By Gabriel Stovall
So I’m getting ready to go to bed so I can be on time for church in the morning, and my ever-popping Twitter feed delivered this gem to me from Atlanta’s own high school hoops guru Kyle Sandy:
— Kyle Sandy (@KyleSandy355) March 5, 2016
And then it started to don on me how terrible the shooting was, particularly from the top of the key and at the free throw line all weekend. Case in point, Jonesboro’s Eric Lovett was an abysmal 1-for-12 in Thursday’s championship game loss to Liberty County.
Now, granted, Liberty’s defense had a lot to do with that, and the way the Panthers played Thursday night, scooting the rims up 12 inches probably wouldn’t have done much to change the game’s outcome. But I remember thinking it strange that Lovett was missing terribly short from the top of the key. In fact, his one made shot and the two or three others that were close were from the corner, or somewhere between the corner and the wing.
But Tariq Jenkins almost airballed a three-pointer toward the end of the game. And the Cardinals were almost cartoonishly bad from the line, especially down the stretch. A normally hot-shooting team shot just 33 percent from the field, 17 percent from behind the arc and 55 percent from the line in Macon. Their season averages? 55 percent, 32 percent and 67 percent respectively. Now, again, lest you think I’m just trying to be a homer, maybe you should take a gander at this little nugget from @AJCSports:
State championship games played on non-regulation baskets https://t.co/gshN4wcHQ5
— AJC Sports (@AJCsports) March 6, 2016
It basically says the backboards that the state championship games were played on were non-regulation, being a full foot further back than they’re supposed to be, which explains the fact that virtually nobody in the three days of championship hoops action shot very well at all, particularly from the aforementioned spots on the floor.
In fact, only one team — Greenforest boys — shot better than 40 percent from the field on Saturday, according to the AJC article.
Now it’s one thing for someone to get the backboard mark offs wrong. Maybe someone had a long day. Maybe it was just a simple mistake. What wasn’t a mistake, however, is the way the GHSA handled it.
According to several reports, including the Marietta Daily Journal which broke the story, GHSA officials were notified of the issue and decided that the hour long time frame to fix it and create proper playing conditions wasn’t worth it.
Consider this, perhaps, the straw that breaks the camel’s back for many a sportswriter, coach and fan who have bemoaned having to come to the Macon Centreplex to play these games for the last few years.
This isn’t the only irritant present at the old barn, either. When you consider the ancient dank, smelly appearance, severely outdated concession areas, the nonexistent Wi-Fi and the fact that parts of the basketball court’s surface is actually splitting apart, perhaps someone should alert the GHSA of the obvious — that it’s time for a venue change.
I’m sure that there are plenty of logistics involved that are currently unknown to me. But it’s hard to believe that the GHSA truly has the best interests of the student-athletes and their championship game experience in mind when the organization ignores the glaring issues inherent in allowing the Centreplex to host this event each year.
But hey, at least they’re well-stocked with grumpy old guys badgering every media person who walks in by questioning the validity of their press passes. Talk about having your priorities in place.
Between such venues as the Gwinnett Arena, Philips Arena, Georgia Tech’s Hank McCamish Pavilion and the Georgia State Sports Arena, you can’t possibly convince me that the Centreplex is the answer.
If you want to keep it in Middle Georgia, head over to Mercer’s Hawkins Arena. Heck, McIntosh High School’s gym or the facilities at a place like Norcross would even be preferable — yes, I would rather cramp out a smallish high school gym than to continue being in a place like that Centreplex.
So while I’m not sure exactly what the “something” is, it’s obvious that something different must be done. Some other solution must be employed.
Some people already are suggesting to crown co-champions or vacate wins. I don’t know if that’s the answer. In the throes of competition, the kids playing their hearts out on the court didn’t know any better. They were just competing, and it’s impossible to predict whether or not losing teams would’ve won under proper conditions. I’d hate to see asterisks placed next to the names of some of these schools’ titles because of the GHSA’s inexcusable gaff.
My solution? Bug the heck out of GHSA to make them say something or do something in response to this other than an empty, corporate-sounding statement “apology.” It needs to be specifically addressed, complete with action steps that will ensure a venue change for 2017 and accountability measures that prevent such a sizable error from being repeated.
But to not address these problems either during or after this year’s tournament would go along way in sullying GHSA’s reputation — a reputation that many say has already been sullied enough.