MOULTRIE — Moultrie High  girls basketball coach Jim Nolan was talking about his 1954-1955 team before it opened play in the state tournament and mentioned his fine sophomore forward, Alice Piland.

“She should be one of the greatest high school forwards in the state before she graduates,” said Nolan, who went on to lead the Packerettes to their second straight state championship and some years later was named to the Colquitt County Sports Hall of Fame.

One other member of that 1955 state championship team – Nina Brannen Cooper – has already joined Nolan in the Colquitt County Sports Hall of Fame.

Two others — Betty Piland Goodson, a senior on that team, and her younger sister Alice Piland Tillman — will be inducted into the Hall of Fame at Thursday’s annual banquet.

And while the Packerettes did not win another title the next two years, Alice continued to help make Nolan not only an outstanding coach, but a prophet as well.

As a junior, Alice helped lead Moultrie High to an 11-5 record and to a region co-chamthat season she scored 20 or more points in a game and scored 31 in a one-point victory over Americus and 33 in a loss to ABAC.

In the three games the Packerettes played in the state tournament in Griffin, she scored 41 points, including 18 in a loss to Northside-Atlanta.

The 1956 Packerettes also had another fine scorer in Margie Hester.

As a senior, Alice again did most of the scoring and credits teammate Ann Lewis with being able to get the ball inside to her. Five times that season, Alice scored 20 or more points and in her final game she scored 21 in a state tournament loss to Coffee County.

Like her older sister, Alice grew up in the Culbertson area of the county and learned basketball playing on dirt courts. She learned how to shoot on a hoop that her father welded and nailed to a tree.

So she especially enjoyed being able to go to the YMCA to play.

“That was super fantastic,” she said. “You could shoot on a glass backboard with a net on it.”

At Culbertson, she played for coach Elizabeth Morris and remembers playing against future teammate Nina Brannon, who played at Okapilco.

Playing with her older sister helped her improve her game, as did playing with a women’s basketball team that featured a pair of future Colquitt County Hall of Famers, Lorene Dozier Cook and Ethel Dozier Horne.

Nolan knew he had good player on the way when Alice got some practice time with the varsity as a ninth-grader.

And she blossomed as a sophomore on the state championship team that also included her sister Betty, the only senior; juniors Ouida George, Margie Hester and Sherry Spooner; and Nina Brannon, the team’s other sophomore.

Alice also responded to Nolan, whom she said was a strong disciplinarian who also stressed the team concept.

“He knew every trick in the book,” she said. “He’d have us running up and down the football bleachers. We dreaded that.

“And he didn’t treat us like girls. He’d have us practice against the boys. At first, they (the boys) thought it would be a piece of cake. Uh-uh. He knew who to handle girls. He just treated us like boys.”

Alice was 5-foot-8, but it was her skills more than her size that made her effective, she said.

“You’ve just got to know how to play,” she said. “And if you know how, you can foul anybody out of game. It’s easier if you’re trained well.”

Alice said she also enjoyed being able to play outside.

“If they double-teamed me, I’d just move outside,” she said.

Alice also remembers soaking a painfully sprained ankle in a bucket of ice to get ready to play in the state championship. Nolan was insistent that she play. And she did.

The 1955 state championship game was the final one for Nolan as the Packerettes head coach. Martin Allman succeeded him.

“He didn’t know us that well,” Alice said of Allman. “And we could be a hard group to handle.”

Alice said she does not remember most of the players she went up against during her three seasons as a starter for the Packerettes.

One does stand out in her mind, however: Norman Park’s Janelle Lacey Robinson, who is joining the Piland sisters in the Hall of Fame this year.

The Trojanettes were the first team to defeat Moultrie High following the state championship in 1955.

“I know they beat us double-overtime,” Alice remembers. “If she got the ball in her hands, she’d score.”

Following her high school career, she continued to play sports and was an outstanding softball player in the Moultrie Recreation Department’s adult program. She was the most valuable player for the Barfield Shoes team coached by future Hall of Famer Dick Causey. She and Nina Brannon Cooper also played together on the Moultrie National Bank teams.

Alice also enjoyed working with youngsters on their basketball and softball skills and says while she is proud of her high school accomplishments, her greatest thrill has been “watching young players excel.”

And one of those young players was her daughter Kelly Tillman, an outstanding basketball player at Colquitt County and a premier softball player for the nationally renowned Tifton Tomboys.

Kelly was a skilled enough athlete to have earned a scholarship to Florida State University.

And through the years of competing and working with young players, there was one constant.

“I had a good time,” Alice says. “I always had a good time.”

 

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