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Hall of Famer Mary Custard-Austin: “If you tell me ‘no,’ I’m going after it even harder”

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BY MIKE FIELDS

Mary Custard-Austin was an incredible athlete at Harrison County High School — a 2,000-point scorer in basketball and a five-time state champion in track – who readily admits she was “blessed with natural talent” that allowed her “to go out and do things that other people struggled to do.

“I was humbled I had that gift,” she added.

But talent alone is like a Ferrari without fuel: it won’t get you where you want to go.

Custard-Austin’s accomplishments were also the result of a remarkable work ethic that her mom helped instill in her: “She kept telling me, ‘There’s always someone out there bigger and badder, so you can’t take a break.’”

When Custard-Austin is inducted into the Dawahares/KHSAA Hall of Fame on April 27 in Lexington, she’ll acknowledge that it not only took natural talent and hard work to achieve success in sports and in life, but also the support and […]

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Eric Shelton says KHSAA Hall of Fame honor was a team effort

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BY MIKE FIELDS

When Eric Shelton looks back on his high school days at Bryan Station, he doesn’t focus on football, or the touchdowns he scored, the headlines he earned, the victories he celebrated, the awards he received.

“What I remember most was just living life without a care in the world, and appreciating my friends and my fellowship with them,” he said by phone from his home in Charlotte, N.C.

When Shelton is inducted into the Dawahares/KHSAA Hall of Fame later this month, he will credit those friends for helping him earn this honor.

“I really wouldn’t be here, I don’t even know how far I would’ve made it out of high school, if it wasn’t for my teammates, my friends,” he said. “Granted, I had God-given ability to run fast, to be strong and to jump high, but we had a great team, including great players and great coaches. They helped me make […]

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Kelly Coleman still the ‘King’ of Kentucky high school basketball

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BY MIKE FIELDS

WAYLAND – They came from all over the state, finding their way from Ashland, Bowling Green, Frankfort, Lexington, Louisville, Monticello, Paintsville and Pikeville, winding their way through the mountains of eastern Kentucky on the first full day of spring, so they could be here to welcome Kelly Coleman home from the hospital and to make sure he knew he will forever reign as the king of Kentucky high school basketball.

“King” Kelly Coleman is 80 now and fighting health issues, but his blue eyes are still clear and piercing; he still has the bearing of a man who demands respect, and his accomplishments from six decades ago still amaze.

That’s why more than 40 people, including three of Coleman’s fellow Mr. Basketball winners, a Miss Basketball, an Olympian, and a collection of distinguished coaches, gathered at the Wayland Historical Community Center (and its Mountain Sports Hall of Fame) on Thursday. 

Wayland Mayor […]

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Surefire: Scherr-fired Ryle rolls to Girls’ Sweet Sixteen title

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BY MIKE FIELDS

Orange and black – not green — were the winning colors on St. Patrick’s Day as the Ryle Lady Raiders rolled to the championship of the 58th KHSAA Girls’ Sweet Sixteen before 5,607 fans in Rupp Arena.

Ryle, whose school colors are orange and black, dominated Southwestern 63-48 in Sunday afternoon’s finals to become only the second Northern Kentucky girls’ team to win a state title. (Covington Holy Cross cut down the nets in 2015.)

Maddie Scherr, one of the top juniors in the nation, was named the tournament’s MVP after exemplifying what it means to be an all-around player.

The 5-foot-11 point guard totaled 52 points, 31 rebounds, 11 assists, 10 steals and 9 rebounds in helping Ryle sweep past Murray, Clark County, Owensboro Catholic and Southwestern.

“Maddie is so unselfish,” Lady Raiders Coach Katie Haitz said. “She’s just unbelievable . . . her ball-handling, knowing the game, getting her […]

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Boyd County’s loss can’t dim the shine on Savannah Wheeler’s career

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BY MIKE FIELDS

Savannah Wheeler has what her parents call “Savannah moments.”

Like when she was a third-grader and tagged along with older sister Taylor to a basketball camp at Transylvania. Savannah liked that she got to play in a game, but what she really, really liked was the camp’s soft-serve ice cream.

“The next year when they went back to camp the ice-cream machine was broken. Savannah didn’t want to go back to Transy again,” her dad Dave said with a laugh.

Or like when she was a sixth-grader and dressed out for Boyd County’s varsity, and Coach Pete Fraley looked down the bench to put her into a game one night. Savannah was nowhere to be found. “She got hungry and went to the concession stand to get a candy bar,” her dad explained.

