The year 1916 was an important one for high school sports, as this was the year that Bunkerville won the basketball state championship. 

basketball sportsmanship trophy 1913
The trophy won by the Bunkerville basketball team for their consecutive wins from the years 1913 to 1915. The trophy is on display at the Virgin Valley History Museum.

For the three consecutive years leading up to this event, the basketball team had defeated every team they went up against, winning a trophy of sportsmanship for their efforts. However, it was in 1916 that the team decided to try their hand at state. 

A news article from February 12, 1916, explained that the boys were to leave the following Monday for the state championships. There was a lot of hard work that went into this accomplishment, and it was almost thwarted by an unfortunate incident with the Bunkerville high school building. There had been a terrible windstorm earlier that year that blew down the structure. The building wasn’t finished, but due to the efforts of the community, the boys went from practicing on dirt to the subfloor of the unfinished school gym. 

The next matter that the team had to deal with was how they were going to afford to get to and from the game in Reno. In a document on the State Champion Basketball Teams Early History, it says, “Our principal, A. L. Kelly, told us we would have to earn the money to pay off the note that the school had to borrow to send us on this trip to play ball throughout the state of Nevada, $450.00. We were gone two weeks and had the money earned before we got back. The University of Nevada paid us $50.00. There were a number of high schools who wanted to play us and offered us $50.00 per game or expenses. That was how we earned the money back.”

In addition to the funds needed for the trip, another hurdle the team had was the matter of transportation. The boys took covered wagons from Bunkerville to Moapa, a 10-15 hour trip. From there, they were able to take a train and made their way to Fallon, their final opponent before the state competition.

1916 state basketball championship trophy
The 1916 state championship trophy is on display at the Virgin Valley Heritage Museum in Mesquite, NV.


After beating the team from Fallon, their journey took them to Reno where their winning streak continued and they became state champs. While there, they also had the opportunity to play the University of Nevada team for fun. The whole experience was one that the boys would never forget.

 After a long journey home, “we were tired from our long train ride on the narrow gauge slow train and the trip across the Mormon Mesa by wagon to our homes. We were totally surprised on our return home when the whole town of Bunkerville greeted us at the river crossing west of town, and what a celebration we had,” recounted Ralph Huntsman, a member of the team.

Special thanks to Elspeth Kuta, the Coordinator of the Virgin Valley Heritage Museum for her help with the research of this article.

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