Basketball to be played one final time in Waterville gym before school is closed

Returning to alma mater court ... Left to right, Maureen Monroe and Margaret (Anderson) Hermeier will return to the basketball court this Saturday in the gym they once played in during their school days in Waterville. Hermeier, a 1958 graduate of Waterville High School, and Monroe, who attended school at Waterville in the 1960s, will play in the Granny Basketball Eastern Division games scheduled to be played this Saturday, May 19. Submitted photo.

Waterville High School player returns to the court for Granny Basketball event this Saturday

by Brianne Eilers

Organized team basketball will be played one final time in the gymnasium at the Waterville Elementary School before the school is closed for good at the end of this current academic year, marking the end of an era but perhaps sparking some pondering reflections as well.

The defending two-time national Granny Basketball League champion Harpers Ferry Fireflies will be hosting the Eastern Division Granny Basketball games this Saturday, May 19 at the Waterville Elementary School gymnasium. Games start at 10 a.m., with several teams participating in these games.

The Cedar Rapids Sizzlers, Center Point Model T’s, Dubuque Courtside Cuties, Decorah Troll Trotters and the Harpers Ferry Fireflies will all be there. Lunch will be provided, with proceeds from the event going toward the preservation efforts of the Waterville High School trophies and other memorabilia.

Two of the Harpers Ferry team members will return to that Waterville gym after having played games at Waterville before, when they were attending school there. Margaret (Anderson) Hermeier also wore the blue and white uniforms of the Waterville Lady Tigers in the late 1950s and fellow Firefly Maureen Monroe attended school there in the 1960s before graduating from Waukon High School.

Hermeier played for the Lady Tigers during her high school career in 1956, 1957 and 1958. “We won the county tournaments in ‘57 and ‘58,” she recalled. She graduated from Waterville High School in 1958, also having played outfield on the school’s softball team.

The Waterville girls’ basketball program showed very strong representation at the state level during the era of 1934 to 1941. The Lady Tigers went to state seven times in eight years during that era. They finished second in both 1937 and 1940. The Lady Tigers went to state one last time in 1948, making that the eighth time they had been to state in 14 years.

After high school, Hermeier attended college in Iowa City. After college she came back to Prairie du Chien, WI. “I met a farmer and married him,” she said. She and her husband, the late Harlan Hermeier, raised their family on their farm in Allamakee County.

Hermeier had never really considered trying Granny Basketball, but after her husband passed away six years ago, a neighbor took her to a practice. Hermeier ended up playing with the Harpers Ferry Fireflies. With the Fireflies, both Hermeier and Monroe have done a lot of traveling for their games, including to Nashville, TN and Norman, OK to play for their national championships.

Bill Nation is the head coach for the Harpers Ferry Fireflies, and he explained that the Granny Basketball season runs from January to July, and the Harpers Ferry ladies practice Monday nights. The state championship game is played in Des Moines in June each year, with the national championship game being played in July. The location of the national tournament does move, and Coach Nation said they are working to have it played in Prairie du Chien, WI in 2020.

Nation is also a referee in the league. He explained that the ladies play by the 1920s girls’ basketball rules. “No running. No jumping,” he says. There are three courts: a forward court, a center court and a middle court. Two players are in each court. Players in the league have to be older than 50, and the league has some players as experienced as 84 or 85 years of age.

Since it began almost 12 years ago, the Granny Basketball League has grown to four divisions: Eastern, Western, Northeastern and Southern. There are teams from Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, Virginia and Louisiana. Anyone interested in being part of a team or who has questions about this Saturday’s games being played in Waterville may contact Bill Nation at 563-586-2708.

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