FieldsColumn

RIP, Daniel Webb — Heath baseball star; major leaguer

FieldsColumn

BY MIKE FIELDS

It was sad to hear that Daniel Webb, a star pitcher at Heath High School who went on to play in the major leagues, died over the weekend from injuries sustained in an ATV accident in Tennessee. He was 28.

Webb pitched in relief for the Chicago White Sox from 2013-16, registering a 7-5 record, appearing in 94 games and posting a 4.50 ERA in 110 innings. He had Tommy John surgery in 2016 and was released after the season.

I remember Webb for his gutsy performance for Heath in the 2007 KHSAA State Tournament at Applebee’s Park (now Whitaker Bank Ballpark) in Lexington.

A hard-throwing righthander, Webb injured his foot in the first inning of Heath’s quarterfinal game against Apollo. He played through the pain, however, and wound up pitching a complete game, racking up 10 strikeouts. He also drove in Heath’s only run with a sacrifice fly, but Apollo eked out a 2-1 victory.

“Looking back […]

More

So far, so good for CovCath football’s 50th anniversary

FieldsColumn

BY MIKE FIELDS

Covington Catholic’s 50th anniversary of its varsity football program is going quite nicely, thank you.

The Colonels kicked off the season by dedicating renovated Dennis Griffin Stadium, a $2.6 million project that included new stands, press box, artificial turf, and permanent lighting for the first time.

Since then CovCath has steamrolled its way to a 7-0 record (by an average score of 40-8) and earned the No. 1 perch in the Courier-Journal’s Litratings.

In A.J. Mayer, the Colonels may have the best quarterback in the state, a guy who could lead them to a seventh state championship, and the first undefeated season in school history. 

On Friday night, when CovCath plays host to northern Kentucky nemesis Highlands, it will continue to celebrate the program’s 50th anniversary. The Colonels’ six state title teams, as well as their 1967 team, will be honored during post-game festivities.

Former coach Lynn Ray, the man most responsible for building the Colonels into a state power, will […]

More

Justin Thomas’ elite company includes Hornung, Unseld, Cowens

FieldsColumn

BY MIKE FIELDS

Justin Thomas was the best golfer on the planet this past season. He won 5 times, including his first major title (PGA Championship), led the money list with nearly $10 million (not counting the $10 million bonus that came with winning the Fed Ex Cup), and the St. Xavier graduate was named PGA Tour Player of the Year.

Not many Kentucky high school athletes go on to be crowned the best in their sport on the professional level. Thomas is in pretty exclusive company that includes:

  • Paul Hornung, a multi-sport star at Flaget in the early 1950s, won NFL MVP honors in 1961 and led the Green Bay Packers to the NFL championship. (Hornung also won the Heisman Trophy as a college standout at Notre Dame.)
  • Wes Unseld, who led Seneca to the Sweet Sixteen title in 1963 and 1964, was named NBA MVP (and Rookie of the Year) for the […]

    More

Bob White: A good guy gets a lift through a bad time

FieldsColumn

BY MIKE FIELDS

LOUISVILLE – Bob White, like any newspaper reporter worth his salt, loved covering events that had dramatic twists or heartwarming endings. He delighted in being surprised by what he was chronicling during his half-century career as a sportswriter for the Courier-Journal.

In the past year, White has experienced that emotional ebb-and-flow storyline himself.

The dramatic twist came when he was victimized by identity theft and left in financial ruin. “I lost everything. I had zero in the bank,” he said. “I didn’t know what I was going to do.”

But family, colleagues and friends came together to write a heartwarming ending to White’s story that left him overwhelmed with appreciation.

“It’s been unbelievable how people have helped me out,” White said.

Last winter, John Osborne, White’s brother-in-law, helped set up a GoFundMe account for him on the Internet. Contributions, ranging from a few bucks to hundreds of dollars, came in from across the state and totaled nearly $12,000.

Then in […]

More

Recalling the most remarkable comeback story in KHSAA history

FieldsColumn

BY MIKE FIELDS

Justin Thomas, a St. Xavier graduate and former KHSAA state titlist, has written quite a story on the PGA Tour this season. He’s won five tournaments, including the PGA Championship, earned nearly $9 million, and has a shot at the $10 million Fed Ex Cup this weekend.

But his story isn’t the best ever written over the course of a season by a St. Xavier grad/ KHSAA state titlist/PGA champ.

Bobby Nichols takes that honor. He authored perhaps the most remarkable comeback in the history of Kentucky high school sports.

That comeback began 65 years ago this month.

