school’s total enrollment was 162 students. 

Williamson County has a compatible version of that movie from a state championship run by College Grove High School just 25 years earlier. The Tennessee School Secondary Athletic Association (TSSAA) was formed in 1925 by a group of school superintendents and principals during a teacher convention held in Nashville. 

College Grove was a member of the organization and eligible for state athletic competitions. The school opened in 1854 as a private school called Popular Grove Male Academy. The original building was replaced in 1916 and College Grove High School ceased to exist in 1975 when Page High School opened.

The 1929 Tennessee State Boys High School Tournament was held in Jefferson Hall on the University of Tennessee campus, March 7-9. There were 16 teams across the state that qualified for the tournament. College Grove was undefeated entering the event and won its first-round game over Hornbeak, 47-25. The next day College Grove defeated Nashville Cathedral (Father Ryan), 35-18, to earn a berth in the semifinals.

The Grove needed to win two consecutive games on the final day to win the state crown, which they did over Linden (45-22) and Halls (34-24). The Knoxville News-Sentinel reported on the title game:

“Climaxing the first state basketball tournament ever held in Knoxville. The Halls high and College Grove high teams battled thru 40 furious minutes Saturday night on Jefferson Hall court before a final spurt gave the College Grove lads a 34-24 victory and the basketball crown of Tennessee high schools.

The game was one of the best ever seen here and doubtless the best of the 1929 season in Knoxville from the spectators standpoint. This, in spite of the fact there was 10 points difference in the scores of the two teams.

The margin which the College Grove quint secured to win was gained in the very late stages of the game when Halls could not muster a rally in the short time that remained. In desperation they tried to overcome a lead, which boded defeat, but the College Grove boys clung tenaciously to that lead until the pistol was sounded.

The battle waged Saturday night in the finals was not a battle of two fastest basketball teams, but also a battle between two of the best high school centers ever seen hereabouts. Adamson, captain and center of Halls, and Young, center of College Grove, outdid themselves in efforts to bring their teams victory.”

On the night in the finals, scoring for College Grove were Hubert Young (17 points), Albert Wilson (10), Hamp Thomas (3), Millard Lamb (1), Dink Scales (1) and Robert Sanford (2). 

The “Review Appeal” printed this notice from the First Bank & Trust Company: 

“The winning of the State Basket Ball Championship for Tennessee by The College Grove High School is an honor of which the whole County of Williamson should feel exceedingly proud. The citizens of Williamson County have every reason to feel proud of the faculty and personnel of the student body of the College Grove High School. No county enjoys a more valuable asset than does Williamson in the citizens living within the College Grove area. 

This Bank wants to offer its heartiest congratulations to the Coach Haynes Brinkley and to the members of the team: Lamb, Wilson, Young, Scales, Thomas, Sanford, and others who assisted, and to College Grove and to Williamson County.”

However, the Grove’s basketball season was not over after winning the state title. In this era of high school basketball each state champion was invited to participate in the boys high school national tournament to determine a national champion. But, not all 48 states sent a representative to the event.

The Williamson County organized a fundraiser for its citizens to help defray the expenses for the team’s trip to Chicago. College Grove did win its first two games, but lost to the eventual national champion Athens, Texas in the quarterfinals. This would be College Grove’s only blemish of this remarkable season. The 1929 state championship is the only state title College Grove High School has won in any sport — boys and girls.

The College Grove High School 1929 state championship trophy is on display in the R.L. Windrow Gymnasium in the College Grove Community Center.

Bill Traughber can be reached at Special thanks go to Leesa Harmon, Williamson County Archivist and Jeff Osteen, Williamson County Parks and Recreation Dept.

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