For almost 40 years, the Portsmouth Trojans were members of the Greater Ohio League (approx. 1930’s–1970’s). During this time, the GOL was one of, if not the most powerful basketball league in the state, along with the Columbus City League. From 1944-1961, the league produced 11 Class AA (big school) state champions. Middletown in 1944, 1946, and 1947, Hamilton in 1949, Springfield in 1950, Middletown in 1952 and 1953, Hamilton in 1954, Middletown in 1956 and 1957, and then Portsmouth ended the fabulous run in 1961, beating Urbana 50-44 for the Class AA state title. During that same time period, the Columbus City League won 1 state title, which was won by Columbus East in 1951. Counting all the state titles by GOL schools in the 92 year history of the OHSAA state tournament, the league has won a remarkable 17 state titles, while the Columbus City League has won 12. The Greater Catholic League of Southwestern Ohio and the Cincinnati area have won a total of 16 state titles.
The Trojans were Greater Ohio League champions in 1955 and 1961, which was no small feat considering that the league was perhaps at its zenith during the 50’s and 60’s. Despite Portsmouth High School having a great winning tradition, with an all-time winning pct. of almost 65% in all games, PHS’s record in the GOL was not as stellar. Overall, the Trojans went 68-124 in league play, which is a testament to how tough the league was year in and year out. Ironically, the most successful coach in GOL history, Paul Walker, started his career at PHS in 1945. 2 years later, Walker would win the Class AA state title at Middletown, and would go on to win 4 more state titles. Middletown had won titles in 1944 and 1946 under Royner Green and George Houck, respectively. Hamilton won titles in 1949 and 1954 under coach Warren Scholler. The Trojans had a very fine coach of their own in George Heller, who starred on the 1939 Southern Ohio League Champion Trojans (the SOL was a forerunner of the GOL). Coach Heller took over the Trojans head job in 1952, and led the Red and Blue through the 1968 season. During his tenure, he compiled a record of 224-135, making him the winningest coach in PHS history, despite having to go head to head with powerful GOL teams.
The Greater Ohio League sadly ended a long, storied run in the mid 1970’s, with Portsmouth, Lima Senior, and Springfield South as the last remaining members. Since that time, Portsmouth has played a few games against Middletown, Hamilton, and Springfield South. The glorious era of the “Great” Greater Ohio League should always be remembered and cherished. The days of competing in the GOL adds yet another significant chapter to one of the state’s most well known programs, Portsmouth High School basketball.