Schuck's Clipboard

Trip to Webster Groves a chance to soak up more history

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jan. 7, 2019 9:15 am

The stairs leading to the balcony overlooking the court in Webster Groves' Roberts Gym were like a step back in time and eerily reminiscent of the stairwells inside Quincy Junior High School.

What it helped create was an ambiance fitting a tradition-rich matchup.

Last Friday's game between Quincy High School, one of the winningest boys basketball programs in the nation, and Webster Groves, which has four Missouri state championships and nearly 1,700 victories to its credit, marked another opportunity for the Blue Devils to say they played in a basketball cathedral.

It happens annually inside the Western Big Six Conference. Moline's Wharton Fieldhouse, the Rock Island Fieldhouse and Galesburg's John Thiel Gym rank among the best facilities in the state. Rock Island Alleman's Don Morris Gym has character and a small but intimate setting.

Throughout the last two decades -- this is my 21st season covering the Blue Devils -- Quincy has made trips to places where history drips from the rafters and decades of success are celebrated.

No gym fits that description better than old Trout Gym in Centralia.

The Blue Devils played in the Centralia Holiday Tournament in back-to-back years before the gym, built in 1936, was replaced by a new shiny model in 2006. It's a class facility the Orphans call home now, but it doesn't share the character or the step-back-in-time sensation the old gym had.

Dawdy Hawkins Gym in Pekin, where Quincy played in a holiday tournament twice and played postseason games since the advent of the four-class system, has the name that links the gym to the Dragons' past glory. Vergil Fletcher Gym in Collinsville shares that same link, but something is extra special about the gym that makes the yearly trip to the Christmas tournament a must-do event.

Quincy gets to play every other year in the iconic Bowl in Jacksonville, which is unique by design and blessed to have been the site of many memorable games. The Blue Devils have played at Champaign Central's Combes Gym, Peoria Central's gym where the banners illustrate the Lions' illustrious history and Springfield Southeast's Scheffler Gym, a place Quincy needs to return.

For all the historic places the Blue Devils get to see, there are considerably more they need to get on the schedule.

Lincoln's Roy S. Anderson Gym, Springfield Lanphier's Lober-Nika Gym and Taylorville's Dolph Stanley Gym are a few within close proximity. The Chicagoland area offers a great selection of venerable facilities, like Waukegan, Thornton, Evanston, Hinsdale Central and Aurora East, among others.

There must be a myriad more the Blue Devils have yet to visit.

That's a big part of what makes high school basketball in Illinois such a treat to write about. You get to delve into the history, sink your teeth into the stories of yesteryear and uncover traditions that set each program apart.

Visiting Webster Groves last Friday night satisfied the craving to soak in history, at least for now.

Hopefully more of those days lie ahead.