Garner Girls Basketball

Garner girls basketball players of the 1950s reunite

tstevens@newsobserver.comJune 3, 2014 

— They played Garner High School basketball when jerseys had short sleeves and were made of shiny satin.

The game they were allowed to play seems foreign today. They were limited to one or two dribbles. Blocked shots were fouls and they were forced to play at one end of the court or the other.

They were not allowed to play full-court basketball, because the popular thought of the period was that athletics might be bad for girls. At the time, girls were encouraged to learn etiquette – not layups.

The girls basketball players of the 1950s returned to Garner on May 17 for their first reunion.

They came from as far away as Seattle, Wash., to renew friendships and talk about when the Garner Rams girls basketball teams were among the best in the district.

There were no state championships when they played from the fall of 1949 through the spring of 1960. They never really had a chance to show how good they really were.

But the buzz at the Garner Lion’s Clubhouse was much more about catching up than on speculating on what might have been.

They reminisced about the night Addie Bridges scored 104 points in a 109-70 victory over Fuquay, before it was Fuquay-Varina. They talked about their coaches – Sally Broughton Lentz, Cerena Yelton, Marie Welch, James Stevens, Dorothy Merritt, John Stewart and Henry Liles, all deceased.

A bell was rung for each of the coaches along with the 17 former club members who have passed.

Barbara Kelly, a star in the mid-50s and later an inaugural member of the Garner Magnet Hall of Fame, helped organize the reunion.

Kelly coached the first women’s basketball team at the University of Virginia and guided its women’s athletics programs for years. The reunion became a priority when she retired and returned home to Garner.

She and the committee tracked down the members of the 10 teams and invited them to gather a few blocks from the old school, which now houses the Garner Performing Arts Center.

They’ve scattered now, living in Virginia, Tennessee, South Carolina, Florida and throughout North Carolina.

Pansie Cameron Evers flew in from Seattle to see the old crew. It meant that much to hear.

They laughed and renewed old friendships and wondered where all the years had gone. There’s a bond that has not been severed by the passing of the years.

Steven: 919-829-8910

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