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After 60 years, Luther Blanton has ‘Sweet’ experience

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BY MIKE FIELDS (March 15, 2017)

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 […]

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Pikeville proud: Hillard Howard

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BY MIKE FIELDS (March 15, 2017)

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 […]

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    Vogt votes for NKU over UK

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (March 15, 2017)

    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 […]

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    Richie Farmer’s ‘Sweet’ memories

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (March 14, 2017)

    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 […]

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    Mercer County girls win Sweet Sixteen in style

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (March 12, 2017)

    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 […]

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    Mercer County vs. Franklin County for girls’ state title

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (March 11, 2017)

    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 […]

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

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (March 11, 2017)

    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 […]

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    Murray coach and her husband on same basketball wavelength

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (March 10, 2017)

    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 […]

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    Donna Murphy’s Sweet 16 starburst

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    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 (March 8, 2017)

    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 […]

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    Remembering Douglass Demons basketball

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (Feb. 27, 2017)

    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 […]

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    Dynasty of dynasties: St. X swimming & diving

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (Feb. 22, 2017)

    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 […]

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    R.I.P., Mike Wainscott, multi-sport coach in Lexington

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    Mike Wainscott, who coached in Fayette County public schools for 38 years, passed away Feb. 17, 2017. He was 67. Here’s what I wrote about him for the Lexington Herald-Leader upon his retirement in May, 2012.

    BY MIKE FIELDS

    Mike Wainscott has been a high school coach in Lexington for so long his career has spanned seven U.S. presidents. His longevity might be better appreciated by sports fans if it was noted that Wainscott’s first season on the sidelines came five years before ESPN was launched.

    Wainscott started as a football assistant at Tates Creek in 1974. He’s been involved in at least one sport in Fayette County public schools ever since. But Wainscott, who has coached softball at Paul Laurence Dunbar the last 15 seasons, is ready to call it quits.

    “I still enjoy the heck out of it, but it’s just time,” said Wainscott, 62. “I could keep going, but something’s telling me […]

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    Saluting Dominic Black, state’s most decorated wrestler

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    “It was such an amazing journey. The life lessons I learned from wrestling, I wish everybody could have those experiences. I mean, I filled up two passports traveling the world and having people cheer for me in languages I can’t even speak. That’s a great thing. But that’s sports.” — U.S. Army Major Dominic Black

    BY MIKE FIELDS (Feb. 14, 2017)

    FORT KNOX — Dominic Black clearly remembers the first wrestling match he won as a new-to-the-mat sophomore at Henry Clay High School more than 30 years ago.

    “I was probably just as nervous or scared as my opponent,” he recalled last week. “We go out, get into this tussle, I lock up a cradle and we roll around. I come out on top and pin this guy, and I’m like, ‘That felt great!’ At that point I decided I was going to stay the course and keep wrestling.”

    Keep wrestling he did, for another 20 years, and along […]

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    State’s top scorer has game, fame, new name

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (Feb. 9, 2017)

    When you’ve just put up a monster triple-double in a ridiculously high-scoring comeback victory, you have every right to request that people call you by any name you choose.

    After Lawrence County basketball star Timmy Dalton poured in a school-record 60 points to go with 15 rebounds and 10 assists in a 106-103 victory at Greenup County Monday night, the 6-foot-3 senior asked the media if they would henceforth refer to him as Tim Dalton.

    “’Timmy’ makes me seem like I’m young; ‘Tim’ sounds older,” he said lightheartedly in a telephone interview Wednesday.

    You can also call Tim Dalton one of the most prolific scorers in Kentucky boys’ basketball in quite a while.

    Dalton has 1,039 points in 27 games this season for a 38.5 average. No boys’ player in the state has scored that much since Chris Harrison of Tollesboro averaged 39.4 points for the 1990-91 season.

    (Ervin Stepp […]

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    ‘Corn’ captured best of high school sports

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (Feb. 3, 2017)

    Kentucky high school sports is losing a friend. Photographer Mark Cornelison is leaving the Herald-Leader for a job at the University of Kentucky. 

    “Corn” worked at the newspaper for more than 20 years, and he brought a sharp eye, imagination and enthusiasm to illustrating the games, players and coaches in high school sports.

    He shot countless regular-season and playoff games, and was on the sidelines for dozens of championships. He always did his best to capture the key moments, and he almost always succeeded.

    Mark and I made a lot of road trips together. The best times were to shoot the covers for our preseason basketball and football special sections. Our destinations included Boyle County (Coach Chuck Smith and linebacker Lamar Dawson); Leslie County (Tim Couch); Louisville (Brian Brohm); Mason County (Chris Lofton and Darius Miller), and Northern Kentucky (Drew Barker).

    Mark’s most memorable cover shot, however, came right here in Lexington in 2000. We met Bryan Station […]

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    Don Lane, aka Donnie Lane, sharpshooter

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (Feb. 1, 2017)

    For all he’s done for young people, Hall of Fame basketball coach Don Lane will receive the Jim Host Youth Sports Award at the Bluegrass Sports Commission’s annual banquet tonight at the Lexington Convention Center.

    Lane led Transylvania to 509 victories in his 26 years as coach. He retired after leading the Pioneers to a No. 1 national ranking in 2001. His son Brian succeeded him as Transy’s coach.

    Don Lane has been inducted into the Kentucky Basketball Hall of Fame, the Transylvania Athletic Hall of Fame and the Union College Athletic Hall of Fame.

    Don Lane first earned notice as Donnie Lane — a high school hotshot at Versailles.

    He had a career-high 38 points as junior in a 63-59 victory over Georgetown on Feb. 2, 1960.

    (His accomplishment was noted in the Lexington Herald a couple days later in an article written by a young sports writer named Billy Reed. Yes, the same Billy Reed who […]

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    Bowling Green’s swagger of success

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (Jan. 31, 2017)

    The Everly Brothers had a top-40 hit in 1967 in which they sang about how “a man in Kentucky sure is lucky to live down in Bowling Green.” 

    Fifty years later, Kevin Wallace and D.G. Sherrill admit they are lucky men as they oversee powerhouse sports programs at Bowling Green High School.

    Wallace, the Purples football coach, has had the winningest program in the state over the last six years. Bowling Green has won five Class 5A championships in that span while winning 84 of 87 games. Starting in 2011, it reeled off 48 victories in a row, and it currently owns a 27-game winning streak.

    The Purples also have had two of the last four Mr. Football winners in Nacarius Fant and Jamale Carothers.

    Sherrill, the boys’ basketball coach at Bowling Green, has guided the Purples to the Sweet Sixteen five of the past six years. They were state runners-up to Owensboro in 2015, made the final four […]

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    Cliff Hagan played for Owensboro one week, UK the next

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    Sports Illustrated’s Seth Davis wrote a column last week stating the case for high school (and prep school) basketball players getting the jump on their college careers by enrolling in college at midseason. It’s hardly a new idea, as Cliff Hagan will attest.

    BY MIKE FIELDS (Jan. 26, 2017)

    Cliff Hagan made his debut as a University of Kentucky basketball player on this date 67 years ago. On Jan. 26, 1950, Hagan had 9 points in 19 minutes of action as UK’s freshman team beat Xavier’s freshmen 59-46 in Cincinnati.

    What’s remarkable about that bit of trivia is that only five days earlier Hagan played his last high school game. On Jan. 21, 1950, he had 27 points to lead defending state champion Owensboro to a 58-39 victory over Manual in Louisville.

    Hagan graduated from Owensboro at mid-term and became one of Adolph Rupp’s most prized recruits.

    “I realized all at once it was my last high school game, […]

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    Kyle Moore: Mom had a mean hook shot

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (Jan. 23, 2017)

    Forty-two years ago today — Jan. 23, 1975 — Buckhorn basketball star Peggy Gay had 74 points in a 136-20 victory over Oneida Baptist.

    It was a historic performance for Gay – she set a state scoring record for girls that night, and her 74 points still rank No. 2 on the state’s all-time list for girls behind Geri Grigsby’s 81 points – but it was only a small sample of her basketball greatness.

    A remarkably skilled 5-foot-9 senior, Gay averaged 34.6 points and 16.0 rebounds that year (the first season the KHSAA reintroduced girls’ basketball), and was voted first-team all-state by the Lexington Herald-Leader. Stanley Caudill, her coach, described Gay as “a real fireball.”

    Gay went on to become a standout at Eastern Kentucky University. She was the program’s first 1,000-point scorer, and finished her career with 1,696 points.