In September, 1952, Nichols, then a junior at St. X, was critically injured in a car accident. He suffered a brain concussion, broken pelvis, collapsed lung, punctured spine, bruised kidney and other internal injuries. The 16-year-old was given last rites. He was unconscious for more than two weeks, and spent 3 ½ months in the hospital.

[…]

More

Tom Larkey ready to join football’s 300-victory club

FieldsColumn

“It’s a story most people couldn’t tell – my football, my family.”

— Tom Larkey

BY MIKE FIELDS

If Perry County Central beats Clay County Friday night, Tom Larkey will become the 10th high school football coach in Kentucky history to win 300 games.

One reason Larkey is on the cusp of that milestone is that he’s a tough ol’ cuss. He’s proven that time and again in his 37 years as a head coach:

  • In 2001, when he had Rockcastle County among the state’s elite, Larkey underwent prostate surgery early in the season. Less than a week later, when the Rockets played at Estill County, he couldn’t be on the sidelines, but he watched the game with his wife from their car on a nearby hill. That didn’t keep him from hollering suggestions to his son (and assistant coach) Chris, who was calling plays. “He’s nuts!” Chris said, laughing as he recalled that night in Irvine.
  • In […]

    More

Sam Simpson’s 25-year staying power at Henry Clay

FieldsColumn

BY MIKE FIELDS

Henry Clay football coach Sam Simpson sat in his office in the Blue Devils’ fieldhouse one morning last week, mulling a reporter’s question: How does he still bring energy and enthusiasm to a job he’s held for 25 years now?

His longevity is remarkable considering how much turnover there has been in Lexington’s football coaching ranks. Since Henry Clay hired Simpson to succeed Jake Bell in 1993, the other six football teams in town (not counting new Frederick Douglass) have had 35 different coaches.

Another measure of his long tenure: Including the five years he coached at Marion County before coming to Henry Clay, Simpson has 220 career victories. The other current coaches in town have a combined 213 wins.

So what makes Simpson an outlier, a guy who has stayed put in a profession where moving on is a constant?

Much of it has to do with how Simpson has always approached […]

More

Haywood, Hilton faced off in their football coaching debuts

FieldsColumn

Philip Haywood and Dudley Hilton, the two winningest high school football coaches in Kentucky history, have 780 victories between them.

And to think that 42 years ago today, they squared off against each other in their head coaching debuts.

On August 29, 1975, Prestonsburg and its 24-year-old rookie coach, Philip Haywood, played host to Breathitt County and its 27-year-old rookie coach, Dudley Hilton, in the season opener.

Prestonsburg won the game 20-6, giving Haywood his first victory. He’s gone on to pile up 416 more wins, most of them at Belfry. He’s also led the Pirates to six state titles, including the last four years in a row.

“I just vaguely remember that first game,” Haywood said. “I don’t know if Dudley and I even knew each other back then. I doubt if either of us had a clue what we were doing. We probably were just glad to get a team out on the field for the first time.”

Hilton had to […]

More

PRP reigns again as king of Kentucky baseball under Bill Miller

FieldsColumn

BY MIKE FIELDS

Thirty-five years ago Bill Miller coached Pleasure Ridge Park to a runner-up finish in the state baseball tournament. The Panthers lost to unbeaten Madison Central in the finals.

In 1985 PRP made it back to the title game but lost to Owensboro Catholic.

In 1993 the Panthers were one win away from a state championship again before falling to Harrison County.

That may have been three strikes against PRP, but Miller never lost faith that his program would someday break through and hit it big. In fact, he remembers telling people, “Once we win one, we’ll win a bunch.”

Miller’s not only a great coach, he’s a great prophet.

PRP won three consecutive state championships starting in 1994; the Panthers took home the big trophy again in 2008 and 2013; and on Saturday they claimed yet another state title by beating Simon Kenton 6-5 at Whitaker Bank Ballpark […]

More

High school baseball has changed a lot in 50 years. Just ask Bobby Lynch

FieldsColumn

BY MIKE FIELDS

Ashland’s 1967 state baseball champions were recognized during Saturday’s state finals at Whitaker Bank Ballpark to mark the 50th anniversary of their title.

Bobby Lynch, who was a standout pitcher on the Tomcat teams that won three consecutive championships (1966, ’67, ’68), was there with a few of his former teammates.

High school baseball is a whole ‘nother sport now than it was when Ashland beat Fort Knox 7-2 to win the state title at UK’s Shively Field 50 years ago this week.

The bases are still 90 feet apart; the pitching rubber is still 60 feet, 6 inches from home plate; it’s still three strikes and you’re out; but some of the rules and trappings of the high school game have changed considerably.

