The 1945-46 Dudley Basketball Teams
It was a time when hardly anyone could dunk a basketball, a time when guards on the girl’s team had to stay back at their end of the court. The war years were tough on everyone. There wasn’t a whole lot of money to be spent on fun. Some kids were lucky enough to have battery-powered radios with long antenna wires, which were hung on tall poles or trees in the front yard. On Tuesday, Friday and some Saturday nights from November to early March, there was basketball. In the days before there were state championships in high school sports, the Holy Grail of high school basketball in rural counties were the County Championships. Nearly every community still had their own school. Rivalries were often intense, but were frequently friendly, not filled with some of the unsportsmanlike ferocity of today’s rivalries. From Lovett to Cedar Grove to Dudley, the highlight of the school year was basketball. The winter of 1946 was no exception.
One of the top teams of the late 1940s were the teams from Dudley High School. The kids had little time to work on their game. Many of them were farm kids, and chores demanded priority over basketball practice. Still, years before they were penned as the Cardinals, the boys and girls from Dudley dominated other Laurens County teams, all without the luxury of having a true basketball coach.
You see in those days, schools were hampered by tight budgets and were compelled to have sponsors accompany the team at home and on the road. Sometimes a school got lucky when the teacher knew a lot about the game. The boy’s sponsor at Dudley was vocational education teacher, Troy Edwards, while the girls were sponsored by the home economics teacher, Mrs. G.S. Crews.
The girl’s team was led by the Hogan sisters, Betty Ann and Barbara, both crack shooters. Winnie Mae Raffield was the third starting forward. Keeping the other girls away from the Dudley basket was more than adequately handled by starting guards Grace Willis, Delores Lister and Mary Radney. Substituting for the starters were Catherine Woodard, Kate Willis, Ann Radney and Celestine Barfoot.
The boys were led by center and high scorer Billy Crafton. You know him as Don Crafton, long time president and CEO of Morris State Bank. “Billy” was a name penned on the lanky center by his grandfather. Starting at forward were Don Haskins and Captain Fisher Barfoot, a future vice president of Piggly Wiggly Southern, community leader and Georgia state representative. Tom Brown and Mike White started at guard for the boys. Coming off the bench to spark rallies or preserve a victory were substitutes Billy Kibler, Atys Bowles, Rabon Lord, Roy J. Chappell and Rowell Stanley.
During the 1945-6 season, Dudley played Laurens County teams from Rentz, Cadwell, Condor, Brewton, Cedar Grove, Lowery, Wilkes, and Dublin High School. Road trips were fairly short with games against Soperton, Jeffersonville, Irwinton, Wrightsville, Toomsboro and Cochran. Among the stiffest competition the Dudley boys faced that year were the boys from Condor High School. The eastside young men lost only one game during the regular season, that coming at the hands of Dudley, and suffered a stunning and fatal loss in the county tournament.
It wasn’t until the 194os that most schools had gymnasiums. Prior to that, many schools were forced to compete on dirt courts enduring unfavorable winter conditions. Don Crafton remembered, “Basketball was king. People lined the walls of the wooden gymnasiums to root for their teams. Gymnasiums were heated mostly by large pot-bellied wood-burning stoves.”
Perhaps the most exciting regular season game came on a cold Tuesday night in the Condor gym. A mistake in the scheduling forced the teams to shorten the quarters to five minutes each. At the end of the first quarter the girls were tied 4-4.
Dudley held on to garner a highly spirited 23-12 victory over the Condor girls. The boys game was much closer and even lower scoring than the girls game. In a slow downed game, the Dudley boys defeated the highly touted Condor five 13-9, ten of those points coming from center Don Crafton.
In much more satisfying games, the Dudley teams smashed the hoopsters from Wrightsville. Betty Ann Hogan, the team’s leading scorer for the season, poured in 26 of her teams 33 points in a 33-7 romp. Don Crafton contributed 18 points and Tom Brown another 15 points in a 54-14 stomp of the Johnson County
Dudley’s closest rivals were the teams from Dexter, Cadwell and Rentz. The teams were so well balanced that the outcome of games were virtually never certain. With another 20-point night, Betty Ann Hogan led the girls over nearby Rentz, 28-21. The Dudley boys struggled, but with a dozen points from Crafton, managed to eek out a 28-27 come from behind road victory over Rentz.
In those days, Dublin was included on Dudley’s schedule, even though their school was much bigger and was the only school in the county to have a football team. Near the end of the season the teams met at the Hargrove Gym on North Calhoun Street. The Dudley girls defeated the girls from Dublin by a whopping margin of 38 to 15, with Betty Hogan putting 30 points on the board. The boys game was tied at the half, 18-18. Tom Brown scored 15 points and Fisher Barfoot added 12 more as the Dudley five defeated the Dublin five 39-38.
The highlight of the season was the Laurens County Basketball Tournament in February. Tom Brown led the Dudley boys with 21 points in a 55-20 smashing of Cedar Grove on the second night of the tournament, which was held at Brewton High School. In the semi-final games, the Dudley girls easily defeated the Brewton six by the score of 34-13. As usual, Betty Ann Hogan topped the scoring list with 20 points. Tom Brown led the boys again matching the entire Brewton teams total in a 39-15 smashing.
In the county championship, both Dudley teams faced the hard charging teams from Rentz. In a close game, the Dudley girls pulled away in the 4th quarter to register a 40-27 championship victory. The boys game was much closer, too close for the nervous fans of both teams. During the entire game, the teams remained within four points of each other. When the final buzzer sounded, Dudley sneaked by Rentz in a hard-fought 25-24 victory to capture the school’s second county championship.
Both teams advanced to the District tournament. The Dudley boys defeated Sandersville in the first game and Dublin in the semifinals, only to lose to a more powerful team from Cochran in the finals. The girls captured the district title, bringing home first place trophies in the county and the district. The team’s four trophies and many similar ones were tragically lost in a fire a few years later. The highlight of the district tournament was the naming of Betty Ann Hogan to the All-District team. For decades after she graduated high school, people asked her if she was the young girl who was such a great basketball player for Dudley.
In today’s basketball world, basketball in March is called “March Madness.” A half century ago it would have been better termed “March Sadness.” The end of the county and district tournaments signaled the end of the game until the return of winter and a void in the lives of the kids who depended on the game. To some, basketball was all they had.