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Billy Miller’s strange 90-point night in Nancy

January 17, 2018 FieldsColumn


The Lexington Herald’s January, 1976 recap of Billy Miller’s 90-point outing.

BY MIKE FIELDS (Jan. 17, 2018)

Forty-two years ago this week, Billy Miller had 90 points in a high school basketball game, a scoring performance that still ranks second in the KHSAA record book, a scoring performance that, to some extent, he still regrets.

“If I had it to do over again,” Miller said last week, “I probably would’ve went and sat down and finished with around 70 points. That’s what I would’ve preferred to do, because the way things turned out, a lot of people thought the game was a farce.”

January 16, 1976, was, by all accounts, a strange night of hoops in Nancy, Ky.

Miller, a 6-foot-5 senior, led Nancy to a 145-70 rout of Pine Knot in a game that didn’t really go completely sideways until the closing minutes.

According to accounts in the Lexington Herald and Louisville Courier-Journal, Nancy Coach Avery Hatfield (now deceased) let Miller stay on the court so he could break the school record of 57 points. Martin Hatfield, the coach’s son, remembers going back into the game to feed Miller the ball so he could set a new mark.

Billy Miller’s 90-point game in 1976 ranks second to Wayne Oakley’s 114-point in the state record book.

By midway through the fourth quarter, Miller had 62 points, but he remained in the game and kept scoring.

Pine Knot Coach Clinton Gay told the Lexington Herald that with two minutes left, he instructed his players to intentionally throw the ball to Nancy’s players to protest what he regarded as poor officiating, and to make Nancy look bad for running up the score.

In the last 90 seconds or so, Miller found himself underneath his own basket, with a Pine Knot player repeatedly inbounding the ball directly to him. Miller kept shoveling in layup after layup. He figures he scored anywhere from a dozen to 20 points in that fashion.

“I wasn’t sure what was going on. It was all happening so fast,” Miller recalled. “I looked over at coach when it first happened and he told me to ‘shoot it, shoot it.’

“I wasn’t sure what their motivation was for throwing me the ball.”

Miller, who at halftime had 21 points and four fouls, wound up scoring 50 points in the fourth quarter (still a state record for one quarter).

But he had no idea he had finished with 90.

“I didn’t think about it until I got home late that night and I got two or three phone calls about it. Then the next morning a couple reporters called. Even somebody from Grit magazine called.

“I didn’t think it was a big deal at first,” he said. “The more it went on the bigger the deal got.”

Martin Hatfield, now a county attorney in Somerset, said Miller’s record-setting performance had a carry-over effect.

“I think we went to Walton-Verona for our next game, and it was like a circus up there,” Hatfield said. “Here was this little Nancy High School, and this kid who scored 90 points, so the media were everywhere. It was like a college game. We’d never even seen a darn TV camera, but there were cords laying on the court that we had to step over, and there were cameras we had to dodge while we were warming up. It was a unique situation.”

A week or so later, Miller received a letter of congratulations from the mother of Wayne Oakley, who had set the state record with 114 points for Hanson in Hopkins County in a game in 1954.

Miller didn’t need a 90-point game to validate his talent. He averaged 26 points that season, second best in the region behind McCreary County’s Tim Stephens (35.6 ppg). Miller also averaged 18 rebounds. (He and Martin went on to play together at Somerset Community College.)

Miller is still involved in hoops in Pulaski County. He’s pastor of Jordan Baptist Church in Burnside, and principal of Jordan Christian Academy where he also coaches the school’s varsity, junior varsity and 12-and-under basketball teams.

Even though it’s been more than four decades since he scored 90 points in that famous (infamous?) game against Pine Knot, Miller is regularly reminded of that strange night in Nancy.

“Oh yeah, I still hear about it,” he said. “You’d be surprised how often. It probably happens at least twice a month. Somebody will see me and ask, ‘How many points did you score that time?’

“I still wish I’d just gone ahead and taken what I legitimately scored, about 70 points, and been done with it. I really would’ve preferred to have just done that.”

(Nancy High School was consolidated into Pulaski County High School in 1981. Pine Knot was consolidated into McCreary Central in 1978.)


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