Well aware that we sounded like a couple of curmudgeons, Lynch and I discussed some of the differences between the game played in the ’60s and the one played […]

More

Geordon Blanton’s championship senior year

FieldsColumn

BY MIKE FIELDS

J.C. Blanton remembers last summer when his son Geordon told him he’d like to win three state championships his senior year at Johnson Central.

“I told him if he got one he’d be lucky,” J.C. said.

Geordon must be a lucky guy; it helps that he’s an exceptional athlete, too.

After leading Johnson Central to its first state football title last fall, and after winning his second individual state wrestling title this past winter, Geordon Blanton is playing for the Golden Eagles in the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA State Baseball Tournament this weekend.

Blanton hasn’t taken time yet to relax and reflect on just how special his championship senior year has been.

“I can sit back and think about everything this summer when my high school season is over,” he said. “Right now I want to make sure I live in the moment, enjoy it, and soak it all up.”

Jim Matney, who coached Blanton in football […]

More

Fast-pitch softball has given girls college opportunities

FieldsColumn

BY MIKE FIELDS

When Emily Gaines started playing fast-pitch softball as a 9-year-old, she was hooked: “I fell in love with it,” she said.

As an eighth-grader, Gaines cracked the starting lineup for South Laurel.

By the end of her high school career, she had written her name in the state record book as the all-time leader in hits (349), doubles (104) and consecutive games hitting streak (52), and was named Miss Softball.

Gaines earned a scholarship to Kentucky, where as a senior she was the Cats’ starting right fielder. In her last game, in UK’s first-ever appearance in the College Women’s World Series, she hit a home run.

“It was an amazing way to end my softball career,” she said.

That was in 2014.

Twenty years earlier, young women could only have dreamed of such athletic achievements.

In 1994, Kentucky was one of only four states that didn’t offer fast-pitch softball to its high school athletes. UK did […]

More

Put me in, coach! I’m ready to play baseball, basketball, football

FieldsColumn

BY MIKE FIELDS

Scott County junior Landon Easley loves playing baseball, but not enough to practice and play it year-round.

“I couldn’t do it. Baseball is such a mental sport that I’d have a headache all the time if I did that,” Easley said with a laugh.

Scott County junior Sam Sutton feels the same way.

“I’d hate it because I’d get so burned out on it,” he said. “If I had to play any sport the year round, I’d get sick of it and not way to play it anymore.”

Concentrating on one sport may be trending in high schools across the nation, but not at Scott County.

Easley and Sutton are among several Cardinal baseball players who consider specialization a dirty word.

They play football in the fall, basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring.

“I just feel like playing all three sports in high school is something pretty rare and […]

More

Heflin’s success as tennis coach a net result of caring about kids

FieldsColumn

BY MIKE FIELDS

Just as Land Between the Lakes is wonder of nature in Western Kentucky, Larry Heflin is a force of nature when it comes to high school tennis in that part of the state.

Thanks to his competitive fire, coaching acumen and dedication to young people, Heflin built Lone Oak’s program from nothing into a powerhouse, and in the process made the Paducah area a hotbed for high school tennis.

After the KHSAA added team competition to the state tournament in 1982, Louisville and Lexington teams combined to win 19 of the first 20 titles for boys and girls. (Henderson County’s boys were the exception in 1984.)

But when Lone Oak’s girls broke through to capture the 1992 championship, it signaled the start of a dynasty. The Purple Flash girls won five consecutive state titles, and 11 in 21 years.

When Lone Oak consolidated with Heath and Reidland to form McCracken County in 2013, Heflin took the reins of the Mustangs. The winning continued. McCracken County’s girls have won […]

More

Remembering Brent Arnold

FieldsColumn

BY MIKE FIELDS

Brent Arnold, who coached multiple sports at Lafayette for many years, died this weekend after a short battle with cancer. He was 72.

Arnold was an assistant girls’ basketball coach at Lafayette under Kathy Neal when the Lea Wise-led Generals were state runners-up in 1979.

Arnold took over as the Lafayette girls’ head coach in 1981 and guided them to the Sweet 16 in 1984. He had an overall record of 119-58 in seven years.

Arnold moved over to boys’ basketball and served as an assistant under Donnie Harville, and after leaving the bench kept the scorebook for the Generals.

He also coached cross-country and girls’ track at Lafayette.

Former Lafayette athletics director Karen Vanover, who retired the same year (2000) as Arnold, remembers that Arnold “tried to come off as pretty gruff, but he was really a pushover. He was a very kind, caring and giving person.”

