Kansas Grayhawkers debut in Granny Basketball League; no granny shots attempted

Michele Clark, of Berryton, puts up a shot over Llynde Lacey (61), of Lawrence, as the two scrimmage during the first game of the Granny Basketball League in Kansas on Saturday evening, Oct. 24, 2015, at Holcom Park Recreational Center, 2700 W. 27th St.

It’s not often you see an 81-year-old woman take a shoulder in the chest and fall hard to the floor only to bounce back up a moment later, smiling. But that’s exactly what Marjorie Beatty did Saturday evening at Holcom Park Recreation Center, 2700 W. 27th St.

Beatty popped up, of course, because she was in the middle of a basketball game.

“I’m from Iowa,” she said about her fall. “Corn fed.”

Mary Pat Pellett, right, of Lawrence, chases down a loose ball during the first game of the Granny Basketball League in Kansas Saturday evening at Holcom Park Recreational Center, 2700 W. 27th Street.

Beatty and several other women from out of state were in Lawrence to help start up another Granny Basketball League for women 50 and older.

The league began in Iowa in 2005, explained Michele Clark, one of the players and organizers for Lawrence’s new team, the Grayhawkers. Now there are teams in eight different states, with Kansas being the eighth.

Saturday’s first game consisted of Grayhawkers playing Grayhawkers because they’re the only team in the state, Clark said. But with each new practice more women show up to play, and they hope to create another team soon.

A second, exhibition game Saturday pitted Grayhawkers against a “Celebrity Town Team” consisting of familiar faces from around Lawrence, including Journal-World Managing Editor Chad Lawhorn.

Teams playing Granny Basketball base their rules and uniforms on standards from the 1920s, Clark said. They play six-on-six. No running, jumping or physical contact is allowed.

And if a player’s bloomers begin to ride up, a “flesh foul” may be called, Clark said. Adhering to the uniform standards of the 1920s requires no bare flesh be shown from neck to toes.

Nikes are paired with traditional 1920s women's basketball uniforms including colorful striped stockings during the first game of the Granny Basketball League in Kansas Saturday evening at Holcom Park Recreational Center, 2700 W 27th Street.

Each basket is worth two points, and each free throw is worth one point. Granny shots are worth three points, though, ironically, none were taken during the Grayhawkers’ game Saturday night.

“It’s a way to preserve the history of girls’ basketball,” Clark said. “And to help people see how it used to be played.”

Throughout four eight-minute quarters, the ladies hustled up and down the court.

Shoes squeaked, baskets were scored and fouls were called. Every now and then, a player would hit the ground and “granny down” could be heard from the announcer, but a declaration of “granny up” was never far behind.

Michele Clark, of Lawrence, center, catches a pass under the basket as Mary Pat Pellett, left, of Lawrence, and Diane Knowles, left, of Topeka, defend during the first game of the Granny Basketball League in Kansas Saturday evening at Holcom Park Recreational Center, 2700 W 27th Street.

At 82 years old, Kathleen Ramonda was the oldest woman on the court Saturday night, though Beatty said her 90-year-old sister is still on a team.

Ramonda’s favorite part of the game was just getting to play, and she wasn’t worried about injuries or being sore Sunday morning. Instead, she prefers to focus on the exercise and social interaction she gets when she plays.

“I was tired of sitting at home looking at four walls,” she laughed.

Ramonda practiced twice with the team before Saturday’s game and said she plans to keep playing.

Amber Schreiber and much of her family, young and old, stood along the sidelines to cheer on her mother-in-law, Eileen Schreiber. They clapped, shouted and shook pom-poms while rooting for their No. 19.

“So many people out there say, ‘I’m too old,'” Amber Schreiber said. “You’re not too old, you’ve just got to have the right mentality. I commend these women. They’re inspiring.”

Because of Lawrence’s history with the sport of basketball, Clark said, she’s happy to see the Kansas extension’s first team start here.

“It had to start in Lawrence,” she said. “It’s a tribute to Coach (James) Naismith to start Granny Basketball here.”

As the Kansas league begins to grow, the teams will travel and compete, Clark said. And playing against Iowa or Missouri teams, or any other teams around the country, could lead to some intense but fun competition.

“I think we could have some border wars,” Clark laughed.

Anyone interested in playing, refereeing, coaching or scorekeeping can find more information about Granny Basketball at grannybasketball.com, by emailing KansasGBB@gmail.com or by calling 409-2791.