    One college highlight for Gay came in the season opener of her senior year when […]

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    Roy Bowling ushered girls’ basketball into modern era

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (Jan. 18, 2017)

    LONDON – The most influential coach in the history of girls’ high school basketball in Kentucky, whose early string of state championships prodded other schools to take the sport seriously, didn’t exactly jump at the chance to help usher the girls’ game into the modern era.

    Roy Bowling had coached boys’ basketball at Hazel Green, and boys’ basketball and baseball at London, and he was the baseball coach at Laurel County when superintendent Hayward Gilliam called him into his office one day and asked if he would start up their girls’ basketball program after the KHSAA reintroduced the sport in 1974.

    Bowling didn’t have to think about it. “You’re out of your mind!” he told Gilliam.

    After all, Bowling’s first love was baseball – he had pitched for Georgetown College (his arsenal included a wicked curveball), and his Laurel County baseball team was on the brink of a run to the […]

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    Fraley’s coaching career comes full circle at Powell County

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (Jan. 10, 2017)

    STANTON – A large black-and-white photograph hangs in Powell County’s gym, forever preserving the Pirates in all their glory, moments after they won the 14th Region basketball title for the first time in 1974.

    Several players have arms raised in triumph, fingers jabbing No. 1 into the air.  A few players look sweaty and exhausted, but delighted. The cheerleaders, sitting in front, are all smiles. The championship trophy is at the feet of the young head coach, who is glancing off to the side with a bemused look, as if he can’t quite grasp what his team has just accomplished that night at Breathitt County.

    More than four decades later, Dave Fraley, the head coach in the photo, still gets excited when he talks about that 1974 team, led by Steven Kisner and James Goodwin, what the region title meant to the people of Powell County, and what it meant to him as he embarked on […]

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    Transy’s all Bluegrass-bred basketball roster

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (Jan. 6, 2017)

    When Transylvania men’s basketball coach Brian Lane gathered his team for their first preseason get-together last summer, there was really no need to introduce the new players to the holdovers.

    They were already pretty familiar with each because they are all graduates of Kentucky high school hoops.

    Two dozen colleges in Kentucky have men’s and women’s basketball programs – from big schools like UK and Louisville, to little ones like Asbury and Brescia — but of those 48 rosters, only one is made up entirely of home-grown players.

    That is the Transylvania men’s team. All 16 players were basketball-bred in the Bluegrass State.

    “It’s not by design, but we do try to do a good job (recruiting) in Kentucky,” Lane said.

    The Transy roster is comprised of players from nine regions, stretching from the 2nd in Western Kentucky to the 15th and 16th in Eastern Kentucky. They come from state-championship certified programs […]

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    King of the Bluegrass still reigns as top holiday tourney

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (Dec. 19, 2016)

    LOUISVILLE – The King of the Bluegrass has reigned as the best high school holiday basketball tournament in Kentucky — and one of the best in the nation — for 36 years now.

    It was the brainchild of then-Fairdale Coach Stan Hardin and assistant Lloyd Gardner, who came up with the idea on the bus ride home after the Bulldogs played in a Christmastime tournament in Ocala, Fla., in 1980.

    “My philosophy was, if they could have a tournament like that in Florida, which isn’t a basketball state, we should be able to do it in Louisville,” Hardin recalled.

    “We decided right then to put it together,” Gardner said.

    They went to the Fairdale administration and got the go-ahead, as long as it didn’t cost the school anything. Hardin went looking for a sponsor, found RC Cola, and the tournament became a reality.

    The inaugural King of the Bluegrass Holiday […]

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    Johnson Central celebrates first football title

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (Dec. 4, 2016)

    BOWLING GREEN — It ain’t over till it’s over, they say, but Johnson Central football coach Jim Matney seemed pretty sure his Golden Eagles were winging their way toward championship glory when he giddily jumped up and down along the sidelines after his team took a 36-0 lead over Franklin-Simpson late in the first half of Sunday’s Russell Athletic/KHSAA Class 4A finals.

    That meant there would be a running clock the entire second half on this cold, damp evening, and Johnson Central and its fans wouldn’t have to wait as long to start celebrating the county’s first state football title.

    For the fifth straight week of the playoffs, Johnson Central mercy-ruled its opponent into submission. The Eagles wound up pile-driving Franklin-Simpson 48-0 in the finale at WKU’s L.T. Smith Stadium.

    “This means everything to our kids,” Matney said. “I’m very thankful, very humbled. This is important to our county and for everybody that ever put […]

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    Belfry vs. Central has a (championship) ring to it

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (Dec. 3, 2016)

    BOWLING GREEN — When Belfry Coach Philip Haywood and Louisville Central Coach Ty Scroggins met at midfield before Saturday night’s Russell Athletic/KHSAA Class 3A finals, they shook hands, exchanged warm smiles, and neither of them said, “We’ve got to stop meeting like this.”

    On the contrary, this is why they and their players pour their hearts and souls into football.

    There are more traditional high school rivalries in Kentucky, but none of them can match the championship cachet that comes with Belfry-Central.

    “A lot of other rivalries, like St. X-Trinity or Male-Manual, they play every year,” Scroggins said earlier this week. “But the only way we play this rivalry game is if both programs get to the state finals. We get to play for a trophy; we get to play for a ring, and that makes it extra special.”

    Over the last 10 years, Belfry vs. Central has almost become a first-weekend-in-December annual event in WKU’s L.T. Smith […]

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    Is Philip Haywood’s win record untouchable?

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (Dec. 1, 2016)

    Football coaches Mark Brown of Elizabethtown and Larry French of Southwestern reached the 300-victory milestone this season, joining an exclusive club that isn’t as exclusive as it once was.

    In 2005, when Bob Schneider of Newport Central Catholic became the first coach in the state to get to 300 wins, it seemed he had ascended into rarefied air.

    Flash ahead to today and Philip Haywood of Belfry sits atop the mountain with 416 (!) victories. Below him are eight coaches with more than 300 wins, including newcomers Brown and French.

    Hard to believe that 30 years ago Bardstown’s Garnis Martin became the state’s all-time winningest coach when he got his 250th victory.

    There have been several changes at the top since then.

    Walter Brugh of Paintsville went by Martin in 1993.

    Joe Jaggers of North Hardin surpassed Brugh in 1997.

    Schneider took over at No. 1 in 2005, and Dudley Hilton, in his last season at Bell County, tied Schneider […]

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    50th anniversary of Dayton High’s football title

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (Nov. 26, 2016)

    It was 50 years ago today — Nov. 26, 1966 — that Dayton High School stunned Russellville 6-2 to win the Class A football title at UK’s Stoll Field.

    Dayton hadn’t been to the state finals before, and it hasn’t been there since.

    Russellville came into the championship game undefeated (11-0) and a solid favorite to handle the Greendevils (9-3). One big reason: Russellville’s linemen outweighed Dayton’s by an average of more than 30 pounds.

    The Panthers’ Henry Noe and Donnie Bagget blocked a Dayton punt out of the end zone midway through the second quarter to give Russellville a 2-0 lead.

    Ironically, Coach Ray King’s Greendevils wound up winning the game on the same kind of play.

    Early in the fourth quarter Dayton’s Jerry Brooks blocked a Russellville punt — his fifth block of the season — and teammate John Fowee picked up the loose ball and returned it 8 yards for a TD.

    It […]

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    Dennis Johnson and the good ol’ days of multi-sport athletes

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (Nov. 17, 2016)

    In this day of specialization among high school athletes, who are prodded by their parents and coaches to devote all their time and energy to one sport lest a college scholarship (or possibly a pro contract) eludes them, let us remember Dennis Johnson.

    Johnson excelled in football, basketball and track & field at Harrodsburg High School from 1994-98 because, first and foremost, he was an exceptional talent. He had size, strength, a surplus of God-given abilities and a never-quit work ethic. (He also showed lots of promise as a hard-throwing pitcher, but he gave up baseball to concentrate on track & field.)

    But just as important, he had a father/coach who believed it was beneficial for kids to play more than one sport.

    “Absolutely,” says Alvis Johnson, who coached his sons Dennis and Derrick in football and track & field at Harrodsburg. “At that age, kids should play every sport they can because they really […]

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    Jake Johnson catches, passes John Cole, keeps state receiving record local

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (Nov. 9, 2016)

    Former Somerset football star John Cole was visiting family in his hometown last week when he heard the news that current Pulaski County star Jake Johnson had broken his state record for career receiving yards the previous Friday night.

