For several years folks on this board have encouraged me to write a book about basketball in northern Wisconsin. Phase one is complete.
WHEN ALL ROADS LED TO SPOONER chronicles the one-class
sectional that ran from 1943-1971. Schools as small as Saxon, Mellen, Westboro, Clayton, and Milltown arrived in Spooner to do battle with the likes of Ashland, Rice Lake, Hurley, Superior Central, and Eau Claire Memorial. (In 1972 the WIAA went to two classes; then to three in 1974, and so on.)
The original venue was Spooner's Old Gym where legends like Nate Delong, Bud Grant, and Dick Axness roamed; where Hurley established the first sectional dynasty; and from where St. Croix Falls went on to dominate the state tournament like no other team in history. The Superior schools dominated in the '50s with too many stars to mention here. Along the way was a battle for control of the sectional between H.J. Antholz and the northern schools, resulting in a one-time sectional appearing in Ashland in 1950 IN ADDITION to the sectional held in Spooner. (There were only eight sectionals in the entire state and that year TWO were in northern Wisconsin.)
After a fire damaged Spooner's Old Gym in 1955 the tournament was moved to Ladysmith and then to Rice Lake before returning to Spooner and the newly-built Antholz Gymnasium in 1958. Rice Lake, Cumberland, and Eau Claire Memorial won multiple titles there in the '60s/early '70s with Drummond and Frederic pulling off small school Cinderella stories.
Each sectional from 1943-1971 has its own chapter with each game (semi-finals, consolation, and championships) covered in detail. Helping to complete the saga are stories about the controversy over the location of the tournament, the fire, and historic Antholz Gymnasium (which for many years was the state's largest high school gym.)
My goal was to preserve the historical record of the Spooner area sectional. According to the many phone calls, comments, and e-mails I've received it seems I was successful. The response has been excellent in northern Wisconsin and I'm posting this to make fans of basketball in other parts of the state aware of the book. The book is for sale in Eau Claire, Barron, Rice Lake, St. Croix Falls, Frederic, Cumberland, Spooner, Superior, Ashland, Mellen, and Hurley. You can also order it online at ashlandwihistory.com. When you get to the Historical Society site go to "Gift Shop." The book will be there.