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Record-setting Gaston enjoyed blowout binge in '79

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KEN AND KRIS BILDERBACKJanuary 1979 was one of the most frigid months in Oregon history, with ice storms paralyzing much of the region, resulting in the cancellation of dozens of high school basketball games.

But in high school athletic circles, January 1979 is not remembered for its frigid temperatures, but rather for the handful of games that were played, resulting in some of the most-lopsided scores in Oregon history. Forest Grove, Gaston, and Hillsboro teams found themselves in the middle of the action, although at opposite ends of the spectrum.

It all started on January 9, when Forest Grove High School journeyed to McMinnville, which was led by future Oregon State All-American Charlie Sitton and ranked Number 1 in the state. By the time the Vikings got on the bus for the long ride back up Highway 47, they were on the losing end of a 120-47 score.

The 73-point margin of victory by a Yamhill County team was a blow to western Washington County sports fans, but within a few days the Gaston Greyhound women’s team rekindled that local pride in a game that made that score look like a nail-biter.

The Greyhounds had a star of their own in Sheri VanLoo. In 1979, female athletes were overshadowed by their male counterparts, but VanLoo was perhaps an even-more imposing player than Sitton, and went on to become one of the greatest players in Portland State University history.

The Greyhounds had been dominant all season, but when they played Oregon Episcopal School one January night, they stunned everyone, coming away with a 113-22 victory.

The 91-point margin sent shockwaves through the Oregon high school athletic community. “Nobody in the league can stay with them,” St. Paul High School coach Lynn Ellis told a reporter shortly after the blowout. By then, Ellis had firsthand experience with VanLoo’s dominance. Four days after the Oregon Episcopal School romp, the Greyhounds followed up against Ellis’s St. Paul team, and her squad kept the game much closer, losing to the Greyhounds by a mere 71 points, 105-34.

Nearly lost amid the fanfare and controversy of the Gaston and McMinnville romps, two other local women’s teams posted blowouts of their own, as Hillsboro High School out-scored Parkrose by 90 points on the same night as Gaston’s 91-point win, and Yamhill-Carlton throttled Willamina 71-8.

The amazing streak of games sent sportswriters to their thesauruses to find adjectives and verbs to describe the magnitude of these scores. The reporters also dug through record books to determine where these games ranked all-time in state history.

They found that Hillsboro’s 90-point margin was not a record for women, but only because Gaston’s 91-point margin was. They also found that McMinnville’s 73-point margin was not a record for men. In fact, it was nowhere close to the record. What school did own that record? The Gaston Greyhounds.

On February 15, 1955, the team from Hill Military Academy, a private men’s school on Portland’s Rocky Butte, traveled to Gaston. The headline in the News-Times two days later read “Gaston Massacres Hill Military 154-1.” In reality, the headline was a typo, and the margin of victory was not 153 points. The actual score was 154-16, making the margin 138 points.

To add another note of symmetry to Gaston’s twin scoring records, one of the players on that 1955 team was Galen VanLoo.