Sweet Sixteen: different kinds of bricks

March 16, 2016 FieldsColumn

The Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys Sweet 16 State Basketball Tournament, at Rupp Arena, Lexington, KY, March 16, 2016. Photo by Tim Webb

NewCath’s Ben Weyer blocks Jacob King’s shot during Wednesday’s game in Rupp Arena. (Photo by Tim Webb)

The 99th Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys’ Sweet Sixteen opened Wednesday, and bricks were the topic du jour in the first session as Murray blasted Buckhorn 62-35, and Newport Central Catholic whipped Trinity 48-33 in front of 9,733 fans in Rupp Arena.

It was a good-brick kind of day for Murray, a bad-brick kind of day for Trinity.

The Shamrocks suffered through a nightmarish shooting performance — brick after brick after brick — as they went 15 minutes without scoring a point against NewCath.

After taking an 11-2 lead midway through the first quarter, Trinity was shut out in the second quarter, and needed 3:30 before finally scoring again in the third quarter and ending NewCath’s 20-0 run.

During their drought, the Rocks missed 20 consecutive shots. They finished the day 12 of 46 (26%), including 4 of 21 (19%) on three-pointers.

Coach Mike Szabo thought his team looked leg-weary at Tuesday’s practice, “and today it looked even worse. I think we ran out of gas physically, and maybe a little mentally as well.”

Szabo credited NewCath for playing solid defense, with 6-foot-6 Ben Weyer playing the role of rim-protector. 

“(Trinity) just had a bad shooting day but I like to think we had something to do with it,” Thoroughbreds Coach Ron Dawn said.

Murray's James Boone (23) and Preston English put the 'D' on Buckhorn's Connor Hoskins. (Photo by Tim Webb)

Murray’s James Boone (23) and Preston English put the ‘D’ on Buckhorn’s Connor Hoskins. (Photo by Tim Webb)

Murray, on the other hand, enjoyed its first state tournament victory since 1977, and Coach Bart Flener talked about how his team hopes to continue to “follow the gold brick road” that led to Rupp Arena.

When Flener took over the Tigers’ program in 2014, he came up with a brick-and-mortar plan that would help his players visualize success. He had one wall of their concrete locker room bricked from floor to ceiling, and painted white.

Starting in the left-bottom corner, he recorded every victory Murray enjoyed from the 1973-74 season (when it won the 1st Region for the first time), on its own brick, for every season through this current one. Notable victories got different colored bricks, including gold bricks for victories earned in tournament play.

There were gold bricks for the 1974 Tigers’ run through the district and region, and more gold bricks for the 1977 team that beat Holmes in the first round of the Sweet Sixteen. There were more gold bricks painted this season when Murray won the All “A” region and made it to the small-school state finals.

And only minutes after Murray beat Buckhorn on Wednesday, Flener already had a gold brick in hand, with the 62-35 score written on it.

“We talk to the kids about, ‘gotta build that wall,’ and the back of the shirts we wore today say “follow the gold-brick road to Rupp,” Flener said.

  • This tidbit from radio man Greg Stotelmyer who was courtside for all the bricklaying that Trinity and Buckhorn did in the second quarter of their games. The two teams shot a combined 1-for-23 and were outscored 31-3 by NewCath and Murray, respectively.
  • NewCath Coach Ron Dawn and Murray Coach Bart Flener, whose teams will meet in Friday’s quarterfinals, have met before on the tournament trail. In the first round of the 2001 All “A” Classic, Glasgow, coached by Flener, beat defending champ NewCath, coached by Dawn. Glasgow, led by Mr. Basketball Brandon Stockton, went on to win the small-school title. At Flener’s invitation, Stockton sat on Murray’s bench during the Buckhorn game.
  • NewCath’s Ben Weyer was the best player on the court Wednesday afternoon. The Bellarmine signee had 19 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 blocked shots and 2 assists. Coach Ron Dawn said he considers Weyer a Mr. Basketball-caliber player. “I think he’s as good as anybody in the state. That’s a typical day for him. He did everything for us, and he has all year.”
  • Samford Coach Scott Padgett and former UK player Scott Padgett was back in Rupp Arena. He had a front-row seat to watch one of his signees — James Boone, a 6-6 senior left-handed guard for Murray. Boone had a sub-par day. He picked up two early fouls and finished the day with only 5 points and 2 assists while playing 16 minutes in the blowout.