By: Tim Chambers
Tomahawk Sports Editor
There is very little debate when searching for the greatest female athlete to ever play at Johnson County. Elisha Milam holds that honor according to a couple of her former coaches and those who watched her play.
Its been 35 years since the sizzling southpaw graced the court inside of Ray Shoun Gymnasium but the memories of #40 seem like only yesterday.
Milam graduated in 1981 as the Lady Longhorns all-time leading scorer. The two-time all-state player rewrote the record books in girls basketball and had her jersey retired.
She also led the volleyball team to a 31-0 record and its only trip ever to the state tournament.
Milam began her basketball career on the boys team in elementary before playing on the first ever girls middle school team. She then went on to high school where she recalled her first game as a freshman.
We played that old three-on-three crap where you couldnt cross half court if you played on offense, said Milam. I hated that stuff. I stuck with it because I liked basketball so good. We started playing 5-on-5 like the boys did my sophomore year and I loved that. We also played with the big basketball too.
By the looks of her stats the ball could have been a pumpkin and it wouldnt have mattered. She averaged 26 points per game as a junior and 31.7 points per game as a senior. Thats after posting a 22 points per game average as a sophomore.
I had several high scoring games and it was before the three-point line was ever invented, said Milam. I was a pretty good shooter but I practiced it every day. I loved competing, whether it was against the girls or boys. I always enjoyed the competition.
That was obvious researching several games.
She broke the school record for the most points every scored in a game as a junior against Sullivan East. Milam tallied 22 points in each half and ended the night with 44. Her head coach, Scotty Bunton, remembered it well.
Elisha swished one from deep in the corner and they nearly knocked her out into the commissary after the shot, said Bunton. Their coach told me they thought about breaking her arm but were afraid she would shoot just as well with her feet. He told me that would be more embarrassing.
Milam was named to the All-State team after her junior season. And despite all the success, her three special moments as a player involved her teammates and a fan.
The first time we beat Hampton my junior year was the best feeling ever, said Milam. Ann Wills made the game winning shot and then we beat them again down at their place. I remember Denise Green hitting a shot at the end of the game to beat Happy Valley. I got to play with some great teammates. There was no jealously among us. Everyone enjoyed playing together.
The Longhorns played only seven players for the most part that season. Milam, Green and Wills were joined in the starting lineup by Tracy Snyder and Mary Jo Simcox. Margaret Humphreys and Denise Bellamy provided excellent play off the bench.
I didnt get a job until a few weeks before the season started, said Bunton. I was driving back and forth from Elizabethton so we had to practice at the elementary school because of a conflict with ng time too. Hand downs, Elisha was the best athlete that Ive ever coached or seen play.
It was not only her skills according to Payne that made her special.
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