If you have lived in Ashe County for any length of time, you have probably heard the stories and tales about the 1940 Riverview men’s basketball team.
In February, the final surviving member of that team, Frank Roland, passed away. Roland was also a member of the 2013 Ashe County Sports Hall of Fame Class, inducted two weeks ago.
The team members may have all passed on, but their legacy will be remembered forever in the county.
This Riverview team had 10 players and was coached by Bruce Graybeal, and played one incredible year of basketball. Not only did the team have a perfect 32-0 record that season, but they also won the Journal-Sentinel Northwest Basketball Tournament, a tournament that was always considered the largest basketball tournament in the world held under one roof.
A total of 63 men’s teams and 60 women’s teams from 29 different counties competed at the R.J. Reynolds Gymnasium in Winston-Salem. Teams from all over the state and even some from Southwest Virginia came to compete in this tournament, and in the end, it added up to be over 1,200 players that took part in this event.
Riverview had to play seven games to win the championship. The team defeated Leeksville in the finals after the game went into overtime.
Wayne Hartsog sent the game into overtime with the tying basket with just one minute remaining to make the score 32-32. In the three-minute overtime period, Hartsog scored the only basket for either team, giving Riverview a 34-32 win.
Hartsog let the team in scoring with 13 points. Fred Stewart added 12 points, Bill Graybeal scored five and Wade Eller Jr. scored the other four points. Both Hartsog and Stewart, the team captain, were chosen to the all-tournament team.
The journey to the championship game was a long one. The team had to travel from Riverview to Winston-Salem and back home for the first four days of the tournament.
After the team won that fourth game to reach the tournament quarterfinals, the tournament directors put the team up in the Robert E. Lee Hotel.
The first round started with a win over Elkin, then wins over Stuart, Va., and Jamestown. In the quarterfinal game, Riverview defeated Dobson, 41-31. Riverview also played the entire game without making a single substitution.
This tournament was one of three that the Riverview team won through the 1940 season. The team also won the annual Ashe County Tournament and a tourney held at Appalachian State.
Winning the Journal-Sentinel tournament also marked a special milestone as this was the final one of its type held in Winston-Salem. The following seasons, the tournament was split up into separate divisions.