GARNER — The Madness is over, at least for Garner.
After storming through the Sandhills Region to the Final Four, Garner fell a few votes short of Concord in the semi-finals of the N.C. League of Municipalities’ Hometown Showdown competition on Facebook.
Less than 200 votes separated the top three Final Four vote-getters, with Garner’s opponent Concord leading the way with nearly 1,400 votes. Garner cleared 1,200 votes, just behind a Bessemer City effort that trumped Holden Beach and got it to the finals against Concord.
The bracket-style contest combined two hot commodities in the region: social media and basketball.
Facebook users were able to visit the League’s page, where they could cast a vote by liking a photograph that represented their favorite town.
The contest drew a spirited effort by town leaders to get out the vote as town staff used their own social media tools to promote Garner’s particpation in the program.
Featuring a photo of Garner mayor Ronnie Williams with Garner native and American Idol winner Scotty McCreery, the town eased through the early rounds of the competition.
Garner tore out of the gate against Holly Springs in the first round of the 32-city tournament before a tough match-up with Clayton.
Despite trailing very early on in the second round, Garner more than doubled Clayton’s vote total. The regional final against Wallace also proved a lopsided affair that put Garner into last week’s bout with Concord.
A population of about 80,000 makes Concord, a town located outside of Charlotte, about triple the size of Garner. Bessemer City, the other finalist, is also a Charlotte-area suburb – located northwest of Gastonia – with a population of less than 6,000.
The winner of the competition will be announced April 7, in conjunction with the NCAA men’s basketball championship.
Unfortunately, there won’t be any local competitors in either championship.
Jahner: 919-829-4822; Twitter: @garnercleveland