Arnold always kidded that his main […]

More

Gabby Karas: 12 state titles and a champion’s spirit

FieldsColumn

BY MIKE FIELDS

SHELBYVILLE — Flashback to May 23, 2014, and the KHSAA Track and Field Championships.

Collins’ freshman Gabby Karas, who won the 800- and 1,600-meter races with record-setting times earlier in the day, finishes the afternoon by adding the 3,200 title to her haul. 

Karas remembers what happened next: “Everybody in the whole stadium (at UK) got quiet; everyone was waiting. And then the announcer announced I’d broken the 3,200 record, too. Everybody started screaming, and I started crying. It was crazy. It was like a magical movie moment I never thought I’d be lucky enough to have.”

The high a runner gets from an endorphin rush may be exhilarating, but it can’t match the high a runner gets from a victory rush.

Karas knows the feeling, a dozen times over. She won 12 state titles — 8 in track and 4 in cross country — in her high school career. 

The last of those championships came in 2015 when […]

More

Danville’s Paul Morse still tops in baseball record book

FieldsColumn

BY MIKE FIELDS

DANVILLE – It’s been 25 years since Paul Morse smacked his last home run, struck out his last batter and chalked up his last pitching victory for Danville High School.

Still, over the last quarter-century, nobody in the state has been able to match the career numbers posted by the former Admirals’ baseball star.

Morse still ranks No. 1 in the KHSAA record book for his prowess as a hitter (65 homers) and as a pitcher (55 wins, 651 strikeouts). He’s also tied for second place in RBI (253).

“I didn’t used to think much about it,” Morse said earlier this week. “But now that I’m getting older, I look at those numbers I put up and I’m kind of like, ‘Wow!’ It was all a little more than I thought it was.”

Morse was an accomplished multi-sport athlete at Danville.

He was a five-year starter in baseball.  As an eighth-grader he was the Admirals’ No. 3 […]

More

Harrison County baseball’s unimaginable loss

FieldsColumn

BY MIKE FIELDS

CYNTHIANA — A few weeks into the high school baseball season, Harrison County has not lost a game.

But the Thorobreds don’t feel like an undefeated team.

They feel like a team that has suffered an unimaginable loss — the loss of a teammate.

Harrison County senior Brett Persinger, who had started at shortstop for the Thorobreds since he was a seventh-grader, was killed in a car accident last November. Max Ogden, another teammate, was seriously injured.

Mac Whitaker has experienced plenty of good times and bad times in 40 years as Harrison County’s baseball coach, but nothing prepared him for the tragedy that struck his team the day before Thanksgiving last fall. 

Brett Persinger grew up in the Thorobreds’ program. When he was 10, he was shagging fly balls and winning over everybody with his engaging personality. His dad, Rodney, was an assistant coach.

“Knowing Brett’s family so well, and having known him since he was […]

More

60 years ago: UK baseball, Stoll Field, Jim Host

FieldsColumn

Flipping through microfiche files of old newspapers is endlessly entertaining. Some story or photo always catches your eye, like the sports page (above) from the Lexington Herald 60 years ago today. It was about UK baseball. I didn’t know Harry Lancaster, Adolph Rupp’s basketball assistant, coached baseball, or that the baseball team played at Stoll Field, or that John Crigler and Jim Host were baseball teammates, or that left-handers were called port-siders . . . 

Excerpted from March 29, 1957, Lexington Herald story:

Southeastern Conference defending champion Florida meets the 1956 cellar-dwelling Kentucky Wildcats on Stoll Field this afternoon at 3 o’clock in a season-opening baseball encounter expected to find the league rivals on much evener terms than a year ago when the Gators swept three contests on their home grounds by lopsided scores.

For the first of a three-game series, which finds a double-header on tap Saturday at 1 p.m., Coach Harry Lancaster of the Wildcats […]

More

Bowling Green basketball begins Purple reign

FieldsColumn

BY MIKE FIELDS

D.G. Sherrill never got to attend the Sweet 16 when he was a kid growing up in Caldwell County in far western Kentucky.

“My daddy believed when my basketball season was over, it was time for me to go to work,” he said. “So I was in a welding shop when everybody else was coming to watch basketball.”

Sherrill’s first trip to watch the state tournament was in 1992 at Freedom Hall, when he was starting his coaching career as an assistant to Terry Hayes at Dawson Springs.

He remembered his less-than-luxurious accommodations in Louisville.

“(Hayes) stayed at the Hyatt, and I was out in some motor inn. I think they gave us tickets and money, but he didn’t share of that with me,” Sherrill said with a laugh.

Sherrill was in a jovial, sentimental mood Sunday afternoon as he reminisced about his early days in coaching.

