From the Archives: Taking a journey through the AHS Pantherettes’ historic 1966 basketball season
Published 8:37 am Friday, June 3, 2016
By MICHAEL MURRAY
Editor’s Note: Here at the Americus Times-Recorder, we’re very proud of our area’s rich history of sporting excellence.
Our readers will remember that we recently ran two series of articles on a pair of the Americus High School (AHS) Panthers’ historic football seasons.
Due to the overwhelmingly positive response that we received to these series, we have decided to take off on another journey down memory lane to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the AHS Pantherettes basketball team’s sweep of the state championship tournament, which left the AHS ladies at the top of the Georgia heap with an impressive 22-1 record on the season.
The Pantherettes wrapped up their season, earning the state crown on March 5, 1966.
Almost exactly 50 years later (49 years and 364 days, to be precise), the Americus-Sumter High School women’s basketball team, now dubbed the Lady Panthers, went on to duplicate this feat, earning the state title with a victory over the Veterans High School Lady War Eagles.
But, we’re getting way ahead of ourselves here…
Let’s take a look at our archives and see what we can find out about this epic season on the hardwood.
The Monday, November 29, 1966 edition of the Times-Recorder contained a good bit of exciting news for local sports fans; some readily apparent and some just beginning to bear fruit.
The edition’s sports section was dominated by an article titled, “Panthers to face Commerce Saturday night for title”, which detailed the anticipation of the upcoming Americus High School (AHS) Panthers football team’s state championship match-up against the Commerce Tigers.
The Times-Recorder’s readers are likely aware that the Panthers went on to crush the Tigers and cinch the state gridiron crown in a fitting end to an incredibly impressive season, but that’s not what we’re here to talk about today.
Nestled in the corner of that same edition’s sports page, is an article titled, “Americus cagers open season at home tonight at 7”, detailing the opening of AHS’ basketball season.
Unbeknownst to many local sports fans, this unassuming article signaled the beginning of another wild and exciting ride, as the ASH women’s basketball team, the Pantherettes, would soon show them.
Over the next three months, the Pantherettes would prove to their competition that Americus High School was far more than just a one-trick pony. The AHS ladies would go on to earn yet another state championship trophy for the school after plowing their way through their competition en route to a state title and a 22-1 record on the season.
The aforementioned article didn’t contain a byline, though judging by the writing style, it was most likely penned by the Times-Recorder’s sports editor at the time, Clarence Graddick.
Americus cagers open season at home tonight at 7
In the article, Graddick wrote, “The 1965-66 basketball season will soon get underway for Americus high here Tuesday night at the Americus gym at 7 o’clock with the Schley County teams as the first opponents.”
The Americus boys will be without their coach and about 10 players due to the state championship football game to be played in Commerce Saturday night…” Graddick continued. “Coach Melvin Kinslow is in better shape for the girls’ game as he lost no players from last year’s squad by graduation. The Americus girls were undefeated in region play last season and won 22 straight games, finishing second to Brooks County in sub-region play…
“Coach Kinslow has 20 players back from last year’s squad and also will have four others dressed out for the opener but there are several players that will be pushing the starters as the season progresses.
“This is particularly true with the guards as Coach Kinslow says there six at near equal strength. He has named Sherrell Bailey, Pam Tyler, and Sandra Belcher for Tuesday. The other three that will see plenty of service and possibly break into the starting line-up are Diane Cripe, Irene Manning, and Patsy Hathaway.”
Graddick went on to list many other players that would go on to have a huge impact as the season progressed, including Fay Jordan, Marilyn Reeves, June Parker, Marjorie Posey, Cynthia Parker, Fay Arrington, Claudia Neal, Charlene Wall, Jeanne Posey, Deborah Mason, Jean Turpin, Linda Athon, Linda Montgomery, and Jerri Keene, who had recently been sidelined with a knee injury.
Of course, the Americus ladies went on to defeat neighboring Schley County in the season opener by a margin of 70-49.
“Kinslow used 24 girls in the game as he saw his veteran team, coached in preseason practice by Larry Prestridge, move out to an early lead over the visitors,” Graddick wrote in the Dec. 1, 1965 edition of the Times-Recorder in an article titled, “Americus girls win, Boys lose to Schley”.
“Americus… held a 36-17 lead at half-time and increased the lead to 21 points during the final half,” he began. “Deborah Mason was the big gun in the attack with 38 points while last year’s leading scorer, Jeanne Posey, was hitting for 18 points. Coach Kinslow began substituting early and with Posey in foul trouble, Mason stayed in to steady the younger players. Cheryl McCall led the visitors with 27 points and Shirley Stuckey added 14.”
The Americus teams were forced to cancel games that Friday night and Saturday night with Macon County and Terrell County due to the football team’s scheduled title game. The Pantherettes wouldn’t see more action until a week later, when they faced off against Union High School, of Leslie.
Be sure to visit us next week as we continue our exploration into this exciting chapter in local sports history, as the Pantherettes continue to expand their impressive streak and make their way to the top.