“That’s Savannah,” her mom Tracy added. “She just kinda does her thing; she’s just a special kid, she really […]

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Robin Harmon & Irene Moore would’ve loved to play in Rupp Arena

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BY MIKE FIELDS

Robin Harmon-Newsome was a high-scoring basketball star who led Sheldon Clark to four consecutive appearances in the KHSAA Girls’ Sweet Sixteen from 1975-78.

Irene Moore Strong was a 5-foot-3, 108-pound dynamo who sparked Breathitt County to the state tournament as a junior and senior. After she led the Bobcats to a runner-up finish in 1978, she was named Miss Basketball.

Harmon and Moore, who will be inducted into the Kentucky High School Basketball Hall of Fame this summer, remember those good ol’ days with appreciation and nostalgia.

Playing in the Sweet Sixteen in EKU’s Alumni Coliseum was a big thrill.

But what if, instead, they had gotten to play in Rupp Arena, where the girls’ state tournament will be held for the first time this week?

“Oh, wow! That would’ve been a dream come true,” Harmon said. “I’m sure I always dreamed of it, but I never got to do it.”

Moore […]

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Hall of Famer Kandi Brown-Parker recalls her sweetest Sweet Sixteen

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BY MIKE FIELDS

There have been a lot of sweet moments in the history of the KHSAA Girls’ Sweet Sixteen, but the sweetest of all may have been the one shared by a coach and his daughter in the glow of a championship almost 20 years ago.

During a timeout in the closing seconds of West Carter’s 58-50 victory over Shelby County in the 2000 state finals, Lady Comets Coach John “Hop” Brown wrapped his arms around his daughter Kandi, who had just hit a clinching free throw in front of 6,500 fans in EKU’s McBrayer Arena.

“I can still remember so vividly that embrace he and I had,” Kandi Brown-Parker said this week. “That was probably my favorite moment ever with him. That hug was just awesome.”

Brown-Parker will be remembering that moment when she is inducted into the Dawahares/KHSAA Hall of Fame on April 27 in Lexington.

She said she was “an emotional […]

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Billy Hicks: “This was my last game”

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BY MIKE FIELDS

Nobody has coached basketball harder than Billy Hicks has coached basketball over the last four decades. If he wore a blood-pressure cup on the sidelines, the numbers would scare the bejeebers out of his doctor, not to mention his wife Betsy.

He has coached almost 1,300 high school games and won 1,013 of them. His winning percentage is a stunning 79%.

He has guided 14 teams to the Sweet Sixteen, 13 of them at Scott County over the last 25 years. He’s won more state tournament games — 33 — than any other coach. His Cardinals won 2 state championships (1998 and 2007).

Those aren’t just numbers. They represent a life’s work — a passion — that has consumed Hicks since he began coaching back home in Harlan County more than 40 years ago.

But Sunday afternoon in Rupp Arena, after Trinity beat Scott County 50-40 in the finals of the 102nd Whitaker […]

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Trinity wins state title behind humble hero David Johnson

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BY MIKE FIELDS

David Johnson has to be one the most self-effacing, ego-averse MVPs in the history of the Sweet Sixteen.

After the gifted 6-foot-5 senior had 22 points, 12 rebounds, 4 blocked shots and 2 assists to spark Trinity past Scott County 50-40 in the finals of the 102nd Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys’ State Basketball Tournament in Rupp Arena on Sunday afternoon, he steadfastly refused the mantle of hero.

Reporters tried to elicit some acknowledgment from Johnson on his fabulous play by asking him questions about his clutch shooting and his gnarly defense, but his answers always circled back to his teammates.

What about his buzzer-beating three-pointer from the right wing to close the first half that tied the game (22-22) and prompted Trinity’s other players to do a happy dance to the locker room?

“I know my teammates are going to feed off of it, but none of that stuff fazes me,” Johnson said. “I […]

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Twin brothers having a Jolly good time in Rupp

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BY MIKE FIELDS

The Jolly twins – Grant and Reid – are having a ball in the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys’ Sweet Sixteen this week, but then they’ve been having a ball playing ball – be it basketball, football, baseball or golf — whether as teammates or sibling rivals, all their lives.

The Campbell County seniors have helped the Camels win two games in the state tournament for the first time in school history. They knocked off undefeated John Hardin 61-60 on Wednesday, and followed that up with a 49-42 victory over Walton-Verona on Friday.

That puts Campbell County in the Sweet Sixteen semifinals against Trinity Saturday night in Rupp Arena.

