A basketball epic
Last updated 9/20/2022 at Noon
In an era 50 years ago, when high school sports popularity eclipsed both college and pro sports in Oregon, the meeting between the all-Black team from Portland’s Jefferson High and the white “farm boys” from Eastern Oregon’s Baker High captivated the public imagination. The biggest crowd ever to witness an indoor sporting event (13,395 paid admissions) crammed into the Portland Memorial Coliseum to witness the OSAA Boys AAA State Basketball Championship.
It was the culmination of Oregon’s own version of “March Madness” as 16 schools descended into town for a five-day hoops extravaganza.
In “High Contrast: A Story of Basketball, Race and Politics in Oregon 1972,” Sisters author and former sportswriter Andrew Kaza tells the tale of an event that seemed to be much more than just a game. Set amidst the backdrop of racist history plus the political tumult of 1972, it may have been a battle for the soul of Oregon.
Kaza owns and operates Sisters Movie House. He wrote the book during the COVID-19 shutdown.
“Since kids in Sisters went to Redmond High School in those days, there could be quite a number of locals that remember some of the events that are in the book,” he noted.
Kaza said that the book, published by Nestucca Spit Press, “focuses on the historic boys high school basketball season that culminated in the first-ever all-Black team to win State (the Jefferson High Democrats). They beat Baker HS in the final, but also had to get by Redmond in the opening round (and Baker was IMC rival to Redmond that season).”
The book is currently available at Paulina Springs Books in Sisters. A single copy is also available for $22.99 plus shipping or two for $40 plus shipping at: www.nestuccaspitpress.com. The website also features rare, previously unavailable footage of the championship game itself.
Kaza will be making a series of book readings throughout Oregon during the fall, including at Paulina Springs.