    Was Cole, a Briar Jumper for life, OK with having an arch-rival Maroon eclipse his numbers?

    “Yes, 100 percent,” he said. “It’s exciting. It’s great to keep it in the county. I’m happy for Jake.”

    Johnson, a 6-foot, 178-pound senior, broke James Quick’s state record for career receptions in Pulaski County’s first game this season. Quick, who played at Trinity from 2009-12, had 280 catches. Johnson has obliterated that mark. He has 369 receptions going into Friday night’s playoff game against Whitley County.

    Breaking Cole’s career yardage mark of 4,981 took a little longer, but Johnson did it in the regular-season finale against Bourbon County. He has since upped his total to 5,044.

    “Over 5,000 […]

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    Jimmie Reed: a football lifer

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (Nov. 4, 2016)

    Jimmie Reed attended a powder-puff football game in Louisville a couple weeks ago.

    He wasn’t on the sidelines coaching, or on the field afterward handing out awards. He was there to cheer on one of his granddaughters.

    It goes to show how Jimmie Reed’s life is still infused with football. It’s part of his make-up, and has been since he first put on a helmet and pads in the early 1960s as a grade-schooler in Springfield, Ky.

    Reed quit playing football 44 years ago, and quit coaching it 22 years ago, but he never quit the game. He’s still active as a fan, administrator and advocate.

    “When I played football, I loved the camaraderie and how much it taught me,” Reed, 65, said recently.  “Once I got into coaching, I had the opportunity to influence kids and have them enjoy that same kind of camaraderie and that same kind of experience.

    […]

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    Justin Thomas latest Kentuckian to cash in on PGA Tour

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (Oct. 28. 2016)

    Justin Thomas won the CIMB Classic in Malaysia last week, successfully defending his title in Kuala Lumpur.

    Thomas is showing lots of early promise on the PGA Tour. When the Louisvillian won the CIMB Classic last year he was only 22 — the youngest Kentuckian ever to win on tour. J.B. Holmes was 23 when he won for the first time.

    Thomas is the seventh former KHSAA state champ to win on the PGA Tour, following in the footsteps of Gay Brewer, Frank Beard, Bobby Nichols, Russ Cochran, Kenny Perry and Holmes.

    Here’s how Kentuckians have fared on the PGA Tour over the years, including how old they were when they won for the first time:

    • Kenny Perry (Lone Oak, WKU) was 30 when he got the first of his 14 victories on the PGA Tour. He has $39 million in career earnings, including the Champions Tour.
    • Bobby NIchols (St. Xavier, Texas A&M) was 25 […]

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    Beth Bates got her foot in the door of football history

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (Oct. 26, 2016)

    It’s been more than 30 years since Beth Bates kicked her way into Kentucky high school football’s history books, but she’s still occasionally reminded of her headline-grabbing days at Williamsburg High School.

    “People bring it up, so it comes back around every so often,” Bates said recently. “And I have told my kids about it. They know the story.”

    As a junior at Williamsburg in 1982, she booted five extra points for the Yellow Jackets to become, as far as anybody could document, the first girl in the state to ever score points in football.

    In her senior season, Bates became the first girl to kick a field goal in state history when she connected on a 22-yarder for Williamsburg in a 12-3 loss to Lynn Camp.

    Even though she garnered lots of attention in those ground-breaking days, Bates didn’t see herself as a pioneer. 

    “At the time, it was just […]

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    For Belfry ‘stat man’ Bennett West, it’s not just a numbers game

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (Oct. 20, 2016)

    Ask Bennett West when he began keeping the scorebook and statistics for the Belfry boys’ basketball team and he answers without hesitation.

    “It was at Virgie, November 30, 1978. We lost 106-79,” he says, deftly pulling the place, date and score from his mental encyclopedia.

    In the 38 years since, West has expanded his role as Belfry’s “stat man.” He is now also involved in Pirates’ baseball, football, softball, girls’ basketball, soccer and volleyball.  

    Last week West logged his 3,000th game as Belfry’s stat man when the Pirates played in a volleyball tournament in West Virginia.

    You read that right. He’s kept stats for 3,000 high school sporting events. And he has the scorebooks, notebooks and stat sheets to prove it.

    “People ask me how much I get paid for this, and the answer to that queston is nothing,” West said. “But the love and respect I have for the students and […]

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    Todd Bretz the constant in Dunbar’s soccer success

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (Oct. 11, 2016)

    Todd Bretz was only 24 when he signed on to coach boys’ soccer at Paul Laurence Dunbar when it opened in 1990.

    Jon Akers, Dunbar’s first principal, had to find more than a dozen head coaches to staff the sports programs at the new high school, and he remembers that Bretz was “by far” his youngest and most inexperienced hire.

    But Akers saw something in him.

    “I could tell right away Todd had a passion for soccer,” Akers recalled recently. “But what I liked about him more than anything, he was going to discipline his players to work hard and be sportsmen.”

    Akers’ new coaches also included Mike Meighan (football), Frank Watson (boys’ basketball) and Jud Brown (girls’ basketball). “They were all quality people who loved kids, but they had a tough love to make sure the kids behaved themselves and worked as a team, not as individuals.

    “That’s what I saw in Todd, and […]

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    Jeff McGill has helped nuture state golf tradition

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (Oct. 4, 2016)

    BOWLING GREEN – An hour into a conversation with Jeff McGill about all things golf, including his views on the virtues the game teaches and his memories of winning the 1969 state title, he states the obvious: “I fall into the category of being a traditionalist.”

    McGill, the pro at Bowling Green County Club, has certainly done his part to nurture the tradition of the Leachman Buick-GMC-Cadillac/KHSAA State Golf Championships by helping to host the event for more than 10 years.

    “Growing the game is the reason I get up in the morning,” McGill said.

    Early October is one of McGill’s favorite times of the year because more than 300 high school golfers come to his course to determine the girls’ and boys’ team and individual state golf champions.

    McGill sees the future of the game — and society — in their faces.

    “When I speak or make a presentation to […]

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    Charles Hurt: a Shelby County Rocket to remember

    FieldsColumn

    BY MIKE FIELDS (Sept. 21, 2016)

    Charles Hurt, who died last week at age 55 after a long battle with leukemia, is being remembered for his basketball playing days at Kentucky.

    But Hurt played his best basketball at Shelby County, where he was a two-time all-stater and helped the Rockets win the 1978 state title. He hit one of the most memorable shots in Sweet Sixteen history in the championship game against Holmes.

    “You couldn’t speak any higher of his character, the way he worked and the way he felt about his team,” said Tom Creamer, who coached Hurt at Shelby County. “In the four years I had him, I don’t remember him complaining about anything. He was just a very unique person, a fine young man.

    “He had a lot of talent, but what always impressed me about Charles was that he didn’t want any limelight on him. He wanted it to be on the team. […]

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    Rachel Sanford: for the love of running

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (Sept. 13, 2016)

    LOUISVILLE — Rachel Sanford was never chasing glory or records or celebrity when she was winning an unprecedented five consecutive KHSAA state cross country titles, a remarkable streak of success that began in 1993 when she was only 10 years old.

    “I was just out there having fun, enjoying running and being with my family,” she said recently. “It was never really about the winning. It was about the overall experience.”

    Now, some 20 years later, Rachel Sanford DeJarnatt can better understand the buzz she created as a wunderkind. On a restaurant patio near her home in Louisville, where she lives with her husband Dee and their two children (2-year-old Andrew and 6-week old Eleanor), Rachel sifted through a box of newspaper and magazine clippings and photos from her time as a childhood champion.

    She remembers being upset the day she had to interrupt her recess at Southern Elementary in Somerset to have her […]

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    Lynch East Main: once king of the hills and state

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (Sept. 6, 2016)

    LYNCH – Dig into the history of Kentucky high school football and one shiny nugget you’ll uncover is that the first official state champion hailed from this tiny coal town deep in the hills of Harlan County.

    patch3It was a cold, snowy afternoon on November 28, 1959, when Lynch East Main, led by Johnny Powell’s 225 rushing yards and Adam “Bull” Hoiska’s three touchdowns, throttled Henderson Douglass 40-0 at UK’s Stoll Field to win the Class A state title.

    It was the first year the Kentucky High School Athletic Association sponsored playoffs in football.

    It was also the start of a dynasty for Coach Ed Miracle’s Bulldogs, who reached the Class A finals five years in a row, and eight times in 13 years. They won four championships and were kings of the mountains . . . and the state. 

