Before she had ever seen a girls basketball game, 1997 Branford Sports Hall of Fame inductee Grace Norton Scranton was called upon to demonstrate leadership, commitment and perseverance to young female athletes. Couple her charismatic personality with an effervescent passion in continually learning the game, tonight’s inductee constructed an athletic fortress which epitomized Branford sports.
After graduation from Bay Path Commercial School in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1928, Grace received an offer from Washington, Connecticut to become a Commercial teacher who would also coach girls basketball. When she was offered the job, she began to pursue her knowledge of the game of basketball from a talented bunch of girls who dominated their opponents, finding the win column more often than not.
After two wonderful tears in Washington, Grace returned to Leetes Island, Guilford and earn a job as a Commercial teacher at Branford High School. Already popular with the Hornets basketball team because of her prior two year history at Washington, the girls persuaded Grace to start a basketball squad at Branford, even though they never had a girls team and money was scarce, Branford girls basketball was given its proper initiation by tonight’s inductee. During the 1931 inaugural season, Grace and her Hornets won four of the eight games played with help from another legendary coach, and Hall of Fame inductee, John Knecht Jr. (1988). Branford’s first official win came against Shelton High School by the final of 18-17. Playing on the squad that year was another Branford Sports Hall of Fame inductee Eleanor Laich Schmitz (1990). In 1932, the girls squad won six of its eight games played and demonstrated a promising future for ladies basketball. During Grace’s fourth year of coaching, Branford improved it record to 10-4. This team, which included Laich Schmitz also added another Hall of Fame hero in 1993 inductee Hazel Smith Lerche and was recognized for its terrific defense, as they held opponents to a mere 299 points compared to Branford’s 415. The following season, Grace coached what was considered one of the best Hornets basketball team ever assembled. That year, Branford went undefeated. A combination of Schmitz talent and the encouragement by her coach to succeed, made the player one of Branford’s most valuable players in girls basketball history.
Here, at the age of 92, along with the rest of her 1997 Hall of Fame inductees, Grace has been married to William Lee Scraton for 61 years and is the mother to Eleanor Montgomery, William Norton Scranton and Christopher Lee. “This award means a great deal to me. It is such a wonderful accomplishment because it showed everyone the type of players I had playing for me,” said Norton Scranton.