“We’ve been talking about this forever,” Reid said. “Last year we won our first-ever game here, and since the beginning of this season we were looking to go farther. We’ve done that.”

Reid, a 6-foot-5, 195-pounder, has been the Camels’ star. He had 30 points, […]

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CovCath’s near-miracle comeback, play-by-play

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BY MIKE FIELDS

Take your pick.

It was almost the greatest comeback in Sweet Sixteen history, or almost the greatest collapse in Sweet Sixteen history.

Scott County led defending champion Covington Catholic 48-26 with 5:47 left and was cruising down easy street in their first-round showdown in the 102nd Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys’ State Tournament Thursday afternoon.

The top-rated Cardinals were still comfortably ahead — 60-41 — with 1:34 remaining, and 90% of the fans had exited Rupp Arena.

Then CovCath mounted an incredible rally. The Colonels went on an 18-0 run in a 67-second span.

Alas, the comeback fell just short, and Scott County escaped with a 64-61 victory.

Here’s how the frantic finish unfolded after Terrin Hamilton hit two free throws to give Scott County a 60-41 lead with 1:34 remaining:

  • CovCath Jack Davin 3-pointer: 60:44 w/1:10 left
  • Scott County turnover
  • CovCath Michael Mayer layup: 60:46 w/1:10 left
  • Scott County turnover
  • CovCath Tyler […]

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Billy Hicks, through the eyes of his wife Betsy

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BY MIKE FIELDS

Betsy Hicks has been watching her husband coach basketball for more than four decades, from Evarts to Harlan to Corbin to Scott County, and in that time she’s missed only a handful of his games.

In late January, when Billy Hicks became the first high school basketball coach in Kentucky to reach 1,000 victories, Betsy figured she had witnessed 990 of them.

A couple of weeks earlier, however, she had witnessed an even more remarkable “first” in her husband’s coaching career.

On Jan. 12, when Scott County was rolling to an 87-57 home-court rout of Ashland Blazer, Billy Hicks left at halftime so he could get to the hospital for the birth of his first grandchild.

“I was shocked, definitely shocked,” Betsy said. “That’s the only time in my life he’s left a ball game. I mean I’ve been on my deathbed before and he still went and coached a ball game.”

[…]

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Brewers’ basketball perfection secure in history for another year

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BY MIKE FIELDS

Only a few minutes after John Hardin lost in the first round of the 102nd KHSAA Sweet Sixteen Wednesday night, a phone call was placed to Barney Thweatt, who lives in Benton in the far reaches of western Kentucky.

Had Thweatt heard that Campbell County had knocked off previously undefeated John Hardin 61-60?

Thweatt, who’ll turn 89 later this month, couldn’t stifle his laughter of joy and relief.

“Yes, I listened to it all,” he said. “Nothing against John Hardin, but I’m glad they got beat. You know how selfish I am.”

Thweatt played on the last undefeated boys’ state title team in Kentucky — Brewers, a small school in Marshall County that went 36-0 on its way to the 1948 Sweet Sixteen championship.

It is a source of pride with Thweatt that no boys’ team since has been able to match Brewers’ accomplishment of perfection.

He was well aware that John […]

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A special basketball day for the Brannen family

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BY MIKE FIELDS

Debbie and John Brannen didn’t stick around Rupp Arena for long after watching their son Grant coach Walton-Verona to a 76-54 victory over Knox Central in the opening game of the 102nd KHSAA Sweet Sixteen Wednesday afternoon.

The Brannens had to book it back up I-75 so they could watch their son John coach Northern Kentucky University against Detroit Mercy at BB&T Arena in the Horizon League tournament Wednesday night.

First, though, they had to stop off at home and change clothes, switching their Walton-Verona colors (blue & white) for NKU colors (black & gold).

The proud basketball parents are on the road a lot during the winter, catching all the Walton-Verona and NKU games they can.

Debbie estimates that comes to 60 or 70 games a season, with her and husband splitting up when there are scheduling conflicts.

If you include the youth league games their grandkids play, Debbie said they […]

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The last six unbeaten teams that got beat in the Sweet Sixteen

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Since Brewers was crowned Boys’ Sweet Sixteen champion with a 36-0 record in 1948, six teams have entered the state tournament undefeated, but none have left holding the big trophy.

This year another unbeaten team will give it a try. John Hardin, out of the 5th Region, is 35-0. The Bulldogs will face 10th Region champ Campbell County in the first round of the 102nd Sweet Sixteen Wednesday night in Rupp Arena.

