Women’s basketball has changed significantly over the years.
There have been rule changes, the number of players on the floor at one time and their roles and after five-on-five became established, the sport has revolutionized in its athletic ability.
Gamesmanship has gone up considerably. When girls basketball went to rovers in the fall of 1970 in Georgia high school ball, there were many mentions of how exactly this would work out. Many coaches felt they only had one or two players capable of playing both ends of the floor (two rovers crossed the center line). Rovers went out in 1975. Today, of course, all teams have five players who have to go end to end.
Quality of play is better, but there is something missing from the era of forwards on one end and guards on the other: crazy stats.
It was not unheard of for forwards to average 30 or more points per game in six-on-six.
Plenty of factors went into that. On the floor at any given time were just three scoring options. Foul shots were more plentiful, even without a bonus situation and if a guard was fouled, a forward took the shot.
Three guards were responsible for three forwards, which nearly always meant one-on-one guarding. If you double teamed one forward, it was really obvious in a hurry that a teammate was completely unguarded.
Forwards tended not to foul much. She’s not guarding anyone and because of a lack of unlimited dribble, it was more difficult to be in a charging situation. Most forward fouls were picked up on rebounds or loose balls. If you tended not to play under the goal, it was certainly possible to go through a 25-game season with just five of the violations.
These rules of play could make for some very prolific scorers. On rare occasion, a player existed who pushed that even further.
On January 21, 1964, Red Bud’s Freda Hunt scored 86 points at Gilmer in a 92-25 victory. Hunt had 34 field goals in the contest and was 18-of-24 from the free throw line. By quarters, she had 24, 16, 24 and 22 points.
A sharpshooter, Hunt likely would rank high on the state’s all-time scoring list (if one could ever be compiled), if not the leader. Eighty-six in 1964 shattered the school scoring record, which had been 58. As a senior in 1964-65, Hunt had at least two other 50-point performances.
It was mentioned in the Gilmer article* that Hunt was now Georgia’s single-game scoring leader for girls, breaking the record of 71 set earlier in the season. That player, Vivian Dixon of Warner Robins, scored 71 against Moultrie in a 103-35 decision December 13, 1963. (And in a portion which makes one wonder if someone at Moultrie ticked off Warner Robins head coach Sidney White, Dixon was said to have scored 34 points in the fourth quarter.)
Dixon, however, did not own the single game record.
The 1963-64 season was quite the year for amazing scoring performances.
Three weeks before Dixon scorched the nets for 71, Greensboro’s Judy Hodnett scored 75 against Glascock County. The Augusta Chronicle printed infrequent recaps from Greensboro in this era, but this game seems to have escaped it and everyone else, save for Greensboro’s local Herald-Journal, which broadcast it on the front page.
Unlike Hunt and unlike Dixon, Hodnett played only three quarters. The Tigerettes won the game, 86-26. The paper did not break down her scoring totals.
So Hunt’s closest competitor seems to have been Hodnett. However, Dixon had not been No. 1, Hodnett was bested by Hunt and Hunt as it turns out, did not hold the scoring record either.
We shall never have the complete scoring records of Georgia high school basketball players. Girls’ basketball was always active, even if the state did not allow state tournaments until 1945. There were and are too many schools, too many years. There have been too many closures and record-keeping does not always interest a coach. Scorebooks are lost, scorebooks may not make it to every game. Box scores, rare in print now, never covered 100 percent of games or schools. In short, it is impossible.
Given this, it is not a stretch in the slightest that no one at Red Bud ever heard of Judy Hodnett. Greensboro seems to be the only paper who published the 75-point game. It is even less a stretch that no one knew of Dot Bunn.
Bunn may be the single game scoring leader. She may not be.
Her 100 points in 1933 for Waresboro High, though, is a tough one to outdo.
Bunn may have topped her sister. The website Women’s Basketball Pioneers, credited her sibling, Eloise Bunn, with 83 points in 1930-31. The Waycross Journal-Herald for that year has not been researched. Eloise does have some games mentioned in papers such as the Macon Telegraph, but this particular stat has not popped up in any of them.
Dot was the youngest of the Bunn sisters, who lived in the community of Bickley. Besides Eloise, Vivian starred for Waresboro, too. When Dot, whose proper name was Dorothy, put 100 through the net against Woodbine on February 17, 1933, Vivian was in attendance. She had married their head coach Jake Lankford and served as the team’s statistician.
