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‘Moose’ Moore’s memories of the first All ‘A’ Classic

January 25, 2018 FieldsColumn

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The 1990 All “A” Classic program, above left, included trading cards of the top players, and this year’s program.

BY MIKE FIELDS

When Stan Steidel pushed to expand the All “A” Classic into a state-wide basketball tournament almost 30 years ago, Owsley County and Jeff “Moose” Moore were just the kind of small-school team and player Steidel had in mind.

Stan Steidel

“That was the purpose,” Steidel said this week when the 2018 All “A” tipped off in EKU’s McBrayer Arena in Richmond. “It never was for any other reason but to let small schools play in a state-wide tournament.”

Owsley County had never made it to the KHSAA Sweet Sixteen, and Moore had never had the chance to show off his considerable hoops skills under the bright lights on a big stage.

Steidel’s vision became a reality in February, 1990, when the first All “A” state tournament was played in UK’s Memorial Coliseum, and Owsley County, led by Moore, reaped memories for a lifetime.

Coach Larry Sparks’ Owls became the crowd favorite as they advanced to the title game before losing to University Heights Academy 75-59.

The 6-foot-5 Moore burnished his reputation by scoring 115 points and grabbing 50 rebounds in four games, and earning tournament MVP honors.

Jeff “Moose” Moore received the All “A” Classic’s MVP award from Lexington Mayor Scotty Baesler after leading Owsley County to the finals in 1990.

Moore, 46, is now a commercial airline pilot who, when he’s not flying out of Chicago for regular trips to China and Japan, lives in Wisconsin with his wife and 4½-year-old daughter.

But he can still clearly recall what a wonderful week it was that winter three decades ago.

“We had a great time,” Moore said. “What was really cool was how the whole county got behind us. I think there were more people rooting for us in the Coliseum than there were in the whole county.

“Growing up in a small town (Booneville) was like Hoosiers. That’s not an exaggeration. Nothing compares to mountain basketball and the passion people have for it.”

Moore and his teammates, including Bryan Dean, Harold Creech, Jason Cope, Craig Marshall and Paul Green, made the most of their All “A” opportunity.

They beat Lexington Catholic 55-50 in the first round, with Moore getting 21 points and 9 rebounds.

They clipped Harlan 74-70 in the quarterfinals, with Moore going for 32 points and 19 rebounds.

They edged Maysville 60-56 in the semifinals, led by Moore’s 33 points and 13 rebounds.

The first All “A” Classic program included trading cards of some of the top players in the tournament, including Jeff Moore of Owsley County.

Alas, Owsley County lost to UHA 75-59 in the title game despite Moore’s 29 points and 9 rebounds.

“It was magical week right up to the point where we lost,” Moore said.

Getting to stay in a Lexington hotel for several days and getting to play in hallowed Memorial Coliseum were bonuses.

Moore remembers an incident that qualified as high-school hijinks.

Bryan Dean, his buddy and teammate, decided to drop a trash bag full of water from the second floor of their hotel onto the parking lot. The water bomb landed on a car and shattered the windshield.

The car belonged to Richard Blount of Hazard, better known as the Big Dipper. He was an avid  booster and fan of mountain high school sports, so he took it all in stride.

“And Bryan did what he was supposed to do,” Moore said. “He immediately went to the Big Dipper, told him what he had done and apologized.”

Playing in the Coliseum, where legends such as Cotton Nash, Pat Riley, Louie Dampier and Dan Issel once took the court, was the chance of a lifetime.

“Every kid growing up in Kentucky, it was their dream to play there,” Moore said.

Owsley County didn’t make it to the KHSAA Sweet Sixteen that season, but Moore did get a consolation prize.

“I never got to play in Rupp Arena, but I won an essay-writing contest and got to walk out on the floor during a state tournament game,” he said. “My mom was real proud of me for that.”

Moore, who went on to play at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, still has mementos from his All “A” days.

“When I was doing some unpacking when we bought a house six months ago, I saw I still have a set of those trading cards. I haven’t thrown anything away.”

A couple days ago, when Steidel was asked about that first state-wide All “A”, he quickly recalled that Moore “was the first MVP, and now he’s an airplane pilot.”

The All “A” remembers the Moose.

And the Moose remembers the All “A”.

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