Anyone who remembers the Commanderette basketball teams of the early 1980s remembers the Twin Towers of Power, Madge Smalley and Martha Gerton -- now Martha Johnson. Nearly 30 years later, the twin towers reflect on their time at WCHS and just how unstoppable the pair was together. Smalley’s responses are indicated as MS, Johnson’s as MJ.
What sports did you play at WCHS? What positions?
MS: I played forward in basketball and competed in relays, long jump and hurdles for the track team and was a member of the 1983 440-relay team that went to state.
MJ: I played basketball and ran track. I ran the 110 and 330-hurdles, the 400-meter, and did the long jump. I also played forward and center positions in basketball.
What kind of success did the Commanderettes have as a team and did you receive any honors along the way?
MS: The 1983 Commanderettes were the first team to win the 5th Regional tournament and advance to the girls’ state tournament. My career started in the eighth grade under the best coach in the state of Kentucky, Bill Newton!
I received the 1983 all-state tournament team award, as well as a plethora of awards throughout my tenure as a Commanderette. I was awarded a four-year scholarship with Murray State University and although I only played two seasons with the Racers, I am a proud graduate of MSU. In 2008, I became the first girls’ basketball player inducted into the WCHS Hall of Fame.
MJ: As a team we were district champs, regional champs and made our first ever appearance in the state tournament in 1983. We won the first two games of the tournament, before losing to Warren Central, who won the championship. My personal honors were making the all-district team, all-regional team and all-state team. I was also invited to try out for the Kentucky All-Stars team and received a full basketball scholarship to Eastern Kentucky University.
What is the most memorable part of your playing career in high school?
MS: The most memorable part of my playing career would of course be the experience of playing in the state tournament, but I would also like to add that the experience of playing with an unselfish group of young ladies who became my friends on and off the court was priceless. There were times when I didn’t want as much recognition, because we played as a team. There is no “I” in team. I couldn’t have done it alone.
MJ: Playing in the state tournament my senior year and making it to the semifinals with my awesome team and coach.
What made the Twin Towers of Power so difficult for opponents to contain and how well did the two of you work together on the court?
MS: It was our height. They called us the Twin Towers of Power. Now, I didn’t really get that, because we had other teammates just as tall. Our whole team worked well together because we’d been playing together since the eighth grade.
MJ: We were explosive together on the floor, both on offense and defense. After playing together for four years we became a great duo and worked well together on the court. We knew where each other was on the floor and utilized the opportunity to feed off one another. If one blocked a shot, the other took off down the floor for the easy basket. Our size and speed made it difficult to defend because if one of us were double-teamed the other would step up.
What did you do after graduating from WCHS and where has your life taken you from that time until now?
MS: I lived in California and Seattle before moving back to Kentucky to spend time with my dad before he passed. I then moved to Memphis and now I reside in Dallas, Texas. I am a senior vendor manager at AT&T here in Dallas.
MJ: I attended Eastern Kentucky University and now work as a procurement analyst for UPS where I have been for 19 years. I also have one daughter who is attending her first year of college and majoring in radiography.