     

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    Under Beatty, Trinity is 15-0 against Lexington teams

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (Sept. 2, 2016)

    When Lafayette plays host to Trinity in high school football tonight, the Generals will try to end Lexington’s 16-year streak of futility against Bob Beatty’s Shamrocks.

    The last time a Lexington team beat Trinity was in 1999 when Eric Shelton ran roughshod through the Rocks’ defense in leading Bryan Station to a 31-21 playoff victory in Louisville.

    That was Kevin Wright’s last year as Trinity’s coach. Beatty took over in 2000, and since then the Rocks have gone 15-0 against Lexington competition. Most of the games have been lopsided, including Trinity’s 70-14 rout of Lafayette last season.

    Here’s how the Rocks have dominated Lexington since 2000 (* denotes playoff game):

    2000

    • 45-10 over Henry Clay*
    • 52-21 over Tates Creek*

    2001

    • 50-0 over Tates Creek*

    2002

    • 49-7 over Dunbar*

    2003

    • 25-13 over Dunbar*

    2005

    • 41-20 over Henry Clay*

    2006

    Perfect match: Ron Kordes & Assumption volleyball

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (Aug. 29, 2016)

    LOUISVILLE – When Ron Kordes was hired to coach volleyball at Assumption in 1989, then-principal Karen Russ asked how long he thought he might lead the Rockets’ program.

    “I told her, ‘Let’s do it a year at a time, and as long as I’m enjoying it, we’ll continue on,’” Kordes recently remembered.

    “Now here I am 28 years later and I’m still enjoying it.”

    Talk about a perfect match.

    Under Kordes’ direction, Assumption volleyball has been one of the most successful and dominant programs in the history of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association.

    The Rockets have won 19 state titles and been named national champions four times in the last 24 years. Starting in 1995, they won eight consecutive state titles and fashioned a remarkable 174-game winning streak against Kentucky competition.

    Kordes should notch his 1,000th career victory in the next week or two. (His win total is currently 990.)

    Not bad for […]

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    My, oh, Myra; Kentucky’s only 4-time golf champ

    FieldsColumn

    “What I like about golf, and the reason I think kids should play golf, is because it’s an individual sport that requires you to gain control over your emotions, develops your critical thinking skills, your conceptual thinking skills, and your discipline.

    “Golf is never the same. There’s no way ever to get bored with it, ever. It’s an elusive challenge you’re always chasing. To be able to gain control over a projectile flying through the air is pretty cool. If you can curve it, hit it straight, hit it low, hit it high, it’s almost like being a magician. It’s just an awesome thing to do.”

    — Myra Van Hoose Blackwelder

    BY MIKE FIELDS (Aug. 25, 2016)

    When Myra Van Hoose’s parents gave her a set of golf clubs when she was in junior high, she had no idea the gift would profoundly shape the rest of her life, personally and […]

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    Jack and Joe Morris, football’s top father-son coaching duo

    FieldsColumn

    BY MIKE FIELDS (Aug. 22, 2016)

    MAYFIELD – The first family of Mayfield High School football includes the most successful father-son coaching duo in the history of Kentucky high school football.

    Between them, Jack and Joe Morris have been part of the Cardinals’ program for almost six decades – including a combined 42 years as head coach, during which time they’ve accumulated 454 victories, 18 trips to the state finals, 10 state championships, and zero losing seasons.

    Jack first arrived at Mayfield in 1959 as a student teacher, then joined the football staff as an assistant the next year. He left for an assistant’s job at Paducah Tilghman in 1968 but returned to Mayfield in 1969 to take over as head coach.

    In 24 years as boss of the Cards, Jack had a record of 254-50-2, highlighted by four state titles (1977 ’78, ’85, ’86).

    His son’s coaching career is following the same arc of […]

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    ‘Granddaddy’ Rec Bowl has unmatched history

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (Aug. 19, 2016)

    The headline above tells you the result of the first Recreation Bowl played in Mount Sterling on Nov. 11, 1948. It was a Thursday night, and after Somerset, led by running backs Dickie Holmes and Dick Mitchell, thumped previously unbeaten Evarts 27-0 in front of 4,000 spectators, University of Kentucky football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant awarded Bill Clark’s Briar Jumpers the winners’ trophy.

    (Somerset didn’t have much time to celebrate because on Friday it traveled to Bardstown and played St. Joe Prep. The Jumpers won, 35-0. Two games, two victories, in 24 hours.)

    In 1948, the Recreation Bowl was the only bowl in Kentucky. It was started as a fundraiser for the Montgomery County swimming pool fund.

    How times have changed.

    About 100 Kentucky high school football teams will usher in the 2016 […]

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    Can McCracken County end 1st Region title drought

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (June 17, 2016)

    McCracken County will continue its quest to end a 56-year title drought for the 1st Region when the Rawlings/KHSAA State Baseball Tournament resumes tonight with the final four at Whitaker Bank Ballpark.

    The semifinal matchups have McCracken County (37-5) taking on St. Xavier (27-12) at 6 p.m., followed by Bullitt East (28-10) playing Campbell County (28-10).

    The last 1st Region team to win a state baseball title was Paducah Tilghman in 1960. Since then region has had four state runners-up: Lone Oak in 1963, Paducah Tilghman in 1970 and 1974, and Murray in 1979.

    St. X, the 7th Region champ, won its sixth state title just two years ago. The Tigers also won it all in 1942, 1945, 1949, 1951 and 1981.

    Bullitt East, out of the 6th Region, is looking […]

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    Old scorebooks, part 10 — Future big-leaguers in ’94 final four

    FieldsColumn

    Between them, Scott Downs and Brad Wilkerson played major league baseball for more than 20 years, which tells you something about the star power they brought to the high school baseball final four in 1994.

    Downs was an undefeated senior lefthanded pitcher for Pleasure Ridge Park. Wilkerson was an undefeated junior lefthanded pitcher and standout center fielder for Apollo.

    Before the semifinals, PRP Coach Bill Miller and Apollo Coach Bob Mantooth had to decide when to use their aces.

    Miller sent Downs to the mound for the Panthers in their semifinal matchup with Lexington Catholic, and he threw a three-hitter and struck out 15 as PRP beat Dom Fucci’s Knights 3-1. Downs improved to 13-0 on the season, with 175 K’s in 80 innings. (He finished his career 24-0.)

    Mantooth tried to save Wilkerson, who had an 11-0 record and 0.71 ERA, for the finals. The strategy failed. Error-plagued Apollo lost to Corbin 5-4 in the semifinals. Wilkerson, who brought […]

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    Old scorebooks, part 9 — PRP’s amazing comeback 20 years ago

    FieldsColumn

    Yogi Berra’s quip that “It ain’t over till it’s over” resonated 20 years ago when Pleasure Ridge Park rallied to beat Harrison County in the state baseball semifinals, and went on to win its third consecutive state championship.

    PRP was on the brink of defeat when it trailed 5-2 in the top of the seventh with two outs and nobody. Then everything went haywire for Harrison County.

    98millerPRP’s Brad Williams was hit by a pitch and Matt Jarboe walked. Troy Hilpp’s single drove in Williams to make it 5-3. Matt Fox followed with a smash to center field that was just out of the reach of Harrison County’s Paul Roberts. Fox wound up with a two-run triple that tied it 5-5.

    Harrison County showed lots of grit. Despite the devastating turn of events, the Thorobreds loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh but couldn’t cash in, but still […]

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    Old scorebooks, part 8: Little ol’ Paintsville beats the big boys

    FieldsColumn

    When Paintsville won the Sweet Sixteen championship in 1996, the Tigers showed that a Class A-size school could compete with the big boys in basketball and come out on top.

    Big deal.

    Paintsville had already proved that point in baseball six years earlier when it won the state title, knocking off big-city schools Pleasure Ridge Park and Tates Creek in the final four at UK’s Shively Field.

    Coach Charlie Adkins’ Tigers, who were runners-up to Lafayette in 1989, finished the job in 1990.

    They beat PRP 5-0 in the semifinals as Walt Crace blanked the Panthers on five hits.

    Paintsville came back the next day and whipped Tates Creek 10-4. The Tigers erupted for six runs in the fourth inning, with Matt Williams and Jeremy Holbrook contributing RBI hits. Billy Phelps and Tucker Howard added solo home runs later in the game.

    Mickey VanHoose (9-0) got the victory for Paintsville, with relief help from Howard.