He had the best of reasons to […]

More

Jake Ohmer’s legacy a winning one

FieldsColumn

BY MIKE FIELDS

When the KHSAA celebrates its 125th Sweet 16 in 2042, you can bet there will be high school basketball fans reminiscing about how a kid named Jake Ohmer made a name for himself in the 100th state tournament.

They’ll talk about how he was a scoring machine, and a surprisingly strong rebounder; how he flew up and down the Rupp Arena court with controlled abandon, how he made Scott – not Scott County – the talk of the town that week, and how he almost got his underdog team to the state finals.

Jake Ohmer’s storybook post-season ended Saturday night in the cruelest of ways. He missed a shot in the closing seconds that would have given Scott a stunning upset of heavily favored Bowling Green. The Purples escaped 80-79, and their Coach D.G. Sherrill said they were lucky to do so.

That’s because Sherrill knew as well as anyone that this tournament […]

More

Sweet 16’s top scorers in back-to-back games

FieldsColumn

BY MIKE FIELDS

Scott senior guard Jake Ohmer has put on a scoring show in his first two games in the 100th Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys’ Sweet 16 this week. 

Ohmer created a buzz in Rupp Arena by pouring in 41 points in Scott’s first-round victory over Harlan County, and following it up with 32 in a quarterfinal win over Perry County Central.

That gives Ohmer 73 points in back-to-back games in the state tournament.

Is that a record?

It’s not even close.

“King” Kelly Coleman of Wayland set the standard with a two-game total of 96 points in 1956. He had 28 points in a semifinal loss to Carr Creek, then came back that night with 68 against Bell County in the consolation game. 

Coleman totaled 89 points in the first two rounds of the ’56 tournament. He had 50 in Wayland’s opener against Shelbyville and 39 in the Wasps’ quarterfinals against Earlington.

Coleman came into the 1956 state tournament […]

More

Purples’ power: talent with experience

FieldsColumn

BY MIKE FIELDS

Bowling Green took out No. 1 Scott County 68-53 in the quarterfinals of the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys’ Sweet 16 Friday afternoon.

“That was the best basketball team we’ve played all year, bar none,” Purples Coach D.G. Sherrill said after his team posted its 27th consecutive victory.

Bowling Green played like Rupp Arena was its home floor, which is understandable.

For talented seniors Terry Taylor and DeAngelo Wilson, this was their eighth state tournament game in the last three years, and Kyran Jones’ seventh.

Bowling Green lost to Owensboro in the 2015 finals and to eventual champion Paul Laurence Dunbar in last year’s quarterfinals.

Taylor, a fluid 6-foot-6 swingman, had 20 points, 14 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 steals against Scott County. He now has 128 points and 65 rebounds in Rupp.

Wilson, a mercurial 5-10 guard, had 20 points, 5 steals and 3 rebounds. He now has 95 points in Rupp.

Jones, a […]

More

Bobby Keith’s Sweet 16 legacy

FieldsColumn

BY MIKE FIELDS

The 100th Sweet 16 celebration this week in Rupp Arena is missing one of the most important figures in Kentucky high school basketball history.

Legendary Clay County Coach Bobby Keith died last fall, leaving all those who knew him with heartache. He was a remarkable coach and remarkable man.

Keith is best known for guiding Clay County to the 1987 state championship, and runner-up finishes in 1985 and ’88.

But his personal Sweet 16 experience went back 60 years.

Keith was in the lineup for Clay County when the Tigers played Hazard in the first round of the 1957 Sweet 16 in Freedom Hall. That was the first KHSAA-sponsored state tournament after integration, and Hazard’s Bob Baker, Don Smith and Linville Wright became the first black players to play in the Sweet 16.

Keith didn’t score in the 50-47 loss to Hazard, but he was honored to have been part of history, and thrilled […]

More

Collins basketball now has stories to tell

FieldsColumn

BY MIKE FIELDS

Collins’ basketball program’s seven-year itch to win a game in the state tournament finally got scratched.

The Titans pulled away in overtime to beat Elliott County 65-57 in the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys’ Sweet 16 in Rupp Arena Thursday night.

It was the first state tournament victory for Collins, which was created when Shelby County was split in two high schools in 2010. The Titans also won the 8th Region in 2015, but lost their Sweet Sixteen opener to eventual state champ Owensboro.

Collins dodged a bullet — or more accurately, it got in the way of a charging Lion — in Thursday night’s win over Elliott County.

After the Titans’ Dominique Turner hit two free throws with :08.5 left, the Lions’ Korbin Spencer went the length of the court and attacked the rim. But Charlie Cochran was there to take a charge.

