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FULL-COURT PRESS: What a thrill to have history in my hands

My grandmother Betty once told me to always be 15 minutes early to an appointment or event, and I've tried to follow that sound advice as I've grown older.

Prior to her passing in 2011 while having a talk about a number of different things, she also told me that history should be written about, that if it's left to the memories of those who experienced it, they will eventually fade away.

As many of you who read my weekly ramblings here know, chronicling history — especially centering around high school sports — is one of my passions. Many times when I'm reading a past story off microfilm or looking through a yearbook, I find myself trying to put myself back in that time and wonder what it was like to be there at that moment.

When attending or covering sporting events like I do, it's always a good idea to get there early just in case the game starts a little before the scheduled time. I also like to arrive early, especially if it is a school I've never been to before, to take a few minutes to look through the trophy cases. Whether it's a state championship trophy; regional, sectional or supersectional title plaque; conference trophy or a small trophy for winning an in-season event, they all are history and were won by the efforts of many towards one goal.

Last week during the playing of the 100th Little Ten Conference Boys Basketball Tournament at Somonauk High School, current conference schools as well as former members brought a small part of each's history in the league for display in a pop-up museum. On display were programs — including one from the 1923 tournament, as well as 1944 and others — a number of team photos of past champions and trophies, some shiny and new, while others faded, but stunningly sharp.

While the whole SHS band room-turned-museum reeked of history for the three nights of the tournament, one particular item caught my eye and was there when the loop's tournament took its first baby step to becoming a centenarian.

The beautiful, grained wooden shield — about the size of regional championship plaques awarded today — is adorned with gold metal letters and a golden basketball player with a ball raised in his right hand in the center. In simple, the plaque reads "The Little Ten Ath. Ass'n Basket Ball Championship 1920 - Won by Sandwich High School".

Indeed, Sandwich won the very first LTC Tournament, defeating Rollo 16-9. In fact, and much to my surprise, I found out the building that hosted that inaugural get-together still stands in Sandwich.

As I lifted it off the table to get a closer look, I couldn't help but think, "Wow, this thing is 100 years old and was held by the first team and coaches to win what is the oldest continuous conference tournament in the state of Illinois."

To say there wasn't a fire truck ride for the players through town or that parents and fans didn't take 100s of photos after the game would be quite obvious, but I can't help to think there was somewhat of the same excitement then as there is now upon winning the tournament title of the league.

My hope is the pop-up museum is something the conference will put together each and every tournament moving forward. While it was only a small glimpse of each school's history in the conference, it's a history I know each and every school takes pride in.

Along with the museum, the conference sold t-shirts with a special logo to commemorate the event and announced former players and coaches who played in the tournament during breaks in the action. They also had the two oldest alumni present on the final night — Leland's Ken Sanderson (1946) and Rollo's Harold Svendsen (1954) — award this year's champion Newark with the Al Stegman Championship Trophy.

The tournament was a historic event for sure, and one I hope is held for another 100 years.

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