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On Saturday, April 4, 1953, Hanes Hosiery beat Wayland Baptist College 36-28 in the championship match of the women’s AAU national tournament. It was their 76th consecutive win and their third straight national championship, equaling the record of the Tulsa Business College Stenos set in 1934-36. They would extend their winning streak to 102 games before losing in the 1954 tournament.

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The 1953 national champs retired the AAU trophy

Before the 1953 game, Hanes coach Virgil Yow said that defense would decide who won. No coach ever had it more right than that.

Lurlyne Greer scored 14 points for Hanes and Eckie Jordan added 7, but the game was won at the other end of the court, where Mildred Little held the red hot Merle Wales, who had scored 20 on Friday night,  to 7 points and 6-3 Eunies Futch slammed the door on the 6-2 Lometa Odom, who had averaged 20 points per game for the season. Odom finally got a field goal with 2 seconds left in the game and finished with just 3 points.

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Eunies Futch, left, and Eckie Jordan were the keys to victory. Futch’s shutdown of Wayland’s Lometa Odom was one of the best defensive performances of all time.

Winston-Salem Journal reporter Bob Hampton, who had accompanied the team on their flight to Wichita, wrote the stories. Three Hanes players, Greer, Jordan and Futch, were named to the All-American team. It was Greer’s seventh time as an All-American. She was also named the captain of the All-American team and the tournament’s outstanding player. Jordan made the team for the fourth time. And Futch, who began playing for Hanes at age 17, earned her second national honor. Mildred Little and Jennie Morris made honorable mention.

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1951 champs

The 1951 Hanes Hosiery team was the first North Carolina team to win a national championship in any sport.

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Jackie Swaim Fagg led the scoring in ’51, her last year on the team. But it was the stellar floor play of Jordan and the defense and rebounding of Futch that would get the team to their second and third titles.

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Eckie Jordan (14) battles an Iowa Wesleyan player for the ball. #12 is Jenny Morris and behind her is Eunies Futch. At the right is Mildred Little.

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1952 AAU national champions

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1952 All-American team. Eckie Jordan is at the right front, next to Lurlyne Greer. Eunies Futch at center in back row.

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1955 FIBA World Champions at the Pan American Games

As it turned out, the Hanes women would be the last for a long time to beat Wayland. Starting with their first game the next season, the Flying Queens from Plainview, Texas, would win 131 consecutive games and four straight AAU national championships. Wayland was the first Baptist school in the south to be integrated (1951) and during a stopover in Nashville, the Flying Queens met the Harlem Globetrotters who taught them to spin basketballs on their fingers and dribble between their legs and behind their backs, all of which they incorporated into their pregame warmups. They would win ten AAU national titles before the NCAA began sponsoring women’s basketball in 1982.

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Rita Alexander, Alice Barron and Kaye Garms of the Flying Queens pose after their fourth straight national championship in 1957. At this point, they had broken the Hanes Hosiery women’s record by winning 104 straight games.

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Belva Ramsey, #8, grabs a rebound for the Flying Queens, 1957.

Eunies Futch was also a pitcher on the Hanes Hosiery softball team, an outstanding golfer and won the Teague award as the best female athlete in the Carolinas in 1953. She was a member of the US championship women’s basketball team at the 1955 Pan American games. She is a member of the North Carolina Softball Hall of Fame and the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame. She died in 2005.

Eckie Jordan was also a star softball and tennis player and a member of the US championship basketball team at the 1955 Pan American games. A five-time AAU basketball all-American, she is a member of the Helms Foundation Hall of Fame, the North Carolina Softball Hall of Fame and the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.