    Tates Creek pitcher Marcus Robinson (11-1) suffered his first loss of the year. […]

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    Old scorebooks, part 7: LexCath wins title with ace Michael dealing victories

    FieldsColumn

    Lexington Catholic, led by the standout pitching of Mark Michael, beat Pleasure Ridge Park 4-2 in nine innings to win its first state baseball championship in 1999.

    Michael had a sensational senior season, going 14-0 with a 1.30 ERA and exhibiting remarkable control — he had 98 strikeouts and only 9 walks in 77 innings.

    In the title game against PRP, he surrendered two runs in the first but blanked the Panthers the rest of the way. On the day he gave up five hits, struck out five, walked two and hit one batter. 

    “I was really tired but I just kept throwing strikes,” Michael said after the victory at UK’s Cliff Hagan Stadium.

    John Hogan had the game-winning hit — a two-run double in the ninth that drove in Andy Foster and Joey Wilson. Andrew Levenson had a sacrifice fly in the third that drove in Nate Heiple. Wilson’s solo homer in the fourth tied the game 2-2.

    PRP loaded the bases with two outs in the […]

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    Old scorebooks, part 6 — Eddie Brooks’ homer binge

    FieldsColumn

    Bryan Station baseball coach Eddie Brooks was a star in his playing days at Lafayette. He was a slick-fielding sophomore infielder who batted ninth on the Generals’ 1989 state championship team.

    But Brooks wielded a dangerous bat at the bottom of the order, and he showed plenty of power at the plate in the playoffs that year. 

    He smacked three home runs — two in one inning! — in Lafayette’s 22-0 rout of Franklin County in the region semifinals. Brooks hit a 2-run homer in the fourth, then belted a solo shot and a 3-run dinger in the sixth to highlight a 15-run uprising by Lafayette. 

    Exactly one week later, Brooks hit a pair of two-run homers against Danville ace Paul Morse in the sectional semifinals at Somerset as the Generals won 11-1.

    What made Brooks’ post-season power display surprising was that he hit only one home run during the regular season.

    Brooks went on to have a standout career at UK, and after his […]

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    Old scorebooks, part 5: Harrison County’s breakthrough state title

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    When Harrison County and Pleasure Ridge Park met in the 1993 baseball finals, both programs were looking for their first state championship after twice being bridesmaids.

    Harrison County was runner-up in 1984 and 1987; PRP was runner-up in 1982 and 1985.

    The 1993 championship game would mark the beginning of state domination by the two schools. They would combine to win the next 6 state titles — Harrison County in 1993, 1997 and 1998; PRP in 1994, 1995 and 1996.

    (PRP added titles in 2008 and 2013. Harrison County captured another championship in 2010. All that success has helped make their coaches the winningest in state history. PRP’s Bill Miller is first with 1,092 victories; Harrison County’s Mac Whitaker is second with 1,064.) 

    Harrison County’s breakthrough win in ’93 was remarkable in that it finished its championship run with 32 consecutive shutout innings and 68 consecutive errorless innings.

    Thorobreds’ second baseman Brent Hampton explained the team’s flawless fielding after the win over PRP: “Catches on, just like […]

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    Old scorebooks, part 4: Franklin County’s upset for the ages

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    flyers

    I’ve witnessed a lot of upsets over the last 40+ years, and my memory of most of them is blurry. One upset that is still clear — and still shocking — came in baseball 23 years ago this week.

    On May 25, 1993, defending state champion and No. 1-ranked Lafayette, boasting a star-studded lineup and a 33-5 record, lost to unranked Franklin County, sporting a 14-21 record, in the first round of the 11th Region baseball tournament at EKU.

    Franklin County trailed 4-1 with two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the seventh inning, but then the world turned upside down and the Flyers rallied for a 5-4 victory.

    “Miracle is the only word to describe it,” winning pitcher Billy Taylor said after the game.

    “Yes, I guess it was a miracle,” added Franklin County Coach Ben Zimmerman.

    After Lafayette scored three runs in […]

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    Old scorebooks, part 3: Pelphrey, Lorenzen, Smith played baseball, too

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    They aren’t remembered as baseball players, but John Pelphrey, Jared Lorenzen and Derek Smith were talented multi-sport athletes in high school.

    In his junior year at Paintsville, Pelphrey was a star pitcher who helped the Tigers reach the 1986 state baseball final four in Elizabethtown. The 6-foot-7 righthander had an 11-1 record before losing a 3-1 decision to eventual champion Tates Creek in the semifinals. Pelphrey pitched well against the Commodores, giving up six hits and striking out three.

    Here’s Paintsville’s lineup from that game:

    johnpelphrey

    Pelphrey and baseball teammates Keith Adkins and Mike Minix were standout players on Paintsville’s basketball team, which made the Sweet Sixteen three years in a row (1985, ’86, ’87). Pelphrey was named Mr. Basketball as a senior.

    Jared Lorenzen and Derek Smith were a multi-sport dynamic duo in their days at Highlands. They are best remembered for their accomplishments in basketball […]

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    Old scorebooks, part 2: Poynter’s hot post-season for Tates Creek in 1990

    FieldsColumn

    Larry Poynter, in his first year as head baseball coach at Tates Creek, leads his alma mater  into post-season play in the 43rd District tournament Tuesday night.

    In getting his players ready for the playoffs, Poynter can tell them about how he stepped up in the 1990 post-season and was a key factor in helping the Commodores reach the state finals. (They lost to Paintsville in the championship game. That’s the last time Tates Creek made it that far.)

    Poynter, a catcher, not only did his job defensively behind the plate, he also swung a big bat. In nine playoff games that spring, Poynter hit .461 (12 of 26), with 10 RBI and 7 runs. He had an astounding on-base percentage of .676 (25 of 37).

    Here’s the scorebook for Tates Creek’s 16-3 victory over Bryan Station in the 11th Region finals. Poynter had a solo homer and a run-scoring double. Mark Etter had 5 RBI, including a 3-run homer for […]

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    Old scorebooks, part 1: Lafayette ace Curtis Whitney’s pitching prowess in 1992

    FieldsColumn

    I came across my old baseball scorebooks recently, some more than 30 years old, and flipping through the pages was like stepping back in time.

    Over the next few weeks I’ll share some of the most memorable individual and team post-season performances.

    For example, I found the scorebook that documented Lafayette’s post-season run to the 1992 state championship. I had forgotten just how dominant Generals’ ace Curtis Whitney was in his four playoff starts that spring: 54 strikeouts in 28 innings (four complete games).

    It was 24 years ago today — May 20, 1992 — that Whitney had 15 strikeouts in Lafayette’s 19-4 rout of Bryan Station in the 43rd District semifinals.

    The junior right-hander followed up by throwing a no-hitter with 10 K’s and 2 walks in the Generals’ 3-0 victory over Lexington Catholic in the 11th Region finals.

    In Whitney’s next outing he had 10 K’s and allowed 4 hits in a 16-8 win over Covington Catholic in the sectional semifinals.

    Whitney capped off his post-season […]

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    Greenup County’s pursuit of perfection is over, but not its pursuit of state title

    FieldsColumn

    BY MIKE FIELDS (May 16, 2016)

    Greenup County’s hopes of becoming Kentucky’s first undefeated state baseball champion in 34 years are dead, but the Musketeers’ hopes of winning the state title are still very much alive.

    Greenup County suffered its first loss of the season Saturday, falling to East Jessamine 2-1 in the Fayette County Invitational Tournament. Coach Greg Logan said his players were “heartbroken” and “crushed” when their 33-game winning streak – the third longest in state history – came to an end.

    “I told them that the sun will come up tomorrow and that our main goal (winning the state championship) has not changed,” Logan said. “We hit a pot hole. This is not going to train-wreck us. It’s just a minor setback. We’ll keep it on the tracks and start another winning streak.”

    The Musketeers went into the FCIT ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 11 in the nation (according to […]

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    PRP’s Bill Miller feels ‘blessed’ in fight against cancer

    FieldsColumn

    BY MIKE FIELDS (April 15, 2016)

    LOUISVILLE — The feel-good story of this high school baseball season is that legendary Pleasure Ridge Park Coach Bill Miller feels good.

    Upgrade that: “I feel great!” Miller said before a Panthers’ practice this week.

    That’s a remarkable statement coming from a guy who, even though he has never smoked, was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer six months ago.

    Miller, 66, knows how lucky he is to be feeling great and to be surrounded by people who care about him

    “I’ve been blessed,” he said. “God’s been good to me, and I didn’t know that before.”

