Mark Bradley

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Macon no sense: Hoops for state title tilts were wrong

From the state where the flagship university once offered a class in basketball that posed the exam question, "How many points is a 3-point shot worth?", comes now another hoops stumper: How far from the rim is the free-throw line?

At every level of basketball above the kiddie leagues, the answer is supposed to be, "Fifteen feet." In the 14 high school state championship games staged over the weekend at the Macon Centreplex, the answer was ...

Not 15 feet.

On Sunday, the Georgia High School Association offered this tepid mea culpa :

"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 Centerplex. 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."

Translation: Sorry, not sorry.

From GHSA executive director Gary Phillips. “The playing conditions were exactly the same for both teams on the court ... 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.'

What the heck happened? As GHSA coordinator of basketball Ernie Yarbrough told John Bednarowski of the Marietta Daily Journal: The basket supports at both ends of the court were situated so that the front of the rims were three feet inside the baseline . The prescribed distance: Four feet.

From Michael A. Lough and Ron Seibel of the Macon Telegraph: " 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."

Given that the Macon Coliseum -- this also according to the Telegraph -- "opened in 1968 and has hosted at least some of the GHSA finals every year," you'd think basket positioning would be a given. But no. And that's not the worst part.

From the Daily Journal:  "Yarbrough went on to say that the GHSA was made aware of the issue Saturday afternoon, but because the tournament was already behind schedule, there were no plans to fix it. He said it would take about an hour to move the stanchions into the proper place."

Bottom line: The baskets for 14 games -- and not just ordinary games but championship games -- were out of position but the GHSA decided that keeping to its already-blown schedule was more important than righting the wrong. (As the Telegraph archly noted: "The Class AAAAAA boys game tipped off about an hour after its scheduled 8:45 p.m. tip.")

"Typical championship play," the GHSA director called it.

From David Purdum of the AJC: "The eight teams in the first four (championship) games shot 129 of 232 (55.6 percent) from the free-throw line."

I wish I had something profound here, but I have only two words, borrowed from the late Al McGuire: Holy mackerel.

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About the Author

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has been with the AJC since 1984.