Here’s how the previous six undefeated teams fared in the state tournament:

1989 – Clay County (33-0), led by Russ Farmer, lost to Marshall County 64-60 in the first round. Dax Myhand and Dan Hall sparked the Marshals past Bobby Keith’s Tigers.

1982 – Mason County (30-0), coached by Allen Feldhaus Sr., beat Middlesboro 71-63 in the first round, then fell to Virgie and star Todd May 68-63 in the quarterfinals in front of a then-world record high school crowd of 21,342. It […]

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Reggie Warford’s Hall of Fame credentials go beyond basketball

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BY MIKE FIELDS

Remember Reggie Warford?

He was a basketball star at Drakesboro High in the early 1970s, a skinny, leaping left-hander who became the first recruit Joe B. Hall signed after Hall succeeded Adolph Rupp as Kentucky’s head coach. Warford helped the Cats win the National Invitational Tournament in 1976, and was the first African-American basketball player to graduate from UK.

“I guess no one wants to be forgotten,” Warford said in a phone interview from his home in Pittsburgh.

Warford has battled major health issues for the past 20 years, culminating with a heart transplant in 2014, and a kidney transplant in 2017. He has developed a pulmonary condition that restricts his breathing. The muscles around his diaphragm have atrophied. He’s on oxygen at night. He’s 64, wheelchair-bound, and courageously facing his mortality.

“I’m in my final stages here,” Warford said. “They’ve done everything they can do, and there’s nothing else to be […]

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Rick Bolus: still scouting, still loving it, after all these years

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BY MIKE FIELDS

Rick Bolus estimates that he’s driven more than a half-a-million miles to scout more than 10,000 high school basketball games over the last 46 years. He’s in remarkably good health considering he’s consumed several thousand concession-stand hot dogs and boxes of popcorn along the way.

Shela Bolus, Rick’s wife, is into horses and loves trail riding. A few years ago her husband, on a rare occasion when he wasn’t sequestered in a gym somewhere, went riding with her.

“To make a long story short,” Bolus said, “I fell off the horse and broke my thumb and five ribs.

“That’s why I prefer basketball.”

Bolus has always preferred hoops over horses. Basketball has always been his passion.

He was a talented shooting guard for Male High School (Class of 1968), and his teammates included star Henry Bacon, who went on to have a solid college career at Louisville.

At Virginia Military Institute, Bolus […]

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Guy Strong’s remarkable life in sports: ‘I’ve done it all and seen it all.’

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BY MIKE FIELDS

WINCHESTER — The tapestry of Guy Strong’s life in sports, intricately woven over seven decades, is made up of his many accomplishments as a player and coach, and all the notable people he influenced and befriended along the way.

It’s difficult to quantify, and impossible to fully appreciate, everything Strong experienced from the time he was a star athlete at Irvine High School in the late 1940s to when he retired as basketball coach at George Rogers Clark in the early 2000s.

But the 88-year-old former coach and educator knows he had an exhilarating ride, most of which he was lucky enough to share with Aleen, his wife of 64 1/2 years before she passed away in 2016.

“Like I told one of my daughters, ‘When I go, I want you all to be happy because I’ve had a great life,’” Strong said in a recent interview. “I don’t want anybody to be sad […]

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Thanks to its defense, South Warren survives, beats CovCath

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BY MIKE FIELDS

When South Warren took a 20-0 lead on defending champion Covington Catholic early in the third quarter of Sunday’s Class 5A title game, Spartans’ quarterback Gavin Spurrier and his coach Brandon Smith had entirely different takes on the situation.

Spurrier said he thought he and his teammates “had it in cruise control” and were well on their way to a championship celebration. 

Smith felt differently. He thought the entire second half was slow torture, and admitted he felt like he has “going to have a stroke” when CovCath closed to within 20-14 and had a chance to tie it or take the lead in the closing minutes.

As it turned out, South Warren’s defense rewarded both the exuberant Spurrier and the apprehensive Smith by preserving a 20-16 victory on a windy afternoon at Kroger Field.

It was a wild and crazy finish.

CovCath, riding a 29-game winning streak that included a 43-7 […]

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Dennis a real menace as Male wins 6A state title

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BY MIKE FIELDS

Male High School has been playing football for 125 years, and in that time it has won almost 900 games, had 9 undefeated seasons, and since the playoffs were instituted about 60 years ago, the Bulldogs have claimed 8 state titles.

Male has produced its share of big-name stars, including in the last 25 years a trio of Mr. Football winners (Michael Bush, Montrell Jones and Douglas Beaumont), and a pair of record-setting quarterbacks (Chris Redman and Gerry Ahrens) who led the Bulldogs to state championships.