In the 1930s, Waresboro was a dynamic program under Lankford. Pre-classifications, teams were divided into congressional districts. Waresboro was a larger school in Ware County, but not the size of Waycross and not the size of Valdosta, which it also played.
Known as the Dragons or the Purples, Waresboro rolled through at least two straight undefeated seasons (1931-33) and made it look easy.
On February 2, 1933, the Journal-Herald published a cumulative list of Waresboro scores for the season.
- Pearson 34-13
The rest of the season went like this:
- Nahunta 38-12
Blackshear 63-5 (district)
Valdosta 46-21 (district)
Sparks-Adel 34-22 (district semifinals)
Wacona 38-13 (district finals)
Valdosta is the sole decision within 10 points, a tooth-and-nail road contest. As mentioned, Woodbine is the 100-point game.
Before we look at Woodbine, there needs to be some understanding of what was going on in girls’ basketball.
The six-on-six game with its three forwards on one end and three guards on the other, could fuel scoring sprees. Six-on-six was extremely modern compared to what Dot Bunn played.
In Bunn’s time, there were not just two sections of basketball court, there were three. There were forwards, guards and centers and each section had two of them. Two forwards played against two guards and in the middle were the centers, a jump center and a side center.
Jump centers did precisely that, jumped center. An exhaustive description of side center has not been located yet, but it can be assumed there were there to catch the jump. They did nothing else, but the centers were easily the most influential players on the floor.
After every basket, there was a jump ball and this is how a jump center was important.
As described by the Huntsville (Ala.) Times when rules changed in 1936:
“[I]t removes the advantage of one team with a tall center.”
If a team had a tall center, it could win every jump, thus keeping the ball out of the other team’s hands.
(Huntsville said this was the secondary reason. The primary reason was that the strain of jumping center could cause girls permanent injury.)
Center jumping after baskets was replaced with a referee giving/tossing the ball to a forward at center court, who threw it in to a teammate. This method, which lasted until rovers, was said to be faster than jumping center. Waresboro must have been going extremely fast to get 149 points in this environment. Though game times were shorter for many years before five-on-five (28 minutes), in 1932-33, games were 32 minutes, as is now.
The game had other rules differences, such as the lack of an unlimited dribble. Active guarding, depending on year, was not always allowed to be physical.
This game of girls basketball could manipulated into perfection in the right hands and it seems that Lankford was a master.
There was concern at the start of the 1932-33 season about the offense, considering Eloise Bunn had graduated. By the third game of the season, Dot had two-thirds of Waresboro’s scoring, 20 of 30 points against Alma. It was obvious she could carry the load and to top it off, she got plenty of help from teammate Milbrey Fales.
A month prior to Woodbine, on January 13, Waresboro ran up a 111-3 score on Folkston. Folkston’s points were all on free throws. Bunn drew attention nationally for the feat, with papers in St. Louis and Akron, Ohio, among others who picked up the brief story. Fales added 22 points and Macey Henderson had 17.
Six days later, Bunn was highlighted in an Associated Press story. The Waycross Journal-Herald was a proud contributor to the article and featured it in its sports section under the headline of “Dorothy Bunn of Waresboro is Goal Shooting Sensation[;] Associated Press Tells World About Local Girl Basketball Star; Dot Has Never Been Beaten and Has Averaged 24 Points Per Game.”
After singing Bunn’s praises and providing one of the few descriptions of how she does it – “Although most of her shots are made from just beneath the basket she also has a good eye from longer distance” – the article made sure to tell that Bunn is humble.
“She believes in team work [sic] and always is willing to pass to a forward mate who is in better scoring position rather than take a long shot herself.”
Highlighted in the article was also the question of playing time for such a higher scorer. Scarier than Bunn’s performances was that she could have done so much more. Lankford tried not to run up scores, though his team was so loaded, it happened anyway. For his part, Bunn did not play very much.
The January 7, 1933, Waycross Journal-Herald explained:
“Dorothy, known to her teammates as “Dot,” has not played as much as the average “big she” forward gets to play. Coach Jake Lankford has a policy all his own, which calls for the use of all the material on his squad and he has used Dorothy only when he[r] scoring power was needed, or enough to keep her joints limbered up. She has, everything considered, showed more scoring ability than last season when she was adjudged an all-district forward.”