     

    Miller’s frightening medical odyssey began in late September. The night after unloading two tractor-trailer loads of sod, he woke up with back pain. He figured he had pulled a muscle. When the discomfort persisted, he called his doctor, who directed him to the emergency room.

    A scan revealed that Miller had a kidney stone. That was the good news. The […]

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    Steve Wright steps down at Southwestern

    FieldsColumn

    BY MIKE FIELDS (April 11, 2016)

    Steve Wright marked his 59th birthday Monday by resigning as boys’ basketball coach at Pulaski Southwestern. 

    “I’m at a point in my life where I want to move on to other possibilities and opportunities,” said Wright, who has an overall record of 697-247 in 30 years. 

    “Each year I reevaluate if I want to continue in the same position . . . I’m 100% convinced that at this stage in my life it’s time to move to the next chapter in my career.”

    Wright said he might look at coaching on the college level, or take another high school job, or “maybe take a year off, relax and enjoy myself, or I may never coach again. I’m not sure.

    “I love coaching, but it’s not who I am. It doesn’t define every move I make every day. Sometimes during the winter it feels that way, but I’m not going to look up and be 70 […]

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    Is it time to end Kentucky-Indiana All-Star series?

    FieldsColumn

    BY MIKE FIELDS (April 8, 2016)

    Tradition is getting thumped by reality when it comes to the Kentucky-Indiana All-Stars basketball series, so maybe it’s time to invoke a mercy rule and pull the plug on the games.

    It’s sad to say goodbye to what was once a vital, rousing event, but it’s even sadder to watch it slowly wither away.

    My suggestion is to keep naming Mr. and Miss Basketball, keep naming boys’ and girls’ all-star teams, and continue to honor the top players at a banquet the night before the boys’ Sweet Sixteen.

    Just don’t play the games against Indiana anymore after the series wraps up this June.

    I’m not alone in my opinion. Allen Feldhaus Jr. and Chris O’Hearn, a couple of state championship coaches who’ve also led the Kentucky All-Stars in recent years, agree that the series can’t be resuscitated.

    “When some kids don’t even show up (to practice), when nobody’s coming to games, […]

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    Hero shot for ‘Nova a personal thrill for LexCath alum

    FieldsColumn

    BY MIKE FIELDS (April 5, 2016)

    When Kris Jenkins hit his buzzer-beating three-pointer to give Villanova the NCAA title late Monday night in Houston, it was a shot heard ’round the nation.

    And Lexington Catholic alum Cory Heitz’s reaction to Jenkins’ heroics was probably heard ’round Kendallville, Ind.

    Heitz coached Jenkins at Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C., so he was pulling for his former player in the championship game against North Carolina.

    Heitz said he watched the finals while visiting his 91-year-old grandmother in Kendallville, “and I absolutely screamed when that shot went in. I probably woke up the whole housing development. I cried a little bit, too. It’s emotional to see one of your guys hit one of the most iconic shots in basketball history. It was beautiful.”

    Heitz played for Danny Haney at Lexington Catholic (class of 1995) and went on to play at the Air Force Academy.

    He also was […]

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    Dodgers’ A.J. Ellis caught news of Dunbar’s title

    FieldsColumn

    454560BY MIKE FIELDS (March 28, 2016)

    GLENDALE, AZ — Even though he was in spring training in Arizona, 1,800 miles from Rupp Arena, Los Angeles Dodgers catcher (and former Paul Laurence Dunbar basketball player) A.J. Ellis followed Dunbar’s march to the Sweet Sixteen championship.

    “I had friends on Facebook who kept me up on how Dunbar was doing,” Ellis said. “I was following them closely. I had a game (the Sunday of the state finals), and when I came off the field I had a barrage of text messages from some of my high school teammates letting me know Dunbar had pulled it out.

    “I was so excited for them, for the school and all the alums. I know I was excited.”

    Ellis was a sophomore reserve on Dunbar’s 1997 Sweet Sixteen team that lost to Paintsville in the first round.

    “I was the […]

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    Dunbar celebrates long-sought title

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (March 20, 2016)

    Paul Laurence Dunbar hoisted the big trophy and cut down the nets after winning the 99th Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys’ Sweet Sixteen championship in Rupp Arena Sunday afternoon, and its celebration echoed through history.

    Dunbar was battle-scarred as it survived a brutal post-season schedule. It beat Henry Clay in the 11th Region semifinals and Scott County in the finals to get to Rupp. Then it had to get through the gauntlet of Mercer County, Bowling Green and Newport Central Catholic to reach the championship game against Doss.

    As it turned out, the last fight was the easiest. The Bulldogs delivered an early knockout punch. It rolled to a 26-7 lead over Doss and was never seriously threatened. It claimed the state title with its school-record 33rd victory in front of 10,091 fans, a large portion of whom were […]

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    Lexington vs. Louisville for 7th time in finals

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (March 19, 2016)

    For the seventh time in state tournament history, a Lexington team will play a Louisville team in the title game.

    Paul Laurence Dunbar (32-6) will go against Doss (30-5) in the finals of the 99th Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Sweet Sixteen in Rupp Arena Sunday at 2 p.m.

    Louisville holds the upper hand in the big-city championship rivalry. It has won 4 of the previous 6 showdowns.

    • 1957: Lafayette beat Eastern 55-52 in Freedom Hall. 
    • 1963: Seneca beat Dunbar 72-66 in Freedom Hall.
    • 1975: Male beat Henry Clay 74-59 in Freedom Hall.
    • 1991: Fairdale beat Tates Creek 67-63 in Rupp Arena.
    • 1994: Fairdale beat Dunbar 59-56 in Freedom Hall.
    • 2001: Lafayette beat Male 54-49 in Rupp Arena.

    Doss has set a school record with 30 wins. If Dunbar takes Sunday’s title game, it will set a school record with 33 victories.

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    Dunbar, Doss squeeze into title game

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (March 19, 2016)

    When Doss and Paul Laurence Dunbar got together for a pre-season scrimmage at Taylor County last fall, a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, little did they know they would end the season in Rupp Arena playing for the state championship.

    “Funny how things happen,” Doss Coach Tony Williams said.

    To get to Sunday afternoon’s title game, Doss and Dunbar had to survive tough semifinal tests Saturday night in the 99th Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Sweet Sixteen.

    Doss trailed South Laurel 60-56 with less than 3 minutes left, but the Dragons closed with a rush and won 70-63.

    The turning point down the stretch may have been when South Laurel’s 6-foot-8, 265-pound Caleb Taylor was called for his fifth foul with 1:47 left and the Cards up 60-59.

    “I was just so happy they decided to blow that whistle,” Williams said. “Once (Taylor) went out with his fifth foul, there was a sense of relief.”

    Jaylon […]

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    Sweet Sixteen now a Final Four

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    The final four of the 99th Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Sweet Sixteen is all set. Saturday night’s semifinal matchups in Rupp Arena look like this:

    • Newport Central Catholic (30-4) vs. Paul Laurence Dunbar (31-6), 6:30
    • Doss (29-5) vs. South Laurel (29-6), 8:15.

    NewCath is in the semifinals for the first time since 1953 when it lost to eventual champ Lafayette. Coach Ron Dawn’s Thoroughbreds have been led by 6-foot-6 senior Ben Weyer, who’s been nothing less than fabulous in wins over Trinity and Murray.

    Dunbar, state runner-up to Marion County in 1993 and to Fairdale in 1994, came into this Sweet Sixteen as the top-rated team. Junior standout Taveion Hollingsworth has been smoother than Jif peanut butter in leading Scott Chalk’s Bulldogs past Mercer County and Bowling Green.

    Doss is the final four for the first time since 1985 when it lost to Clay County. The Dragons were state runners-up to Owensboro in 1980. This year’s team, coached by Tony Williams, beat Lawrence County in […]

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    NewCath’s Big Ben clocking big numbers

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (March 18, 2016)

    Newport Central Catholic star Ben Weyer is making more noise in Rupp Arena this week than the Monster Jam trucks did when they rolled in here for a show last month.

    In two games in the 99th Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Sweet Sixteen, the 6-foot-6 senior has put up staggering numbers — 46 points, 25 rebounds, 7 assists and 7 blocked shots — while leading NewCath to the state semifinals for the first time since 1953.

    It just so happens that Weyer’s grandfather, Jim Weyer, was the starting point guard on the ’53 Thoroughbreds team that lost to eventual champ Lafayette in the final four.

    Ben’s dad Joe also has Sweet Sixteen history. He played for Highlands in the 1986 and ’87 state tournaments. He, too, was a point guard who fed Bluebirds’ star Scott Draud. Highlands lost in the first round both years.

