Plenty of history to the Madness

jheeter@macon.comMarch 7, 2012 

Welcome to another edition of Macon Madness, The Telegraph’s name for the GHSA Final Four, which has been held in Macon for at least the past 90 years.

I’m fairly certain neither sports writers nor basketball observers in 1922 called it by that name, but madness was present. Macon’s own Lanier Poets beat Tech High by a point to win that championship game.

The 1922 championship tournament, which was held at the Macon City Auditorium, is the oldest listed on both the GHSA website and on the Georgia High School Basketball Project. Whether or not it was the first contested state championship tournament in Macon, the 90-year anniversary of that Lanier championship has me feeling a little nostalgic.

Plenty of the 22 different schools represented this week have both history and the present in Macon to celebrate.

Some of the usual suspects are back.

Whitefield Academy (2003 and 2009 champs, both won in Macon) brings with it the most ballyhooed player, Georgia signee Kenneth Gaines. The Wolfpack are probably the favorites to win in Class A, while the Columbia boys are the favorites again in Class AAA. Columbia (2006, 2008, 2010 and 2011 champs, the past two won in Macon), is looking to join Miller Grove and Norcross as recent winners of three straight titles.

The Columbia girls (2010 champs, won in Macon) are back in Macon for the third straight year. They lost in the semifinals last year to Washington County, and a rematch between the two could happen in the title game this year.

Wesleyan’s girls (2002, 2004-06, 2008-2011 champs, won all in Macon) are seeking to become the third school in history to win five straight championships, which is still one short of Hart County’s state record six straight.

Taylor County’s girls (champs in 1968-1972, 1988, 1992, 1994, 1995, 2003, all won in Macon) also won five straight championships. The Vikings, with 10 state titles, are the most decorated of any team here this week.

The Buford girls (2009-2011 champs, won all in Macon) are searching for a fourth straight championship, joining Wesleyan, Hart County, Lowndes, Taylor County and Jeff Davis as the only girls teams to win four straight.

Southwest Atlanta Christian (2006 champ, won in Macon) gives the Class A Final Four three schools with state championships won in Macon in the past 10 years.

Laney has been a regular in Macon recently, with the girls making their fourth straight appearance and the boys making their third consecutive trip. Laney is seeking its first state basketball championship since integration.

The Washington County girls (champs in 1991 and 2011, both won in Macon) seek to defend their championship while boasting one of the best girls players in the nation in Allisha Gray.

Brooks County (champs in 1960, 1964, 1976, 1977, all won in Macon) is making its first trip to the Final Four since 1993.

The Manchester boys shocked Dodge County to win the 2007 championship in Macon, and the Blue Devils are seeking another title after upsetting Greater Atlanta Christian in the quarterfinals.

Jordan also won a state championship in Macon in 2007, to go with the Red Jackets’ championship from 1943, which wasn’t won in Macon.

Lanier County (1955 champs, won in Macon) is making its fourth Final Four trip overall.

Eagle’s Landing makes a return trip after last year’s Final Four run, and the Golden Eagles have a little hope on their side. They gave Columbia a tough game earlier this season before losing by seven. They may be sentimental favorites after one of their top players -- junior Eric Wortham -- suffered a seizure at school last week. Wortham, the Region 4-AAA Player of the Year, required CPR and was airlifted to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, according to the Clayton News-Daily. Wortham is said to be improving, but his father told the News-Daily he wouldn’t play in Macon.

Athens Christian and Turner County both have players who will continue to come to Macon in the future. Athens Christian’s Zach Lillie (USC-Upstate) and Turner County’s Demarcus Daniels (North Florida) will both return to play against Mercer in A-Sun play.

The Charlton County girls (last Final Four appearance in 1971), North Hall girls (1991), Vidalia boys (1969) and Washington-Atlanta boys (1987) are all making their first Final Four trips after long absences.

And we do have some first timers.

Drew, a three-year old school in Riverdale, nearly made a fairy-tale trip to Macon a year ago before losing to runner-up Butler. The Titans have beaten Eagle’s Landing twice and come here with the hopes of winning a state championship quicker than all but a few new schools in history.

The Lovett girls make their first Final Four appearance. The Lovett boys were in Macon in 2007, but the girls have never won more than one playoff game in a single year before this season.

Westside-Augusta’s boys won the 1995 championship and boast three other Final Four appearances. The girls will make their first ever Final Four appearance this year.

Good luck adding to the rich history of Macon Madness this week.

Contact Jonathan Heeter at 744-4401 or jheeter@macon.com

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