But you would have a tough time convincing current Male Coach Chris Wolfe that any of those legendary players were any more valuable than Garrett Dennis, the senior quarterback who carried the Bulldogs to this year’s title.

Just as he has been all season, Dennis was the main man as Male mashed Scott County 37-20 in the Class 6A finals Friday night at Kroger Field. He […]

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Doug Preston’s winding journey to a dream destination

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BY MIKE FIELDS

Doug Preston has arrived at a special place in his football coaching career.

He’s at Franklin-Simpson, where he has guided the Wildcats to the state finals for the third year in a row, and his son Collin, a senior linebacker, has been along for the ride.

What makes Doug Preston’s story even more interesting is the winding road he took to reach this destination.

Over the last 27 years, he’s coached at 10 different high schools. The Bourbon County and EKU graduate has hopscotched across the Commonwealth, working the sidelines in Central Kentucky, Northeastern Kentucky, the Louisville area and now Western Kentucky.

“It really has been a journey,” he said with a laugh. “I’ve told guys getting into coaching, ‘Don’t take the Doug Preston route. Go someplace and stay for a long time.’

“When I was starting out, I thought I’d work my way up the ladder and go from good spot to […]

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In this football family, raising Cain means raising quarterbacks

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BY MIKE FIELDS

Wiley Cain believes he was destined to be a quarterback, that it’s in his DNA to play the most demanding position in football (and maybe in all of sports), and to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather and father.

“I’ve had football in my veins since I was born,” he said, “and I’ve been a quarterback since I first picked up the ball.”

His granddad, John Wiley Cain, was a star high school quarterback for Cumberland in the early 1960s. His dad, John Wiley Cain II, was a star high school quarterback for Somerset in the late 1980s.

Wiley Robert Cain, a senior at Pulaski County, is a third-generation QB, but the football he plays is a whole ‘nother game.

When John Cain quarterbacked Cumberland almost 60 years ago, he didn’t pass much. “I don’t remember throwing it more than 10 times a game very often,” he said.

When Johnny Cain quarterbacked […]

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William Warfield puts positive PrepSpin on high school sports

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BY MIKE FIELDS

It’s hard to believe there was a time when William Warfield didn’t know anything about computers, didn’t know about bytes or bandwidths, didn’t know the difference between algorithms and algae.

When he started working at RadioShack as a high school senior 22 years ago, Warfield remembers he was “afraid to sell a computer because I didn’t know anything about it. It was a foreign language to me.”

Today, Warfield has his own business and makes a nice living thanks to computers. And if you think he’s sequestered in a cubicle somewhere, pecking a keyboard and getting bleary-eyed, think again.

As the founder and operator of PrepSpin, Warfield occupies press boxes and press rows where, with his souped-up laptop, he live-streams more than 200 sporting events a year.

PrepSpin’s main focus is on high school sports.

“That’s my passion,” Warfield said. “I feel like my purpose is to help high school kids, recognize them, […]

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Paul Hornung’s winning senior year at Flaget

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BY MIKE FIELDS

Before he earned the nickname “Golden Boy,” before he won the Heisman Trophy at Notre Dame, before he was the first overall pick in the NFL draft, before he helped the Green Bay Packers win four NFL championships (including the first Super Bowl), before he was voted NFL MVP, before he was inducted into the college and pro football halls of fame, Paul Hornung was a multi-sport high school star in Louisville.

And to this day, Hornung is as proud of his days at Flaget as anything he accomplished in his remarkable sporting life.

“Absolutely. My memories of Flaget are still right up there,” the 82-year-old Hornung said in a recent telephone interview. “They rank as high in my mind as anything that ever happened to me.”

Hornung recalled his senior year of high school (1952-53) as being “really special.”

He quarterbacked Flaget’s football team to a 9-1-1 record, and the Braves […]

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Walker Buehler: the pride of Ecton Park and Henry Clay

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BY MIKE FIELDS

Walker Buehler threw 6 2/3 innings of one-hit, shutout baseball, and along the way collected his first RBI in the majors, to lead the Los Angeles Dodgers past the Colorado Rockies 5-2 on Monday and to their sixth consecutive National League West Division title.

The heartiest cheers for Buehler’s performance didn’t come from the sellout crowd at Chavez Ravine, though. They emanated from a home on Lakewood Drive right here in Lexington.