    “My dad messes with me a lot,” Ben said. “He’ll say, […]

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    Grab bag of contenders in Sweet quarterfinals

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    The 99th Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Sweet Sixteen was hyped as a wide-open shootout with any number of title contenders. Friday’s quarterfinal matchups seem to bear that out. It’s hard to pick any sure-fire winners coming out of the elite eight.

    • Murray (30-5) vs. Newport Central Catholic (29-4), noon
    • Dunbar (30-6) vs. Bowling Green (31-2), 1:30
    • Doss (28-5) vs. Taylor County (25-8), 6:30
    • South Laurel (28-6) vs. South Oldham (29-5), 8:15

    Dave Cantrall’s power ratings for the Lexington Herald-Leader had the tournament’s 16 teams in this order. Bold-faced teams still alive: 

  • Dunbar
  • South Laurel
  • NewCath
  • Trinity
  • Mercer County
  • Bowling Green
  • Christian County
  • Taylor County
  • Doss
  • South Oldham
  • Lawrence County
  • Murray
  • Owensboro Catholic
  • Mason County
  • Buckhorn
  • Elliott County
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    Braden Miller has a ‘Ty’ to South Laurel champs

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (March 17, 2016)

    When South Laurel’s Braden Miller hit a three-pointer midway through the first quarter of the Cardinals’ game against Christian County Thursday afternoon, he glanced into the Rupp Arena stands and spotted his family celebrating.

    “It was a surreal feeling when I hit that shot,” Braden said. “To hear the noise of the crowd and to look up and see my family. My (older) brother Brennan told me after the region that if I hit a shot in Rupp, to look for him. It’s something I’ll never forget.”

    What made the moment even more special was that it was part of South Laurel’s stirring 53-50 victory over Christian County, which put the Cardinals in the state tournament’s elite eight.

    South Laurel, rated the second best team in the Sweet Sixteen, must be considered a threat to win the title, just like it did in 2005.

    Braden Miller was only 8 when the […]

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    Fairdale’s back-to-back feat has aged well

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (March 17, 2016)

    Today is the 25th anniversary of Fairdale’s completing its back-to-back Sweet Sixteen championships.

    Stan Hardin’s Bulldogs beat Tates Creek 67-63 in the finals of the 74th Boys’ State Tournament in Rupp Arena on March 16, 1991 to become the first team to win consecutive state titles since Male did it in 1970 and ’71.

    Fairdale’s terrific trio of Jermaine Brown, Maurice Morris and Carlos Turner combined for 40 points and 22 rebounds in the victory over Tates Creek. Nolan Barger’s Commodores were led by Darrin Horn’s 23 points and 7 rebounds, and John Mark Stuart’s 20 points.

    Is Hardin surprised that, a quarter of a century later, no boys’ team has repeated as champ?

    “What’s amazing to me is that it’s only been done once in the last 45 years,” Hardin said. 

    There have been close calls. Scott County won it all in 1998 and was runner-up in 1999. Mason County won it all […]

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    Sweet memories 70 years in the making

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (March 17, 2016)

    Reginald Rice saw his first Sweet Sixteen 70 years ago at the Louisville Armory when he was a student at Garrett High School in Floyd County. 

    Since 1946, Rice has missed only a handful of state tournaments — usually when flooding causes havoc back home. The 87-year-old basketball fan was in his customary lower-arena, front-row seat Wednesday for the 99th renewal of the Greatest Show in Hoops. He was sitting with his son Kenny, a long-time sportscaster and, like his dad, a Sweet Sixteen junkie.

    Father and son have been pretty much regulars at the state tournament since the mid-1960s. Kenny missed a few, most of them when he was working at WTVQ in Lexington and had to follow UK in the NCAA Tournament.

    Reginald Rice said he loves the state tournament “atmosphere” and chatting up old friends and making new ones.

    He played basketball for the Garrett Black Devils in the […]

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    Hollingsworth shines, Dunbar survives

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (March 16, 2016)

    Cool, calm and clutch.

    That’s Taveion Hollingsworth, a 6-foot-2 junior who plays basketball for Paul Laurence Dunbar with such remarkable ease and efficiency that it makes you wonder if he’s immune to pressure.

    Hollingsworth was at this best in the biggest game of his life Wednesday night. He led Dunbar to a heart-racing (although his own heart apparently never races) 58-55 victory over Mercer County in a down-to-the-wire first-round thriller in the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Sweet Sixteen.

    Hollingsworth scored 23 of his 32 points in the second half, draining clutch shot after clutch shot to keep the Bulldogs in the chase for their first state tournament victory since 1994.

    Wasn’t Hollingsworth at least a little jittery on the Rupp Arena stage?

    “It was different because the place is bigger and there were more people (11,866) here,” he said softly. “But I tried not to pay attention to the crowd and just played my […]

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    Watson cheers Dunbar’s return to Rupp

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    frankwatsonBY MIKE FIELDS (March 16, 2016)

    The last time Paul Laurence Dunbar played in the Sweet Sixteen, in 1997, Frank Watson was the Bulldogs’ coach, having guided the Bulldogs to three state tournaments in five years.

    When Dunbar took the Rupp Arena court Wednesday night, Watson was sitting in Section 42, among the Bulldogs’ red-shirted fans, remembering those glory days two decades ago.

    “Walking in here, it seems like yesterday,” he said. “It doesn’t seem like 19 years,

    “I’m so happy and excited for them that they’ve made it back.”

    When Dunbar opened in 1990, Watson was hired to be the school’s first basketball coach and build the program. The Bulldogs, led by Darnell Burton and Cameron Mills, quickly became a state power. They won back-to-back region titles and finished as state runners-up in 1993 (to Marion County) and 1994 (to Fairdale).

    “The […]

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    Sweet Sixteen: different kinds of bricks

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (March 16, 2016)

    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 […]

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    Sweet Sixteen a NewCath family tradition

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (March 16, 2016)

    Newport Central Catholic sophomore guard Stephen Pangallo will carry on a family tradition by playing in the Sweet Sixteen today.

    Pangallo is the grandson of NewCath Coach Ron Dawn, who played in the state tournament for the Thoroughbreds in 1973 and 1974.

    Ron coached his son Ronny, who was an all-state guard for NewCath’s 2000 Sweet Sixteen team.

    “It’s neat,” Ron Dawn said of the family’s state tournament tradition. “I didn’t think about it until a day or two (after the 9th Region championship).”

    NewCath has another three-generation Sweet Sixteen story.

    Jim Weyer played for NewCath’s 1953 state tournament team. Jim’s son Joe was on Highlands’ state tournament teams in 1986 and ’87, and Jim’s grandson Ben is a standout on this year’s NewCath team this year.

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    Butler gets shot at record-tying 5th title

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (March 12, 2016)

    HIGHLAND HEIGHTS — Butler will be chasing history when it goes up against a once-upon-a-time opponent in the girls’ state basketball finals Sunday night.

    Butler outlasted All “A” champion Murray 68-58 in the semifinals of the St. Elizabeth HealthCare/KHSAA Sweet Sixteen Saturday night in BB&T Arena.

    The victory earned the Bearettes a chance to tie Laurel County as the only 5-time state titlist in the modern era. They will play Franklin County in Sunday’s 2 o’clock title game. Butler grounded the Flyers in the 1980 finals.

    Larry Just, who coached Butler to its 2014 championship, said he hasn’t had time to think about his team’s shot at history. “That’s something if it happens, it happens. I’ve got a tired basketball team and we just have to find energy for tomorrow.”

    Murray sapped Butler with a valiant comeback. The Lady Tigers, trying to win their 30th game in a row, trailed 41-24 in the third quarter […]

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    Flyers in finals for first time in 36 years.

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (March 12, 2016)

    HIGHLAND HEIGHTS — It took 36 years, but Franklin County has made it back to the state championship game in girls’ basketball.

    The Flyers held on to beat Mercer County 55-51 in the semifinals of the St. Elizabeth HealthCare/KHSAA Sweet Sixteen Saturday night at BB&T Arena.

    The victory puts Franklin County (31-4) in Sunday afternoon’s title game against Butler, which beat the Flyers 36-30 in the 1980 finals.

    “What do you say?” We’re in a situation we all dream about,” Coach Joey Thacker said.

    Franklin County, which lost to Mercer County 75-66 two months ago, led the Titans 46-35 early in the fourth quarter Saturday night. But then the Flyers went ice cold and didn’t score for more than 4 minutes. Mercer County took advantage with a 13-0 run to take a 48-46 lead.

