After 60 years, Luther Blanton has ‘Sweet’ experience

March 15, 2017 FieldsColumn

Luther Blanton, left, with Harlan County Coach Michael Jones before Tuesday night’s Sweet 16 game against Scott. (Mike Fields photo)

BY MIKE FIELDS

Luther Blanton had a front-row seat in Rupp Arena Wednesday night, right there on the sidelines at the end of the Harlan County bench for the Black Bears’ game against Scott in the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys’ Sweet 16.

“I’ve been waiting 60 years for this,” Blanton said. “I didn’t know if it’d ever come.”

When he was a freshman at Wallins High School in Harlan County in 1957, Blanton started keeping the basketball scorebook for the Purple Devils.

In 1966, Black Star, Hall, Loyall and Wallins were consolidated into Cawood High School, and Blanton started keeping the book for the Trojans.

He stayed there until he switched his loyalty to Harlan when Billy Hicks became the coach of the Green Dragons in the early 1980s.

When Hicks left Harlan a few years later, Blanton went back to Cawood where he kept the book until it was consolidated, along with Cumberland and Evarts, to form Harlan County in 2008.

After 56 years of tending a scorebook for about 1,700 high school basketball games — none of them a regional championship that would have won Blanton a sideline seat at the Sweet 16 — he had to give up his avocation, partly because of failing eyesight, four years ago.

But then came the magic moment last week when Harlan County clipped Corbin 67-65 in the 13th Region final and earned its first trip to the state tournament.

“The next day (Coach Jones) called me and told me I could sit with them on the bench,” said the 73-year-old Blanton. “It took 60 years, but here I am.”