Cass County Democrat Missourian

Archie treasures high school hoops tournament’s 88-year tradition

Archie girls basketball coach Brian Thomas talked to his team during a timeout during their first-round game Jan. 22 in the Archie Tournament. Like many other coaches, Thomas has both coached and played in the 88-year-old tournament.
Archie girls basketball coach Brian Thomas talked to his team during a timeout during their first-round game Jan. 22 in the Archie Tournament. Like many other coaches, Thomas has both coached and played in the 88-year-old tournament. dmcqueen@kcstar.com

Cassie Ogden had one of those games Jan. 22 that no high-school player soon forgets.

She scored 19 points and, although her Archie girls basketball team lost to Butler 52-47, it did rally from a big double-digit deficit for a late fourth-quarter tie.

Ogden’s game will be even more memorable because it happened during the first round of the Archie Tournament, which for 87 years has created memories that have been handed down for generations.

“My mom went to Midway, and I remember she was like, ‘I always remember the Archie Tournament,’” Ogden said. “Everybody just knows about it.”

Now in its 88th season, the Archie Tournament prides itself on being one of the oldest boys and girls basketball tournaments in Missouri. It claims to be the first such tournament west of the Mississippi River.

And for most of those years, the field has been made up of longtime area rivals, making it feel like one big family.

“The Archie tournament has been a very big thing for people in this community,” Archie athletic director Bryon Cecil said. “It’s kind of that one event every year that you look forward to.”

It’s been that way in Archie since 1931, when Roy Atkinson and Clarence Easterla, brothers-in-law who built a gymnasium/auditorium on Archie’s Main Street, organized a 13-team boys basketball tournament . The host Whirlwinds beat Peculiar 19-15 in the first championship game.

The girls tournament began the following year with Freeman beating Harrisonville 63-38 in the inaugural final.

During the 1937 final, a balcony crammed with 350 spectators collapsed. There were 60 people injured, but no one was killed, according to a history of the tournament as written by long-time Archie resident Daryl Limpus.

The tournament moved to the high school when it built its first gym in 1938. It moved again when the school built another gym in 1967 and converted the old gym into a library. In 2012, it took up its present home inside the school’s spacious new dome.

One thing remained the same in every location: the large and enthusiastic crowds. Even on a snowy Monday night, the stands were well over half full for the first-round games.

“People would come down here and they’d tell me we couldn’t find a parking place, so we didn’t even come in,” said Charlie Plattner, who coached Archie’s boys from 1987-98. “The place would be full, the stands would be full, they’d be standing in the doorways.”

Plattner packed them in with nine title-game appearances and five championships during his 11 years as the Whirlwinds’ coach — including an era with Brad Hocker, who scored 3,033 points during his Archie career.

Like many others who’ve coached in the tournament, he’s played in it too as a high schooler at Freeman, which is now part of the Cass-Midway School District.

Brian Thomas, the current Archie girls head coach, also coached in played in the tournament for Rich Hill.

Pat Jurgens, who served as an assistant coach under Plattner, has been around the tournament since the mid-1970s. There were too many games for Jurgens to remember one that stands out, but he does remember the night Adrian’s fans packed the stands behind the Whirlwinds’ bench.

Adrian sits just across the county line from Archie, and the two schools have been longtime rivals.

“Our son was playing then,” Jurgens said. “It was the craziest game.”

Cecil is only in his second year as Archie’s athletic director, but he’s well-aware of what this event means to the community as a 2006 Archie graduate and the Whirlwinds’ baseball coach for five seasons.

“The No. 1 thing on my radar every year is to make sure this tournament goes on without a hitch, because it’s important to the community,” Cecil said. “This is what people look forward to.”

And probably will for generations to come.

“Everybody in the school knows it’s the Archie Tournament, so it’s always a big thing for us to come out and play for everybody,” Ogden said. “We always have a huge crowd.”

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