Karen Walker, Buehler’s mom, gathered in her living room with more than a dozen family members and friends to root for their favorite big leaguer as he keyed the Dodgers’ victory and drew rave reviews from the ESPN-TV commentators.

Karen Walker confessed she’s “typically incredibly nervous” when her son takes the mound, but she had a different feeling on Monday.

“Today I’ve got this weird, unusual peace about it,” she said during the early innings. “What has happened in this […]

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Jaggers’ family business: coaching high school football since 1963

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BY MIKE FIELDS

You could say the Jaggers’ family business is coaching high school football. It’s a business that’s been handed down from generation to generation to generation, a business that’s always been more about relationships than results, more about passion than a paycheck.

It took root in 1963 when Joe Jaggers began his coaching career as an assistant at Franklin-Simpson, then spread to different parts of Kentucky, with Joe heading programs at Old Kentucky Home, Nelson County, Trigg County, Fort Knox and North Hardin, winning five state titles along the way, and becoming the state’s all-time winningest coach before retiring in 1998.

Joe’s sons Marty and Crad followed in his footsteps, and between them coached from 1982 to 2014.

Marty’s son Josh is the fourth branch in the family tree of coaches. He’s been at LaRue County since 2008 and is in his fifth year as boss of the Hawks.

If you’re keeping score, that […]

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In his battle with cancer, Chris Hendrick finds refuge in baseball

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BY MIKE FIELDS

While Chris Hendrick is undergoing chemotherapy today in Louisville, he will occupy his mind with happy thoughts of umpiring in the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA State Baseball Tournament the past two weekends in Lexington.

Hendrick, who has been battling cancer the past 21 months, finds refuge on the diamond.

“Any baseball game gives me a chance to feel normal,” he said after working Friday night’s semifinal game between Hazard and St. Xavier at Whitaker Bank Ballpark.

“It’s my sacred place, my get-away-from-reality place. I don’t feel like I’m sick out there. All I have to do is worry about what’s going on between the lines, and that puts my mind at ease.”

Life has thrown a wicked curveball at the 27-year-old Hendrick, a former three-sport athlete at Carroll County High School.

In late summer of 2016, he was experiencing back pain and shortness of breath to the extent that he went to a hospital […]

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Hall of Famer Brian Brohm: Multi-sport athlete cover boy

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BY MIKE FIELDS

When Brian Brohm was inducted into the Dawahares/KHSAA Hall of Fame a couple months ago, most people remembered him as a mega-star quarterback who led Trinity to three consecutive state football championships.

But he was much more than that.

Brohm was a multi-sport cover boy, an athlete for all seasons, whose last go-around at Trinity was nothing short of spectacular.

“My senior year was very important to me. I wanted to have the best year I could possibly have,” he said last week.  “And we pretty much did that. I definitely cherish all those memories.”

Brohm’s versatility earned him national notice. As a junior, he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated (November, 2002) for a story titled “The Vanishing Three-Sport Athlete.”

As a senior, Brohm put an exclamation point on his high school sports career:

  •  In football, he quarterbacked Trinity to its three-peat by completing 22 of 31 passes for […]

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Al, Bobby, Jock & Nolan spin basketball memories

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BY MIKE FIELDS

Jock Sutherland, an irrepressible raconteur, was telling one of his favorite stories, the one about when he was coaching basketball at Lafayette, and one night he ventured onto the court during a game, and the referee told him he was going to assess him a technical foul for every step he took getting back to the bench, so Jock had his players come out and pick him up, but before toting him back to the sidelines they paraded him around the gym while a pep band serenaded them, much to the delight of the fans, and much to the chagrin of the men in the striped shirts.

Sutherland has told this tale, most of which is true, probably 1,000 times. And his audience on this occasion had probably heard it 100 times before. But they still laughed for the 100th time.

Sutherland was having lunch last week with three of his former […]

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‘Triple Threat’ Danville twins Jenna & Lara Akers ‘just like being Admirals’

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BY MIKE FIELDS

DANVILLE – If the KHSAA is looking for somebody to promote its “Triple Threat Award”, which recognizes multi-sport athletes who compete in the fall, winter and spring, Jenna and Lara Akers would be perfect ambassadors.

The Danville High School identical twins just finished their freshman year, during which they were actually quadruple threats: they competed in soccer, basketball, swimming and tennis.

If that wasn’t enough, they plan on adding to their sports repertoire next school year by also running cross country and/or track.

“I don’t like sitting around,” Jenna said. “I do like my phone, but I can put it down for sports.”

Ditto for Lara: “We were home the last week and were bored to death. We didn’t know what to do. We like being busy.”