Lurlyne Greer, an eight time all-American and a three time winner of the Most Valuable player award at the AAU national championship, also won the 1952 Teague Award as the top female athlete in the Carolinas. She was the captain of the US championship team at the 1955 Pan American games, where she set records for points in a single game (28) and in the tournament (128). After her amateur career, she played professionally for Hazel Walker’s Arkansas Travelers. She is a member of the national Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

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Jenny (or Jennie) Morris played her high school basketball at Cary, which was then in a rural area. “We had huge crowds,” she says. “We packed the gym.” But the girls were not offered the opportunity to play to a state championship. So some of the girls coaches put together their own state championship tournament. In 1951, Jenny played in the championship game for Cary against Salemburg before a crowd of 6,000 at the William Neal Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh. In 1952 and 1953 she was a key member of the Hanes Hosiery national AAU champions. Charlie Adams, who later became the executive director of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association, led his high school team to a state championship in the early 1950s. By then he already knew how well girls could play. “I’d go to the gym and play on Saturday mornings,” he says. “There was one girl there that none of us could stop.” Of course, her name was Jenny Morris.

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Mildred Little, center, and her Claremont High teammates relax before winning their second straight Journal-Sentinel Northwest tournament championship in 1948. The tournament, started by Journal sports writer and editor Frank Spencer, attracted over 150 boys and girls high school teams annually in the 1940s and 50s.

Mildred Little played her high school ball at  Claremont High School in Catawba County. But her first tournament was in seventh grade at Barium Springs, where she made the first of many all-tournament teams. Two years later she was the only freshman to make the  the Claremont girls varsity team. At the end of the season in 1945, they went to Winston-Salem to play in the biggest basketball tournament in North Carolina, the Journal and Sentinel’s Northwest tournament. They stayed at the Carolina Hotel and took the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company tour, where each received a pack of Camel cigarettes. They didn’t win and did not return the next year. But in 1947 and 1948, they won the girls championship. A few weeks later, Mildred got a telegram from Journal reporter Frank Spencer inviting her to attend a tryout in the Twin City for the Hanes Hosiery team, all expenses paid. Fifteen girls had been invited. Mildred didn’t have the right shoes, so had to play barefooted, badly blistering both feet. But at the end of the week, she was one of two selected for the team. She was one of only four who played on all three Hanes Hosiery national championship teams.

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Jackie Swaim Fagg receives her 1949 national free throw shooting trophy

Jackie Swaim Fagg played high school ball at Sedge Garden, near Kernersville. After graduation she joined the Hanes Hosiery team and was their leading scorer in the 1951 AAU championship tournament. She was a two-time All-American and also won the 1949 national free throw shooting title and the 1950 Teague award as the best female athlete in the Carolinas.

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Hazel Phillips played sports year round at High Point College, where she set a record for consecutive free throws and made an unassisted triple play in the state softball tournament. She was one of the four who played on all three Hanes Hosiery AAU national championship teams. While playing at Hanes she was a member of the 1952 All-World Girls’ Basketball team, and won two straight national free throw shooting championships. She later had a long coaching career at Camp Pla-Mor and Griffith, Parkland and Carver High Schools, where her overall winning percentage in softball, speedball, volleyball and basketball was around 85%.

Virgil Yow was a three sport star at High Point College in the 1920s. In addition to coaching the Hanes women’s team he coached at High Point College for many years, winning over 300 games. In 1944, with his ream depleted by wartime service, he recruited senior Nancy Isenhour to play for him.  She was the first woman to play on a men’s college basketball team. She played in nearly every game, often with a ribbon and a white flower in her hair. “She has more natural ability than most boys you see in high school and she can pass with the best of the boys I have right now,” he told an Associated Press reporter in 1945. “The boys laughed when I told them I was going to ask her to come out for basketball, but they didn’t laugh after the first day.” Virgil was a cousin of the three Yow women basketball coaches. It was my privilege to know and play, very briefly, for him. In 1953, he founded Camp Pla-Mor at Windy Hill Beach, the first summer basketball camp, where he was later joined by UNC coach Frank McGuire. He is a member of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.

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Nancy Isenhour, in addition to being the first woman to play on a men’s college basketball team, was vice president of her senior class, president of the Girls Athletic Association and played on several girls varsity athletic teams at High Point College. Collier’s Magazine ran a feature article on her tenure on the men’s team, which ended with a 6-4 record in the North State Conference. Two of her teammates were selected for the All-Conference team.

After their loss in the 1954 AAU tournament, the Hanes Hosiery women’s basketball team was disbanded. But no one who saw them play will ever forget them. They continue to hold annual reunions at various restaurants in the Winston-Salem area.

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