Since its invention a half century ago, the game of basketball has become as solid an American institution as Sunday dinner. Particularly at the high school and small-town level, it is a source of enormous civic pride: sometimes the seating capacity of the gymnasium matches or exceeds the town's population. It is a romantic affair as well, for there is almost always a dance after the game and then a soda-fountain and jukebox rendezvous. But most of all there is the game and its excitements, captured on the pages following in Mark Kauffman's color photographs taken in Charlotte, N.C. during games between Lee Edwards High of Asheville and Central High of Charlotte and between Alexander Graham and Piedmont junior highs (scrambling for a rebound on opposite page). High school basketball began its boom in North Carolina five years ago in the wake of a flourishing college game there. For all of that, there is still no place like Indiana (see page 23).
Deadly seriousness of the struggle is reflected in the faces of the players as furious action is halted momentarily when the ball goes out of bounds
Openmouthed agony of suspense and watchful waiting create a tableau as Charlotte and Asheville players watch foul shot arching toward basket
Leaps, yells and applause by home-town cheerleaders wearing the blue-and-white colors of Charlotte's Central High greet a basket that is, for this instant, all that matters in the world
Swirling red skirts of junior high school students give promise of an adequate supply of cheerleading talent for the years to come