Ron Seibel

Wilkinson County has Georgia small-town basketball locked down

Head coach Aaron Geter, center, and Wilkinson County celebrate their GHSA Class 1A public school boys basketball championship victory Wednesday in Athens.
Head coach Aaron Geter, center, and Wilkinson County celebrate their GHSA Class 1A public school boys basketball championship victory Wednesday in Athens.

Wednesday afternoon at Stegeman Coliseum, Aaron Geter saw his Wilkinson County boys basketball team take a victory lap around the basketball court, GHSA championship trophy held high.

For the ninth time in 18 years, Wilkinson County won a state title. It’s an incredible run, one that only a few programs have come close to matching in recent years. Miller Grove comes close, winning six in seven seasons, but that team was knocked out in the semifinals this year.

“I’m just excited for these kids,” Geter said. “They worked hard all year and went through a lot of adversity, but at the end of the day they figured out a way to get it done. I’m excited for them.”

The intense brand of basketball Geter runs at Wilkinson County has proven quite successful, especially since the GHSA created separate public and private school championships for small schools in the past five years.

When Wilkinson County won its first state title in 1999, there were just four classifications. Wilkinson County’s tournament trail that year: Metter, Turner County, Holy Innocents and East Laurens. Three of those four teams would play in separate brackets if that tournament were held today, with Metter and East Laurens shifting to Class 2A and Holy Innocents moving to Class 1A private.

Wilkinson County repeated in 2000, then the Warriors won the Class 2A title in 2002 before returning to Class 1A for its next title in 2007.

After one more open Class 1A title in 2011, Wilkinson County took its dominance to another level when Class 1A public and private schools were given separate tournaments. The Warriors have won four of five Class 1A public school tournaments, the lone miss coming two years ago when the Warriors dropped a close quarterfinal contest to rival Hancock Central.

Some would say the extra classifications have watered down the quality of postseason basketball. And while I agree that there are too many classifications in the GHSA outside of football — I’d do four, keeping the public-private split for smaller schools along with two larger, open classifications — it’s still no mean feat to finish on the championship line of a state tournament bracket nine times in 18 years.

“When you talk about Wilkinson County, particularly under the guidance of David Moore when he got it going, there’s just a solid foundation for basketball,” Geter said, referring to a program that traces its roots to the former T.C. Calhoun High School, which won three Georgia Interscholastic Association titles in the late 1960s just prior to integration. “There’s only been four head coaches in Wilkinson County, and we talk about that with our kids. We really try to represent what those guys got started in the ’60s. They work hard every day to try to maintain and try to put their building block in that foundation.”

Geter is fully intent to keep things going. The ninth title places him second all-time among GHSA boys basketball head coaches, and four more titles would tie him with the legendary Selby Buck, who led Lanier to 13 titles from the 1920s to the early 1950s.

“Yes, sir,” Geter told a television reporter after Wednesday’s game if he was going to keep going as a basketball coach. “If the board will let me come back. I have to ask for permission every year.”

Geter, of course, is also the county school superintendent, so there were some laughs from those standing in the Stegeman Coliseum hallway listening in on the interview, as well as from Geter himself.

Nobody in Wilkinson County is going to take basketball away from Geter. In a school where there have only been four boys basketball head coaches, those in charge stick with what works.

And for the past two decades, no small school in Georgia is better when it comes to high school basketball than Wilkinson County.

Ron Seibel: 478-744-4222, @RonSeibel