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A look back: Stanley’s magical run to 1938 State Championship game

Article by Ian Grande

It has been a long time since the Stanley Blue Jays Boys Basketball team has been to the State Tournament, 79 years to be exact.

Almost 8 decades have passed since the 1938 Stanley Blue Jays Boys Basketball team made their magical run to the title game, here is a look back at that squad:

The Blue Jays were near perfect during the regular season, finishing with a 14-1 record. The impressive run through the regular season gave the community reason to believe that the 1938 season could be a special one.

Stanley Blue Jays 1938

Stanley Boys Basketball Team (1938)

The Blue Jays used that regular season momentum to cruise past their first three opponents in the District Tournament by a combined score of 114-46.

The District Championship game was against Donnybrook, the only team that had beaten the Blue Jays during the regular season. The Blue Jays were able to exact some revenge on Donnybrook and tip them by a final score of 24-17.

The Region Championship (Regional Tournament was only 1 game) was against Watford City, a team that the Blue Jays had easily dispatched in the regular season 37-18. History would repeat itself in the title game, with the Blue Jays winning easily 36-16.

Jim Gray and fellow senior Wayne Nelson were both named to the All-District team, the duo had helped guide the Blue Jays to a 19-1 record as they entered the State Tournament.

Gray and Nelson would continue their stellar play in the State Tournament. The Blue Jays opened up the tournament by gliding past Beulah 31-18 in the quarterfinals.

Things would get more challenging for the Blue Jays in semifinals where they met Bismarck-St. Mary’s. The Blue Jays poured in their third highest point total of the season en-route to a 39-35 victory, earning a berth in the State Championship.

The State Championship game against Minot St. Leo’s would feature some extra drama as Blue Jay standout Wayne Nelson fell ill the night before and would be forced to play at far less than 100%. Waldo Elefson was also ill and was forced to miss the game completely.


Stanley Blue Jay Game Log (1938)

The Blue Jays held a 15-11 at halftime, but St. Leo’s would rally against the shorthanded Blue Jays to clinch the title by the final score of 32-27. The Blue Jays would finish their magical season at 21-2, an impressive mark.

Minot St. Leo’s would go on to win the State Championship again in 1939.

Gray had an impressive State Tournament, averaging 12 points per game. Gray and Nelson were both named to the All-State team, the first players from Stanley to receive such an honor.

It has taken 79 years for Stanley to make it back to the State Tournament. If the Blue Jays can take home a Championship on Saturday, it will have been worth the wait.

Interesting Stanley Blue Jay Basketball Facts

  • Athletic Director Brooks Stafslien’s wife,, Heidi “Gray” Stafslien’s, grandfather was Jim Gray. Gray was a member of the 1938 Stanley Blue Jays team, he was also named to the All-State team that season.
  • Jim Gray’s son, Marshall Gray set the North Dakota State Class A record for most points in a single game. He poured in 54 points for the Blue Jays in a game against Tioga during the 1969 season.
  • Current Stanley Blue Jay Ryan Nesheim’s father, David played on the 1980 New Town State Championship team.
  • Stanley won the North Dakota Independent Basketball Championships in 1916 and 1926, both tournaments were held in Minot.
  • 2005 was the last time the Blue Jays played in the Region Championship game.
  • The current players on the roster were challenged by Coach Kory Anderson four years ago to end the drought. He ordered t-shirts with the slogan “Not since 1938”, “Whatever It Takes, Make It Happen”.

*Ian Grande is the Editor of the Stanley Gazette. Feel free to reach out with any comments/concerns (StanleyGazette@gmail.com)

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