In a 55-8 victory over Willacoochee, Bunn was only at forward in the third quarter and scored 18 (Fales had 24). Bunn had 15 in the first quarter against Patterson on 7-of-7 shooting. She spent the remainder of the game at center and guard. Sometimes, Lankford had her at forward only in the second half.
With Lankford normally so magnanimous, it does raise curiosity as to why he allowed Bunn to rack up what she did in a handful of games.
Dot Bunn’s exploits were occasionally mentioned beyond Waycross. The Macon Telegraph ran news of the 66-point game against Folkston, which led to the Associated Press story. Then the Woodbine game drew a headline for its awesome team score and Bunn’s contribution to it.
Woodbine was different than the usual Waresboro game.
Lankford kept his starters on the floor, according to the Journal-Herald.
“Aline Music, [Vera] Cox and [Ruby] McClellan, cavorting in the center zone, kept the ball in the Waresboro forward section for fully thirty of the thirty-two minutes of play and for one entire quarter the ball reached [the] Woodbine forward sector on only one occasion.”
The centers had 45 assists. Waresboro led at the quarters, 31-1, 71-2 and 97-5 before the 149-9 final. Besides Bunn’s 100, Fales had 47 and Music, 2.
Lankford, who said he kept Bunn sometimes to keep her limber, possibly almost saw more than usual use of all players backfire.
A day after Woodbine, Waresboro went to Valdosta. Bunn had 24, but Valdosta trailed by a mere four points – 28-24 – going into the fourth quarter.
It’s no more than a thought (and probably an incorrect one) that maybe Lankford just wanted to see what the limit was. Bunn had 66 in January. How far can she go? One hundred might have seemed like a good stopping point, especially when his squad nearly lost the next game.
Bunn received a bit of attention in other papers after 1932-33, but none reaching what it had been. Waresboro won the 1933 district title by defeating Wacona, 38-13, on March 4. They later captured the crowns in 1934 and 1935 as well.
After high school, Bunn attended South Georgia Teachers College in Statesboro, now known as Georgia Southern. She played intramural sports there and married Alton Murray in 1939.
Above: The 1929 Waresboro girls team. A young Coach Lankford stands beside his players. According to a caption on Waresboro Georgia High School Alumni, Eloise Bunn is pictured on the back row, though it is not 100 percent clear which one she is. Bunn is either the player immediately next to Lankford or one more to the right.
Jesse Austin (Jake) Lankford was born in Pearson on February 13, 1907.
He was in and out of Waresboro. After the 1930s stint, he was said to rejoin the team as coach in January 1946. He left again in 1949 and returned once more in 1951 or 1952. The 1949 departure was in the aftermath of a scandal involving a local minor league baseball player who attempted to bribe another minor league player, who also officiated basketball games that January. The game happened to involve Waresboro and Dasher Bible. Lankford insisted that he leave.
Lankford remained a Waresboro legend. He and Dot Bunn were both inducted into the Waycross-Ware County Sports Hall of Fame in 1986. He died August 30, 1988.
All three Bunn sisters are now deceased.
Waresboro closed as a high school in 1958, joining the new consolidated Ware County High, along with Wacona.
It is unlikely Georgia high school basketball will ever see another single game 100-point scorer. One hundred points as a team is not common for girls’ teams to achieve. Through 2017, there were 5,840 Georgia High School Association girls state tournament games played since the tournaments began in 1945. Two of those games have seen one team hit that mark, both on February 21, 2014.
Adding in the increased number of scoring options and deeper benches, Dot Bunn will likely remain in a class by herself.
Sources: The Huntsville (Ala.) Times – Nov. 22, 1936; The Brunswick News – May 21, 1949, Dec. 14, 1963; The Herald-Journal – Nov. 22, 1963; The Macon Telegraph – Jan. 19, 1933; The George-Anne – Mar. 13, 1939; Waycross Journal-Herald – Nov. 26, 1932, Jan. 14, 1933, Jan. 19, 1933, Feb. 2, 1933, Feb. 18, 1933, Feb. 20, 1933, Mar. 6, 1933, Aug. 2, 1949; Aug. 30, 1988; 1930 United States Census; Georgia World War II Draft Registration Cards.
* The main source of Freda Hunt’s 86 point game comes from a January 23, 1964 article. The article’s source is not labeled in my files but is almost assuredly from The Calhoun Times.