The 2016-17 Class AAA basketball season is in the books, and with so many highs, it’s hard to focus on a low.
But this low was really low.
It happened in the girls semifinal game at Armstrong Atlantic in Savannah, when Greater Atlanta Christian lost a point that kept the Lady Spartans from the championship game.
The Beach Lady Bulldogs eventually defeated Johnson-Savannah in the title game, and no one can ever take that away. Beach's 59-44 defeat of Johnson is in the books, and is, by most accounts, official. There is no question as to whether Beach won the championship game.
But should Beach have been in the championship game in the first place? A review of the game film and a tweet from the GHSA seem to suggest otherwise.
To set the stage, Beach leads GAC 28-24 with 4:04 remaining in the third quarter. GAC guard Taylor Sutton makes two free throws to cut the Beach lead to 28-26. Correct? Well, sort of.
After the score, Beach fails to inbound the ball, and a turnover ensues.
GAC regained possession, and three seconds later, Sutton took a 3-point shot. As the ball was in the air, the score on NFHS’s broadcast changed from 28-26 to 28-25. After Sutton’s 3-pointer was good, the score showed the game tied at 28. It's worth noting that the free-throws and the 3-pointer were not recorded in the official book. (see attached)
It was apparent that GAC should be ahead by one point, 29-28. But that wasn't the case.
At the end of regulation the teams were tied at 46. Beach controlled the overtime to win 56-47.
The GHSA tweeted Tuesday after the game that it “recognizes that a possible scoring error may have occurred.” But for GAC, there was no recourse. GHSA rules stipulate that once a game is signed and in the books, there is no avenue for appeals.
The telecast showed GAC coach Lady Grooms approaching the scoring table multiple times between the third and fourth quarters in an effort to correct the mistake, but she was not successful. The officials did take time to make sure the official book matched the scoreboard, which it did, so the game continued. The problem is, both were wrong and GAC got shorted because of a book-keeping and score-keeping error.
Nobody said the job of keeping the book and the clock is easy, and there have been times in GHSA history where basketball teams lost because of similar mistakes. But with a new administration coming on board in Thomaston, having experienced officials on the books and scoreboard during the neutral-site playoffs should be a top priority.
On the boy’s side, Pace Academy did what most had expected. The Knights defeated defending Class AAA champion Morgan County 54-46 to win their second consecutive championship title after winning the Class AA trophy last season.
Wendell Carter Jr, a 6-foot-10 Duke signee, led the Knights to victory. Carter finished his career at Pace with 20 points and 17 rebounds in the title game.
After the game, Carter told the AJC’s Stan Awtrey, “It’s been a goal and I’m getting a little emotional. It is my last high school game, and we went out with a bang.”
The “bang” Carter mentioned was nothing new. The Knights, who were riding a 17-game winning streak, were the clear favorite.