Collins scored the first seven points in OT and was on its way to […]

More

The ‘Worm’ turned in most dynamic dunk in Sweet 16

FieldsColumn

BY MIKE FIELDS

Perry County Central’s Damon Tobler had an impressive dunk during the Commodores’ win over Pikeville in the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys’ Sweet 16 on Wednesday. It was just for show, though, because the slam was erased when Tobler was whistled for a foul on the play.

Even if it had counted, however, it wouldn’t have come close to matching the most dynamic and most important state tournament dunk I can remember.

Warren Central’s Lonnell “Worm” Dewalt had the jam of all jams in the 2004 title game against defending champion Mason County.

In the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, Warren Central was clinging to a 58-54 lead when Dewalt had a rebound slam off a miss by Matt Maresca to push the margin to 60-54.

But that wasn’t the Dewalt dunk that brought down the house.

On the Dragons’ next possession, Brock Whitney missed a three-pointer and . . .

Let’s let Tim Riley, the Dragons’ coach […]

More

Oh, my, Ohmer goes for 41 points, 17 rebounds

FieldsColumn

BY MIKE FIELDS

Jake Ohmer was Mr. Low Key after going for 41 points, 17 rebounds, 4 steals and 2 assists in Scott’s 77-65 victory over Harlan County in the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys’ Sweet 16 Tuesday night.

It was the highest scoring performance in the state tournament since Elizabethtown’s Antwain Barbour had 42 against Russellville in 2000.

Asked how it felt to be Jake Ohmer after his star turn in Rupp Arena, the 5-foot-9 senior guard deflected the glory.

“It feels good, but I’m more glad about how our team played together and how we came out and got the win,” he said.

Coach Steve Fromeyer was quick to point out that his Eagles aren’t “Jake Ohmer and the four misfits. We have good pieces around him.”

Ohmer has a team-first attitude, too. But he’s also used to being the media darling this post-season.

The University of the Cumberlands’ commit has 145 points in Scott’s last four games, including 46 […]

More

After 60 years, Luther Blanton has ‘Sweet’ experience

FieldsColumn

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.

[…]

More

Pikeville proud: Hillard Howard

FieldsColumn

 

BY MIKE FIELDS

Hillard Howard has been living in Florida the past seven years, but he’s back visiting his old Kentucky home this week for two good reasons.

  • Howard’s beloved Pikeville Panthers made it to the Sweet 16 for the first time in almost 20 years. Jason Booher, Howard’s son-in-law, is athletic director, vice-principal AND assistant basketball coach at Pikeville. Panthers’ first-year head coach Elisha Justice played for Booher at Shelby Valley when it won the 2010 state championship.
  • Howard will be inducted into the Dawhares/KHSAA Hall of Fame on Saturday. He guided Pikeville to three consecutive state football titles (1987-89) and two runner-up finishes (1972, ’79). He also coached Pikeville’s girls to two state basketball tournaments (1979, ’80).
  • Even though Pikeville lost to Perry County Central in their Sweet Sixteen opener Wednesday afternoon, Howard was proud of what the Panthers accomplished this season.

    “It’s amazing, really, for Elisha to come in and get this […]

    More

    Vogt votes for NKU over UK

    FieldsColumn

    BY MIKE FIELDS

    When Kentucky plays Northern Kentucky University in the first round of the NCAA tournament Friday night, there’ll be at least one TV viewer in Lexington rooting for the Norsemen to pull off an upset for the ages.

    “I was a Kentucky fan growing up, but I’ve gotta cheer for NKU in this one,” Chris Vogt said.

    Vogt, a 6-foot-11 senior who led Graves County to the Sweet Sixteen, signed with the NKU last fall. Vogt and his teammates lost to Bowling Green in the opening game of the state tournament on Wednesday, but they’ll stay in town the rest of the week.

    That means Vogt will be looking for someplace to watch the UK-NKU game where he’s not surrounded by Big Blue fans.

    “That’ll be tough, especially in Lexington,” he said with a smile.

    Vogt, who averaged 16.8 points and 9.2 rebounds this season, had 8 points, 9 rebounds and 5 blocked shots in Graves County’s 68-51 loss […]

    More

    Welcome back, Bobby Flynn

    FieldsColumn

     

    BY MIKE FIELDS

    It was great to see Bobby Flynn back in Rupp Arena on Wednesday for the 100th Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys’ Sweet 16.

    Flynn has been a fixture at state tournaments for more than 40 years as a volunteer, mostly working along press row.

