Fannin County High School Girls Team 1945-46 Biography – 2013 FCSHOF Team Inductees
They are also appropriate words to describe the 1945-46 Fannin County High School (Morganton) girls basketball team, which was selected to the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame.
This great team ran roughshod over 28 consecutive opponents before finally losing to Colquitt High of Miller County in the championship game of the Georgia State Tournament in Macon.
The coach of this great team was Clyde Henry. Henry was born in Fannin County in 1910, was educated in Georgia and prior to World War II taught for many years in the Fannin County school system at Mineral Bluff. When war came to the country, Henry was married and had three young children. Toward the end of the conflict, he moved his family to Akron, Ohio for a short time. His daughter Jean remembers attending school in Akron during her freshman year in high school.
Following the war, Henry returned home where he became principal of Fannin County High School in Morganton for the 1945-46 school year. He also taught a class and took the responsibility of coaching the school basketball teams. He must have realized quickly that he had a very talented group of young ladies on hand to compete for his girls team.
In addition to his athletic young daughter Jean, an upcoming sophomore, he inherited other young outstanding players including Dean Cole, Martha Jane Roberson, Doris Wallace, Blanche Smith, Geneva Smith, Nellie Farmer, Margaret Richards, and Lena Ralston.
He also had a fiery, very competitive young junior redhead named Bunzie Johnson who could defend opposing players like a calendar magnet on a refrigerator door. When he surveyed his prospects, however, Henry must have asked “where’s Bernadine?” Bernadine Heaton, who lived in Mineral Bluff, was the best girls basketball player in the county, maybe the entire state. As it happened, Bernadine had played basketball at Epworth High School during the 1944-45 season. As she describes it, she caught a bus in Mineral Bluff on Monday mornings, traveled to Epworth, where she attended school, played basketball and boarded with an Epworth family all week. Then, at the end of the week, she caught the bus back home to Mineral Bluff.
Undoubtedly, Coach Henry knew that Mineral Bluff was within the province of Fannin County High, so Heaton’s Epworth career came to an end and she donned a Morganton uniform for her senior year of 1945-46. Coach Clyde Henry now had the final piece of the puzzle that would turn a very good team into a great team–namely, a scoring machine named Bernadine Heaton.
For those too young to remember, girls basketball in the mid-40s was a good bit different from the game of today. Each team had 6 players on the court at any time, 3 defensive players on one side of the center line and 3 offensive players on the other side of the center line. It was an infraction for the players to stray across the center line into the other zone. The game began with a center jump and the team getting possession would attempt to score in a 3 against 3 situation.
If the offensive team scored, the ball was brought back to mid-court and given to the opposing team, who would then attempt to score. If a shot was missed, and the defensive team captured the rebound, it was the responsibility of the 3 defensive players to get the ball to the other side of the court to their offensive players–and their route back to mid-court was contested all the way by their opponents.
The starting lineup for the 1945-46 Fannin County team consisted of guards (defensive players) Jean Henry, Blanche Smith and Bunzie Johnson. On the offensive end, the starters were Dean Cole, Martha Jane Roberson and Bernadine Heaton.
Doris Wallace was a capable back-up forward (offensive player) who would go on to star for future teams. Other capable subs were Geneva Smith, Nellie Farmer, Margaret Richards and Lena Ralston.
The final very crucial ‘team’ member was scorekeeper/chaperone/counselor and all-around team supporter, Arkie Cook. Ms. Cook taught English at Fannin County High and was a valuable contributor to the success of the team in many ways. All of the surviving team members speak of her in the fondest of terms.
On the court, the team achieved 28 consecutive victories before losing in the championship game. Along the way, they won the 9th district championship at Gainesville where they defeated the host Lady Red Elephants 49-13 and, in the finals, they defeated Lawrenceville by a score of 39-23.
In the state tournament at Macon, they defeated Jackson High and Glenville before losing to Colquitt in the finals by a score of 37-30.
Bernadine Heaton and Bunzie Johnson were both named to the all-state team.
On a final note, it should not go unnoticed that Georgia high schools in 1945-46 were placed in 3 classifications for athletic and literary competition.
The smallest division, class C, included schools with enrollment of less than 125 students. The largest division, class A, consisted of schools with enrollment of 800 or more students. The middle group, class B, included schools with 125-799 students, an extremely large range.
Morganton was a small school with approximately 200 students, barely enough for class B competition. Their competition, therefore, included many schools that were considerably larger and had a lot more students from which to draw their athletic participants.