High school basketball players, coaches and fans took to social media Sunday to blast the GHSA and the Macon Coliseum for a number of issues related to the state basketball finals that took place Thursday-Saturday.
Chief among the complaints, in addition to complaints about parking and facility maintenance, was an observation that the baskets did not appear to be set up in line with National Federation rules. The GHSA confirmed that observation Saturday, posting a statement on its website Saturday night.
"Stories have circulated that the goals were set up in an incorrect position for the State Basketball Championship games this past weekend at the Macon (Coliseum)," the GHSA's statement read. "While it does appear that the goals were not placed far enough into the playing area, the GHSA has no plans to change any of the results of the seven girls and seven boys title games played."
Count Veterans head coach Nicki Miranda among those who had complaints.
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Veterans shot 21 percent from the floor, 6.7 percent on 3-pointers and 21.3 percent at the free-throw line in its 56-38 loss to Americus-Sumter on Thursday in the Class AAAA girls title game.
Miranda said after the game that her players had complained about the rims, but she knew her perimeter-oriented team was likely to struggle in an arena setting.
But she became angry as the news of the goals came out.
"I was physically sick," she said in a text from Jacksonville, Florida, where she was watching the SEC Women's Tournament. "My girls told me the free-throw line was too far away in warmups. They kept telling me they were short, (especially senior Kya Cochran)."
Miranda, as most coaches would, chalked it up to nerves and exaggeration.
"Then she misses her first four free throws in the first quarter, she has never done that," Miranda texted. "We are a perimeter shooting team, and it made a difference for us. (Americus-Sumter) is a penetrating team, didn't affect them much."
The Panthers had the best shooting night of the tournament at 57.1 percent.
In a story first reported by the Marietta Daily Journal, GHSA personnel said they received their first complaint prior to Saturday night's GHSA Class AAAAAA title game between McEachern and Tucker, although Allatoona boys head coach Markus Hood told the Marietta newspaper that he discussed the situation with officials prior to the boys Class AAAAA final Friday night.
According to National Federation rules, the backboard is supposed to hover over the court, 4 feet from the baseline. GHSA basketball coordinator Ernie Yarbrough told the Marietta Daily Journal that the backboard was "roughly 1 foot farther back," meaning the backboard was about 3 feet away from the baseline, according to that calculation.
The misaligned baskets meant free throws were being taken from around 16 feet instead of 15 and that 3-point shots had to come from nearly 21 feet instead of the customary distance of 19 feet, 9 inches. Also, the reduced space behind the backboard meant less room to drive the baseline, resulting in more plays going out-of-bounds.
Veterans missed many close-in shots and putback attempts.
"No excuse for the missed layups," Miranda texted, reiterating what she said after the game. "But we get our free throws and a handful of outside shots to fall, and who knows? This is inexcusable."
The number of high-percentage shots Veterans missed from start to finish kept Miranda from any concrete proclamations about a different finish.
"While I don't know if it would have changed the outcome, it made a difference in our game plan and strategy," she wrote. "... could have given us a fourth quarter game, and then anything could happen ..."
Even after GHSA staff became involved, the baskets were not adjusted in order to keep the Class AAAAAA games scheduled Saturday night going as close to the published schedule as possible. As it was, the Class AAAAAA boys game tipped off about an hour after its scheduled 8:45 p.m. tip.
"The goals were the same distance into the court at both ends of the floor," GHSA Executive Director Gary Phillips said in the association's statement. "The playing conditions were exactly the same for both teams on the court and for all of the 14 championship games that were played. So I can't see any reason we would consider changing the outcomes.
"Only one coach even mentioned a possible problem, and my basketball staff watched the games closely and did not notice any appreciable effect on the shooting or the play of any of the teams. Some of the teams even shot extremely well from both the floor and the free throw line. But, overall, it looked like typical championship play.
"While this certainly was not an ideal situation or one that we wanted to have happen, we think the conditions were fair for all the teams. And, more importantly, it was the same for all the teams. We have plans to make sure this never happens again, but we have no plans to change anything that happened this week in Macon."
The Macon Coliseum opened in 1968 and has hosted at least some of the GHSA basketball finals every year. It has been the sole championship game host since the 2012-13 season, when the GHSA expanded to seven classifications and moved semifinal games to college campuses.