    He was noticeably absent last year, however, due to health issues. He suffered broken ribs and broken collarbone in a fall, and after recovering from those injuries, he fell again and suffered a broken back.

    “I’m still hurting in my back, but I’m doing a lot better,” said Flynn, who will turn 90 this July.

    Bobby’s son Doug said bringing his dad to the Sweet 16 “is the best therapy in the world for him and for all of us. His whole life has revolved around basketball. This is like family for us. We hope this gets him all pumped up and really gets him going.”

    Bobby was wearing his signature colorful […]

    More

    Phil Cox and his ‘Loyall’ mentor, Billy Hicks

    FieldsColumn

    BY MIKE FIELDS

    Before Phil Cox became Vanderbilt’s all-time leading scorer in 1985, before he starred at Cawood High School and became Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball in 1981, he first realized what the game might hold for him as an eighth-grader at Loyall Junior High in Harlan County.

    And he credits his eighth-grade coach, Billy Hicks, for opening his eyes to the future.

    Cox and Hicks, who hadn’t seen each other in more than 25 years, traded stories about the good ol’ days Tuesday morning, before a press conference at Lexington’s Griffin Gate Marriott announcing the Kentucky High School Basketball Hall of Fame’s Centennial inductees for 2017.

    Cox will be among the honorees at this summer’s ceremony in Elizabethtown. Hicks, the winningest high school coach in Kentucky history who has Scott County back in the Sweet Sixteen this week, was inducted into the Hall of Fame last year.

    Cox, now the principal at Jefferson Middle School in Oak Ridge, […]

    More

    Richie Farmer’s ‘Sweet’ memories

    FieldsColumn

    BY MIKE FIELDS

    Richie Farmer clearly recalls how his record-setting Sweet Sixteen career began in Rupp Arena 33 years ago this week.

    Clay County had a big lead on Owensboro in their first-round game when Farmer, an eighth-grader, took the floor with 1:08 remaining.

    Then, with the clock ticking away, “I got the ball in the middle of the floor against their press, coming down on the break, and I hit a little 12-footer in the lane (with :05 left),” Farmer said last week.

    “It was a shot I’ll never forget. It was an unbelievable feeling, being a kid who grew up dreaming of playing in the state tournament in Rupp Arena, and getting to live that dream.”

    Farmer, however, doesn’t remember the final shot of his Sweet Sixteen career. It came in a losing effort against Ballard in the 1988 finals in Freedom Hall.

    He hit a straight-away 22-foot three-pointer with 14 seconds left to cap […]

    More

    Mercer County girls win Sweet Sixteen in style

    FieldsColumn

    BY MIKE FIELDS

    HIGHLAND HEIGHTS – When Chris Souder took over as Mercer County girls’ basketball coach 18 years ago, he allowed himself to imagine the Titans winning a state title someday.

    “It’s always a dream, it’s always a goal,” he said. “But two years ago we talked about it actually being a realistic goal. If everybody would stay the course, buy into the way we wanted to play, we felt this was going to be a special bunch.”

    That feeling became a reality Sunday afternoon when Mercer County beat Franklin County 85-71 in the championship game of the St. Elizabeth Healthcare/KHSAA Girls’ Sweet Sixteen before 3,963 fans in BB&T Arena.

    The Titans’ 85 points were the second most in finals history. M.C. Napier set the record with an 88-56 win over Highlands in the 1994 title game.

    Mercer County (31-6) put on a dazzling display of team basketball.

    All five Titans’ starters scored in double […]

    More

    Mercer County vs. Franklin County for girls’ state title

    FieldsColumn

    BY MIKE FIELDS

    HIGHLAND HEIGHTS  — Mercer County will play Franklin County  in the championship game of the St. Elizabeth Healthcare/KHSAA Girls’ Sweet Sixteen in BB&T Arena Sunday at 2 p.m.

    Mercer County (30-6) earned a spot in the finals for the first time by beating Murray 67-60 in Saturday’s semifinals.

    Franklin County (33-5) advanced to the title game by beating Holmes 51-36 in Saturday’s nightcap. The Flyers have twice been state runners-up, both times to Butler, in 1980 and last year.

    Mercer County Coach Chris Souder said his program has come a long way in recent years. He remembers his Titans getting demolished by Elizabethtown 79-38 in the first round of the Sweet Sixteen in 2015.

    They made a better showing last year, making it to the semifinals before losing to Franklin County 55-51.

    “It’s just incredible the way this program’s evolved over the last several years,” […]

    More

    Mercer County’s Seygan Robins’ long road to basketball success

    FieldsColumn

    BY MIKE FIELDS

    HIGHLAND HEIGHTS – For high school basketball players, the road to success and scholarships isn’t a direct route.

