Georgia State Basketball Tournaments
To your left are links to view a list of schools, historic brackets, and a handful of rankings and all-state teams.
The Georgia Interscholastic Athletic Association (GIAA) first organized a state basketball tournament in 1922. The brackets were a mix of high schools and prep schools. Lanier of Macon hoisted the inaugural crown. Participants were limited to members of the GIAA, which was a small league throughout its history.
The Georgia High School Association (GHSA) stepped into the title picture in 1926. Twelve district champions and 12 runners-up were invited to the festivities held at Woodruff Hall at the University of Georgia. The districts were simple enough to create, as the GHSA borrowed the boundary lines of Georgia's congressional districts - a number that would drop to 10 in the early 1930s. The first tournaments were of a single classification until 1934, when classes B and C were created. Class D, whose schools were all accredited two-year high schools (through 9th grade - Georgia schools would only add 12th grade in the late 1940s/early 1950s), crowned champions from 1937-1941. The classification was apparently dropped as wartime meant that fewer schools could afford to play in tournaments or even stay open.
Georgia became one of the first states to hold a girls' tournament, the first champions anointed in 1945. Like the boys, the GHSA crowned B and C champs. Unlike the boys, the girls played a three-on-three game. These rules would stay in effect until 1971, when rovers were instituted as a means to gradually update the game, as two rovers per team could cross the center line. Rovers were abandoned in 1976, as the boys and girls games became equals in the rulebook.
The GIAA and GHSA reached a basketball cooperation in 1950. The GIAA had been officially/unofficially Class A over the years, but would spend a few years co-sponsoring Class AA. AA and A were new full GHSA classifications, competition open to boys and girls squads. Class AAA for boys and girls was added for the 1957 tournament.
In 1951, Governor Herman Talmadge and the state introduced the Minimum Foundation Program. Partly an integration deterrant, mostly an attempt to improve education for everyone, the Program provided bonds to school systems. The Program heavily put pressure on small high schools to consolidate, as bigger schools meant better offerings. As nearly every county was substandard - and broke - Georgia's high schools went through massive changes during the 1950s. Of the 18 different schools participating in 1945's Class C tournament, 15 would close by 1960. None are open today.
While the GHSA hosted tournaments, another organization in Georgia was doing the same. However, it did not receive its due because of an unfair system mixed with prejudice and in some cases - fear.
African-American schools had been active in sports for as long as their segregated neighbors. Newspaper coverage, though, is sketchy. The first known organized state tournament attempt was hosted by the State High School Association (SHSA), who held boys tournaments from at least 1937-1940. They or another organization kept up with the tournaments through 1948, then the GIA began hosting its own.
The Georgia Interscholastic Association sprouted out of the Big Seven Conference. The Big Seven was comprised of the biggest African-American schools in the state and included Washington of Atlanta, Ballard of Macon, and Spencer of Columbus. The first GIA tournaments crowned champions in 1948. For most of its duration, the GIA crowned champs for four classifications: Class AA, A, B, and C. Their tournaments received considerably less press attention.
Ernest Vandiver began integration of Atlanta's public high schools in 1961. Most of the rest of the GHSA public schools began gradual integration (through the Freedom of Choice plan) in the mid-1960s. In 1966, the GHSA admitted a handful of all black schools. Athletics would immediately benefit.
In 1967, coach Hal Scott of Savannah admitted in the newspaper articles that his boys team wasn't the best in the state. He went as far as to say that his squad wasn't even the best in Savannah. He felt that honor belonged to Beach. Russell Ellington's Bulldogs had been a dominant team in the GIA over the past several years. Beach roared in its three tournament games, knocking fellow former GIA mate South Fulton in the finals, 94-55. The GIA's athletes played second fiddle to no one.
The 1970s saw several teams capture streaks of titles, the evolution of the girls game and shifted classifications. Class C was dropped in 1972. Class B bit the dust after the 1978 tournament, but with Class AAAA added and teams shifted in accordance. The next decade saw a first and only in tournament history. The Class AAA boys crowned was ordered forfeited, as Rockdale County admitted to using an academically ineligible substitute. The academic rule had only been instituted statewide a few years earlier.
In 1973, the GHSA evened up the field for all tournaments. In previous years, eight, ten, twelve, or sixteen teams made up the field, but no set number existed for all classifications. Sixteen became the staple, a number that was doubled to 32 in 1999. The tournaments of 2001 saw a new class - AAAAA - added as schools continued to grow larger.