Their mom will attest to that.

“They’re super active and social,” Leann Akers said of the twins. “They’re just full of life, very energetic people.”

Leann […]

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Recalling Randy Wyatt’s sprint to glory for Paducah Tilghman

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BY MIKE FIELDS

Lyman Brown still laughs when he recalls his first encounter with Randy Wyatt.

It was the spring of 1986 and Brown, who had coached Paducah Tilghman to seven consecutive state track and field championships (on his way to 11 in a row), was getting ready for another season.

“Bill Bond was the head track coach at Paducah Middle School and he said, ‘I’ve got this kid I think you can use,’” Brown recounted. “I said, ‘You mean an eighth-grader? Send him over and I’ll see if he can make our freshman relays.’”

A week or so later, when Brown was getting ready to hold time trials before the first meet of the season, he told Bond to send the eighth-grader over so he could take a look at him.

“Little did I know the kid was going to have to run from the middle school to the high school – about […]

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The Mayer/Maile Magic Carpet Ride

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BY MIKE FIELDS

Amy Mayer is one happy sports mom/aunt these days, and she almost feels guilty about it.

Her and husband Andy’s sons AJ and Michael were integral players on Covington Catholic’s state championship football and basketball teams.

Her nephew Luke Maile (son of her brother Rich and wife Laurie) is playing some terrific baseball for the Toronto Blue Jays.

And her nephew Jack (Luke’s brother), a football and baseball standout at CovCath, led the Colonels to victory over arch-rival Highlands at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati over the weekend.

“It is all kind of unbelievable,” Amy said. “It’s kind of like, ‘Is this real? Somebody pinch me because I feel like I’m dreaming.’ It’s like we’re overwhelmed with goodness and blessings. It’s almost like a Disney movie.”

It began with CovCath’s Class 5A football title last fall. AJ starred at quarterback; Michael at defensive end/tight end, and Jack as a two-way lineman […]

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RIP Bill Miller: A most genuine baseball man

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BY MIKE FIELDS

Bill Miller, the most genuine baseball man I ever met, passed away Monday. He was 68.

If there is an open acre in Heaven, Miller will turn it into a baseball diamond and be happy hitting fungoes for eternity.

Bill Miller was the baseball coach at Pleasure Ridge Park for nearly four decades, and in that time built the Panthers into the best high school program in Kentucky. 

They won six state championships — the first in 1994, the last in 2017 — because Miller was tough and demanding, and as gritty as infield dirt.

His 1,144 victories at PRP stand as a state record, and a tribute to sustained excellence.

I first got to know Miller in the early 1980s, before PRP was a baseball powerhouse. He was a proud PRP alum (Class of 1967), and had played catcher in baseball and fullback in football, so toughness was part of his […]

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Shon Walker’s Hall of Fame game wasn’t just the long ball

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BY MIKE FIELDS

CYNTHIANA — Shon Walker still looks like he could step up to the plate and, with that sweet, smooth left-handed swing of his, send a baseball flying to the hinterlands.

Except . . . 

“I tore a ligament in my leg playing kickball at our company picnic,” he said with a laugh.

Walker confessed his injury — and his concession to age — on a recent spring evening at River Road Park where he was helping instruct his son Donovan’s Little League team in practice.

Walker, 43, played his last minor league baseball game 20 years ago, but he still feels drawn to the diamond.

“The fresh-cut grass, getting the chalk out, I love all of it,” he said.

Walker’s love for the game, his talent for playing it, and his remarkable accomplishments at Harrison County High School, will be recognized when he’s inducted into the Dawahares/KHSAA Hall of Fame this weekend.

[…]

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Hall of Famer Angela Payne Starnes loves teaching as much as running

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BY MIKE FIELDS

Angela Payne Starnes will be retiring at the end of this school year, giving up her duties as an elementary school physical education teacher.

And her duties as a high school/middle school athletic director.

And her duties as a track & field coach.

And her duties as a cross country coach.

And her duties as a school bus driver.

With all the running she does to keep up with five jobs, it should come as no surprise that Starnes was a championship runner in her younger days.

As a high school track star at Todd County Central, Angela Payne won seven state titles.

As a sophomore in 1978, she was the 440-yard champ and part of the winning 4×100 relay.

As a junior she captured the 400-meter dash and another 4×100 victory.

As a senior she swept the 400, 200 and 100 sprints.