    It’s not a dribble drive straight to the hoop for an easy score.

    The destination isn’t always the big stage of the Sweet Sixteen to compete for a big trophy, and glory for your team, school and community.

    It’s a long journey with detours and disappointments. Sacrifice and hard work are constant companions.

    But there’s lots of fun and friendships along the way, too, and it’s best if your family is along for the ride.

    That’s the way it has been for Mercer County junior standout Seygan Robins, who’s playing in the St. Elizabeth Healthcare/KHSAA Sweet Sixteen this week.

    Seygan and her Titan teammates are in the state tournament for the third year in a row, and they’ll play for the state championship Sunday afternoon.

    For Seygan, who’s already earned a scholarship to the University […]

    More

    Murray coach and her husband on same basketball wavelength

    FieldsColumn

    BY MIKE FIELDS

    HIGHLAND HEIGHTS – Travis Turner has been doing radio coverage of Murray High School girls’ basketball for a long time, but he had his first near-death experience Friday afternoon as he described the Tigers’ stunning 65-56 upset of defending champion and nationally ranked Butler in the quarterfinals of the St. Elizabeth Healthcare/KHSAA Sweet Sixteen in BB&T Arena.

    “I thought I was going to die when I was on the air,” Turner said. “I’ve never been more emotional during a broadcast in my life.”

    That’s because he was watching his wife, Rechelle, coach Murray’s girls to one of the biggest victories in the program’s history.

    That’s right. The coach of the team is […]

    More

    Donna Murphy’s Sweet 16 starburst

    FieldsColumn

    The St. Elizabeth Healthcare/KHSAA Girls’ Sweet Sixteen tips off today at NKU’s BB&T Arena. This is the 56th girls’ state tournament, the 43nd since the KHSAA started sponsoring the event again in 1975. While everybody agrees that girls’ basketball has come a long way since then, it should be noted that the ’75 Sweet Sixteen featured one of the state’s all-time greatest players.

     BY MIKE FIELDS

    Donna Murphy, who must be included in any conversation about the best girls’ high school basketball players in Kentucky history, became a legend despite having to wait to prove herself to a statewide audience.

    Murphy’s first two years of high school predated the modern era of the Girls’ Sweet Sixteen, which kept her wondrous athletic skills from being widely appreciated. 

    In her freshman and sophomore years at Newport, Murphy and her teammates played in the Northern Kentucky Athletic Conference, which was made up of schools in the 9th Region. There was a postseason conference tournament, […]

    More

    Remembering Douglass Demons basketball

    FieldsColumn

    BY MIKE FIELDS

    Sixty years ago today, Henry Bell, John Burdette, Paul Price and their Douglass High School basketball teammates walked into UK’s Memorial Coliseum and made history.

    On Feb. 27, 1957, Coach Charles Livisay’s Demons became the first black school to compete in Lexington’s 43rd District tournament, capping the first season of integration when black schools were allowed to compete as KHSAA members.

    Bell recalled being overwhelmed by the Coliseum’s expanse. “It was just so big. I was like, ‘wow!’ Our gym at Douglass was real small; the court was only 35 x 60. A shot from the corner was only a 15-footer. A regular (high school) court was 50 x 84.

    “The Coliseum was a college court so it was 10 feet longer than that. After I ran up and down it a couple times, my tongue was hanging out,” Bell said with a laugh.

    Burdette remembered the Coliseum’s strange acoustics. “It was like it was soundproof,” he said. “Your couldn’t hear the […]

    More

    Dynasty of dynasties: St. X swimming & diving

    FieldsColumn

    BY MIKE FIELDS

    LOUISVILLE — St. Xavier’s swimming and diving program is the greatest dynasty in the history of Kentucky high school sports. Its state championship numbers are as overwhelming as a tsunami: 52 team, 146 individual and 75 relay titles.

    The Tigers will be going for their 29th team title in a row when the KHSAA Swimming and Diving Championships are held at the University of Louisville’s Ralph Wright Natatorium this weekend. If they win, they will tie the boys’ national record for consecutive state titles shared by Honolulu (Hawaii) Punahou (1958-86) and Jacksonville (Fla.) Bolles (1988-2016).

    The Carmel (Ind.) girls set the overall record with their 30th in a row last year. 

    St. X Coach Todd Larkin said the secret to the Tigers’ sustained dominance is they don’t let past successes adversely affect present pursuits.

    “Our students respect the tradition — you can’t really avoid talking about the streaks or numerology […]

    More

    « Previous Posts