Tulsa Business College Stenos
The Tulsa Business College Stenos, or simply Tulsa Stenos, was a women’s Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) team from the 1930s. The team was sponsored by Tulsa Business College, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The team emerged out of the rich Oklahoma women basketball tradition in the early 1930s. The team was led by center-forward Alberta Williams, and supported by an up and coming player, one of the greatest in the women’s game, Hazel Walker.
The foundation for the Tulsa Stenos success was laid in 1933. The team, coached by Steve Beck, had recruited Hazel Walker right out of high school in Arkansas, but she was a superstar in the making, and the first year with her on the team they competed in the 1933 national AAU tournament. The Stenos were eliminated early in the tournament, but would powerfully come back.
In the 1934 tourney, the Stenos in an all-Oklahoma final beat the Oklahoma Presbyterian College Cardinals 32-22 for the national championship. In that game, the Walker made 14 of 16 free throws. Alberta Williams was selected the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, and other Tulsa members of the All American (all star) team selected were Walker and Troy Azlam.
This was the tournament that conducted a parallel competition using men’s rules—called the “Tom Boy” championship--which was won by the Spencer Coals of Chicago. The Spencer Coals had won the Central AAU championship that year (which competed under men's rules), and earned the right to compete in the national AAU tournament. In an extra game after the tournament, the Stenos beat the Spencer Coals, 16-14, in a peculiar game using compromise rules. The game involved a two-division court, six to a side, one-bounce dribble, while the guards were allowed to play defensively as in the men’s rules.
The Stenos repeated as AAU national champions in 1935, but without the great Hazel Walker who had moved to the El Dorados Lion Oil team in her native Arkansas. The closest competition was an overtime semi-final win over the Shreveport team, coached by the legendary Sam F. Babb. In the title game, the Stenos beat the Holdenville Flyers (a team mainly stocked with former Oklahoma Presbyterian College Cardinals), 28-16. Williams was again selected as the Most Valuable Player, and one teammate selected as All American was Martha Hickman.
In the 1936 tournament, the Stenos were seeded first, although the favorite in the tournament was the undefeated El Dorado Lion Oils, led of course by Hazel Walker. Tulsa had lost several games during the season, but in the finals Tulsa narrowly edged El Dorado team, 23-22. Three Steno players were selected as tournament All Americans—Nora Cain, Frances (Sonny) Dunlap, and Peggy Lawson. Tulsa thus became the first three-time champion of the tournament.
The Tulsa Stenos annually played against the Edmonton Grads for the Underwood Trophy. emblematic of the championship between Canada and the United States. They first went up to Edmonton to contend for the trophy in June of 1934, and lost three straight but close games (relatively close by the Grads standard), 41-31, 35-28, and 48-41. In June of 1935, the Stenos forced the Grads into a four-game series by winning one of the games (53-49, 49-53, 37-31, 43-30), one of only about eleven losses suffered by the Grads in the Underwood Trophy contests. In April of 1936, Stenos loss in another 3-1 series--42-24, 34-24, 33-40, and 35-30. In June of 1937, Tulsa played its last four-game series against the Edmonton Grads, again inflicting at least one loss on the mighty Grads, the scores being 31-23, 38-29, 35-46, and 27-19.
The Tulsa Business College Stenos left a legacy as one of the greatest teams in the history of women's amateur basketball in North America.