WJBF EXTRA: Forgotten Champions - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken

WJBF EXTRA: Forgotten Champions

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By Randy Key

For decades, the dust on their gym floor is the only reminder they have. Until now, they have kept silent.

These faces are just 3 of the 12 girls...now grown women...who won the GIA Class A state basketball championship in 1958.

"I got so teary-eyed when I came and looked at the place," said Bonnie Moore Judd.

"It's just the atmosphere, when you walk in, it just all comes back," said Martha Lawrence Mitchell.

"Yes!" Bonnie added.

For Christine, Bonnie and Martha...the memories are crystal clear.

"I still remember it like it was yesterday. I can still see us out here - still hear him hollering, 'Let's go Bonnie!" said Bonnie.

"I don't even know if I was in my body when it happened. I was just so excited," said Christine Quarterman.

"We really worked hard to earn this, and after it was over, that was it...that was it," said Martha.

Half a century ago, they were the Emanuel County Elementary and High School Rattlers. They were Region 2A Champions...and they have the trophy to prove it.

Weeks later, the Rattlers made more noise in their gym in Swainsboro when they beat Cuthbert for the state crown.

"That was really something... To win a district and a state championship in the same year. That was an honor," said Christine.

These women know it happened...they were there. But, in the midst of integration in the 1970s, their state title trophy vanished...Emanuel County became Swainsboro High School.

"So all our memorablia and trophies and everything we had were discarded. So our memories were kind of wiped out," said Bonnie.

"That was a great achievement for any child. Just to lose the trophies - that hurts," said Martha.

"That hurts me because we cannot find it, we don't know where it is, we don't know what happened to it. Now that would be something that would last a lifetime that we would be able to show," said Christine.

Merissa Lynn, reporting: "With the ladies state championship trophy nowhere to be found, this gym is the only thing left standing from that memorable night in March of 1958."

"Nobody could find anything. And, I'm like, 'You discarded our memories, you don't have anything of us. Our children don't even know about us.' We wanted something to tell them about, you know?" said Bonnie.

There is not one article or picture to be found that would prove these women won a state championship 54 years ago.

"It was like to us, since we didn't get no recognition, it didn't happen. You understand where I'm coming from? It's like it just didn't happen," said Christine.

"I can't ever figure out why... I really can't. I just had to put it behind me and move on," said Martha.

To date, there is no record of the Rattlers win. They were the 1958 Georgia Interscholastic Association Class A girls basketball champions...a blank spot in the GHSA's history books...because even they having nothing but these women's word of mouth to go by.

For decades, these former Rattlers have told their story to their friends and to their children.

"Each time you see a game, on our television or anywhere, ya know, it brings it back. Man, we did that! You see how they are recognizing the kids and everything. Nobody did that for us. It's something that we carried all these years," said Martha.

They've used their words to depict a night where the whole town of Swainsboro was watching them, and only them.

"There was so much noise. We cut the nets down off the rims. I don't think I realized what had really happened until the next day," said Christine.

"They were bamming on the bleachers, and screaming. Oh, it did your heart good to see that," said Bonnie.

"We loved basketball. We loved each other. That's how our team got to the point it did," said Martha.

It's how they kept their story alive for all these years...love...their love for the game and their love for each other is how this story will live on for years to come.

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