DES MOINES — Former Hubbard-Radcliffe and Drake basketball star Lisa Brinkmeyer paused, then reflected.
This week marks the 20th state girls’ basketball tournament since she helped close-out the six-on-six era with a 1993 title win over Atlantic.
Five-on-five — already being played by some Iowa schools — would become the all-class game the following season, but not without a reasonable degree of nostalgia-based discontent.
“There was a lot going on around the arena at the time,” recalled Brinkmeyer, now an assistant director with the Iowa Girls’ High School Athletic Union. “There were people picketing, trying to keep six-on-six alive, so they were coming up to us, giving us buttons, telling us to speak our minds and continue to support it.”
Brinkmeyer, an IGHSAU Hall of Famer, averaged 51.8 points in four 1993 tournament wins.
She’s in the process of helping to organize her 20th class reunion, so the number’s already on her mind.
“Iowa was able to give a lot of extra special attention to their basketball players because you didn’t really have to be athletic to play six-on six,” said Brinkmeyer, who successfully transitioned to five-on-five as a Bulldog at the same time Iowa high schools were doing the same thing. “You had to have some athleticism, but you didn’t have to be a stellar athlete that could run up and down the floor, so it got a lot more people involved and the tradition carried on through generations.”
Dubuque Wahlert coach Kris Spiegler played six-on-six for Waukon under the late Bob Sampson until graduating in 1978.
She went on to win a national title as a junior at William Penn (where Iowa State women’s coach Bill Fennelly was an assistant) and remembers conditioning as being the biggest adjustment from six-player to five.
“My first game playing five-on-five, after a minute I was sucking air,” Spiegler said. “I was really tired. It’s a different game, but it’s fun.”
Iowa, along with Oklahoma, was one of the last states to adopt five-player basketball for girls.
Ankeny coach Scott DeJong — whose team seeks its seventh title during his tenure — was at Colo-Nesco at the time and said it was not a difficult transition for him.
“As you can see, it’s a great game; there’s athletes on the floor out there,” DeJong said. “This is the way it needs to be. Certainly there’s a lot of hoopla and tradition in the six-player game that I don’t think anybody wants to lose, but certainly this is the game girls should be playing.”
Nowadays, few would disagree with either of DeJong’s last two points.
“It took a couple years to get everybody on board and to grasp it, but I think it really has taken off and people know — when you talk to kids in high school and ask them about six-on-six, they look at you funny,” said the 5-10 Brinkmeyer, who helped develop keen five-on-five skills against her 6-4 brother, Blain, and his friends in driveway pickup games. “They’re like, ‘Yeah, my aunt and my grandma played that.’ It’s not the same thing. It’s been a while, but the spirit’s been kept alive of six-on-six, that’s for sure.”