Payne’s winning time of :12.20 in the 100 meters […]

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CovCath celebrates another Sweet 16® title

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BY MIKE FIELDS

A few years ago C.J. Fredrick couldn’t even start for Covington Catholic’s freshman basketball team because, in his own words, he was “a skinny little stand-still shooter.”

Sunday afternoon under the bright lights in Rupp Arena, Fredrick was the star of the show as CovCath claimed its second state championship in five years.

The 6-foot-4 senior poured in 32 points as the Colonels swamped Scott County 73-55 to win the 101st Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Sweet 16® in front of 12,637 fans.

CovCath, which also beat Scott County in the 2014 finals, is only the second private school to win more than one boys’ championship. St. Xavier is the other, having taken the title in 1926, ’35, ’58 and ’62.

“C.J.’s special; he’s got special talent,” Coach Scott Ruthsatz said. “If you want to write a book, C.J.’s the one to write about. He was the sixth or seventh man on our freshman team. He […]

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CovCath vs. Scott County for Sweet 16® title again

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BY MIKE FIELDS

For the second time in five years, Covington Catholic and Scott County will battle it out for the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Sweet 16® championship.

They’ll face off Sunday at 2 p.m. in Rupp Arena.

CovCath (34-4) is riding a 22 game winning streak.

Scott County (37-1) has won 29 in a row. Its only loss was to Cincinnati Moeller.

When they clashed in the 2014 finals, CovCath rallied to beat the Cardinals 59-51 in overtime. Nick Ruthsatz, son of Colonels Coach Scott Ruthsatz, was MVP of the tournament. He had 25 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals in the title game.

“They’re really good,” Hicks said of this year’s CovCath team. “I think they’re better than they were in ’14. And they’ve still got a dad-burned Ruthsatz.”

That would be senior point guard Aiden Ruthsatz, Nick’s brother.

Hicks said CovCath’s size and strength will also present problems. The Colonels’ lineup includes […]

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It wasn’t a hero shot; it was a team being a team

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BY MIKE FIELDS

Hero?

Travis Henderson said no thanks to that label after he hit a three-pointer with :05 left to give Oldham County a 56-55 victory over Campbell County in the quarterfinals of the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Sweet 16 in Rupp Arena Friday night.

Asked about the game-winning three that sent the Colonels to the state semifinals, Henderson deflected all personal glory. Instead, he sounded as if he was just lucky to be in the right spot at the right time and his shot just happened to go in.

“The play wasn’t necessarily designed for me,” he said. “I knew they’d be helping in hard, and that (ballhandler) Jackson (Gibson) would make the right call.”

Oldham County Coach Coy Zerhusen said Gibson was supposed to “attack the paint” and look for a shot, or pass to Zach Larimore rolling free, or Henderson getting open in the left corner.

“They collapsed down on Jackson, and Travis […]

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Fern Creek’s Lenora Roberts keeps the book & keeps quiet

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BY MIKE FIELDS

As Fern Creek scrapped and clawed its way to a 69-67 overtime victory against Boyd County in the first round of the Sweet 16 Thursday afternoon in Rupp Arena, Lenora Roberts fidgeted in her seat, took a few deep breaths, but never made a peep.

She learned long ago to keep her emotions under wraps no matter what’s happening on the court. She’s been keeping the scorebook for Fern Creek basketball for 34 years, and no cheering is allowed in her job.

“I love it, but I have to keep quiet,” Lenora said with a laugh.

She has her daughter Kim to thank for that.

Kim was the eighth-grade basketball coach at Evangel Christian in Louisville when her younger sister Melissa was on the team. Lenora went to the opening game to root for her daughters, and, well, she must’ve made a little too much noise.

“After the very first game, Kim […]

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Rex Chapman remembers his Apollo heroes, and heartbreak

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BY MIKE FIELDS

When he was a basketball star at Apollo High School, UK and in the NBA, Rex Chapman was a hoops hero to thousands (millions?) of Kentucky kids.

But Rex remembers two of his own heroes when he was growing up, and one of them — Steve Barker — is coaching Apollo in the Sweet 16 this week.

Barker was an all-state player at Apollo 40 years ago when Wayne Chapman, Rex’s dad, was the Eagles’ coach.

Barker and Jeff Jones were four-year starters for Apollo, which reached the state tournament in 1976 and 1978.

“Steve and Jeff were two of my very first (heroes),” Rex said. “Steve could really shoot it, and Jeff was a really good player, too.”

The ’78 Apollo team took a 35-0 record and No. 1 ranking into the Sweet 16, but lost to Shelby County and its star Charles Hurt in the first round at Freedom Hall.

[…]

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