SALINA, OK —
Tony Rosebrough had been on the job just a couple of days.
He was hired last spring to take control of the Salina girls basketball team.
His first official get-together with his girls was on a bus ride to Norman for a team camp.
There was, on the journey, a small detour.
Rosebrough maneuvered the Salina bus onto the shoulder of an interstate in Oklahoma City.
With the curious eyes of every girl trained on the coach, Rosebrough pointed across the highway to the State Fair Arena.
“That’s where we’re going to be playing in March,” Rosebrough told his team.
Quite a bold statement from a first-year coach of a program that had not reached the state tournament since 1964.
When Salina made its only two appearances at state — 1963 and 1964 — the tournament was staged at Oklahoma City’s Municipal Auditorium.
The Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association shifted the base for state tournaments to the State Fair Arena in 1965.
Rosebrough and the Salina girls won 21 games this season, reached No. 5 in the Class 3A state rankings, and did qualify for the state tournament.
That part of Rosebrough’s prediction was accurate.
But he missed the part about playing at the State Fair Arena — aka The Big House.
Salina and Class 3A girls were assigned to Yukon High School for first- and second-round games.
Not until Championship Saturday did Class 3A girls see the inside of The Big House. By that time, Salina had been eliminated.
For all the talk about playing in The Big House, some teams do not have the opportunity to do so.
Last week, when 2A, 3A and 4A teams gathered for three days of state tournament competition, 48 boys and girls teams were scattered from Choctaw to Yukon, from Bethany to Midwest City, for the opening rounds.
Only the 2A boys took the stage in The Big House all three days.
Salina and Adair, in 3A girls, were beaten before they could reach The Big House.
Half of the 48 teams that made it to state — 24 — did not play in The Big House.
Still, it is the dream of most high schoolers of reaching The Big House.
Coaches talk to their teams on the side of the road about reaching The Big House.
It’s where championships are made.