    Franklin County junior Rebecca Cooks said the scoring drought “was definitely frustrating, but we’ve been determined the whole […]

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    Butler buzzer-beat beats E-town

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (March 11, 2016)

    HIGHLAND HEIGHTS — Janna Lewis wasn’t supposed to take the last shot for Butler, but she did, and her buzzer-beater gave the Bearettes a dramatic 61-59 victory over Elizabethtown in the quarterfinals of the St. Elizabeth HealthCare/KHSAA Sweet Sixteen Friday night.

    Butler (29-5), a four-time state champion, will play All “A” state titlist Murray (35-1) in Saturday night’s semifinals in BB&T Arena.

    “(Coach Larry Just) called a play and it didn’t work, so I flashed to the middle,” Lewis explained. “Breia (Torrens) found me and when I turned around I was open, so I said, ‘OK, I’ll shoot it,’ and it went in.”

    For E-town, the heartbreak was familiar. In last year’s Sweet Sixteen quarterfinals, Covington Holy Cross hit a shot in the closing seconds to beat the Panthers 41-40. Holy Cross went on to win the state title.

    “It seems like deja vu,” E-town Coach Tim Mudd said.

    The Panthers […]

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    Murray rolls into state final four

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (March 11, 2016)

    HIGHLAND HEIGHTS — The dynamic duo of Macey Turley and Maddie Waldrop led Murray past Owensboro Catholic 60-43 in the quarterfinals of the St. Elizabeth HealthCare/KHSAA Sweet Sixteen Friday night in BB&T Arena.

    It was Murray’s third win over the Aces this season, including a victory in the championship game of the All “A” Classic.

    Murray will take a 29-game winning streak into Saturday night’s semifinals against the Butler-Elizabethtown winner.

    Turley, showing no ill effects from a sprained ankle she suffered in the Lady Tigers’ first-round win over Manual, hit 5 of 6 three-pointers on her way to 25 points. The 5-foot-7 sophomore point guard also had 3 assists, 3 rebounds and 2 steals.

    Turley credited athletic trainer Lance Harper for getting her ready to go. Coach Rechelle Turner paid tribute to Turley’s competitive nature. “When adversity strikes, she steps it up to another level. If I’d told (her) she wasn’t playing today, […]

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    Mercer County makes final four

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (March 11, 2016)

    HIGHLAND HEIGHTS — When the heat was on, Mercer County kept its cool and played its way into the final four of the St. Elizabeth HealthCare/KHSAA Sweet Sixteen. The Titans withstood a pressure-packed fourth quarter to beat Holmes 59-55 in Friday afternoon’s quarterfinals at BB&T Arena.

    Mercer County (31-5) will play Franklin County (30-4) in Saturday night’s semifinals. (The Titans beat Franklin County 75-66 on Jan. 14.)

    “Man, this is pretty awesome, to be sitting here going to the final four,” Titans Coach Chris Souder said.

    “This is a huge win not just for our school but for our community.”

    Holmes pushed Mercer County until the final horn, but the 12th Region champions hit enough free throws — including Seygan Robins’ 5-for-6 performance from the line in the last three minutes — to hold on.

    “It was pretty hectic. We had to keep our composure,” Robins said. “We knew if we kept hitting our […]

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    Scott Hundley getting out of coaching

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (March 11, 2016)

    Scott Hundley is stepping down as boys’ basketball coach at Woodford County to pursue a job in school administration, or maybe something in the private sector.

    “It was a tough decision because I’ll miss the bonds and relationships you develop with the young men you coach,” said Hundley, who was at the St. Elizabeth HealthCare/KHSAA Girls’ Sweet Sixteen on Friday to present KABC awards to coaches and players.

    “And I’ll miss the sidelines for sure.”

    Hundley, 34, said the career change will give him more time with his wife Torie and their 9-month old daughter Adlee.

    Hundley won Mr. Basketball honors in his senior year at Scott County. He played college basketball at Vanderbilt.

    Hundley, who is president of the KABC, had a 107-82 record at Woodford County and took the Yellow Jackets to the region six years in a row. They reached the region finals in 2012.

     

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    Flyers escape Campbell’s upset bid

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (March 11, 2016)

    HIGHLAND HEIGHTS — It wasn’t anything like early December when Franklin County crushed Campbell County 68-47 in the season opener.

    In a rematch in the quarterfinals of the St. Elizabeth HealthCare/KHSAA Sweet Sixteen Friday afternoon, Franklin County narrowly escaped with a 41-38 victory over the Camels in BB&T Arena.

    “I don’t care if we win 3-2, as long as we get the last stop,” Franklin County Coach Joey Thacker said.

    Campbell County had its chances down the stretch but either missed shots or made turnovers.

    Franklin County seventh-grader Brooklynn Miles missed the front end of the bonus with her team up 41-38 with :26 left.

    Campbell County couldn’t capitalize, however. Taylor Jolly missed a layup. The Flyers’ Anna Arrastia rebounded and was fouled. She went to the foul line, but she missed the front end of the bonus, too.

    The Camels couldn’t take advantage. Taylor Clos was called for a charge with :02.5 left.

    […]

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    Aces deal Harlan a repeat defeat

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (March 10, 2016)

    HIGHLAND HEIGHTS — Forty days after Owensboro Catholic beat Harlan by 30 points in the All “A” semifinals, the Aces won their rematch 69-49 in the first round of the St. Elizabeth HealthCare/KHSAA Sweet Sixteen at BB&T Arena Thursday night.

    Owensboro Catholic (31-5) has another rematch in Friday night’s quarterfinals when it faces Murray (34-1), which dealt the Aces a 45-28 defeat in the All “A” title game. Murray also beat Owensboro Catholic 73-57 two weeks before the small-school tournament.

    Mikayla Berry, a 5-foot-7 senior, led the way against Harlan with 26 points and 6 rebounds.

    Annabel Moore, a 5-10 senior, had 15 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals.

    Harlan, making its first Sweet Sixteen appearance since 1999, was led by Jordan Brock’s 19 points and 8 assists.

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    Boley leads E-town past Henderson County

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (March 10, 2016)

    HIGHLAND HEIGHTS — Elizabethtown, rated the tournament favorite, looked the part in rolling by Henderson County 63-36 in the first round of the St. Elizabeth HealthCare/KHSAA Sweet Sixteen Thursday night in BB&T Arena.

    Erin Boley, a Notre Dame signee and finalist for Naismith’s national player of the year, led the Panthers. The 6-foot-2 senior had 27 points and 7 rebounds as E-town notched its 30th victory, giving it three consecutive 30-win seasons.

    E-town, the 1998 state titlist, was the Sweet Sixteen favorite the past two years but lost to Butler in the 2014 finals and to eventual champ Covington Holy Cross in the quarterfinals last year.

    The Panthers get another big-game showdown with Butler in Friday night’s quarterfinals.

    E-town Coach Tim Mudd said the difference against Henderson County was his team’s defense. But the Panthers also got a boost from their offense. They hit 9 of their first 11 shots, including 3 of […]

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    Butler bounces Bowling Green

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (March 10, 2016)

    HIGHLAND HEIGHTS — Four-time state champion Butler, which seems to always look comfortable on the big stage, turned in another winning performance in the first round of the St. Elizabeth HealthCare/KHSAA Sweet Sixteen Thursday afternoon.

    The Bearettes, getting a big boost from their bench, notched their 11th victory in a row by beating Bowling Green 64-52 in BB&T Arena.

    Butler, whose state titles came in 2014, 2008, 1980 and 1975, advanced to Friday night’s quarterfinals and will face the Elizabethtown-Henderson County winner.

    Jaelynn Penn led the way against Bowling Green. The 5-foot-9 junior had 20 points and 9 rebounds.

    Janna Lewis and Molly Lockhart helped Butler’s bench outscore Bowling Green’s bench 30-8. Lewis had 16 points and 6 rebounds. Lockhart had 10 points and 6 rebounds.

    “Our bench gave us a major spark, a big lift, in the first quarter,” Coach Larry Just said.

    Bowling Green was led by Keely Morrow’s 18 points and Oneisha Turner’s 16. Ta Mia Matthews had 10 […]

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    Murray beats Manual for 28th win in a row

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (March 10, 2016)

    HIGHLAND HEIGHTS — Murray, trying to duplicate Covington Holy Cross’s grand achievement as a small school last year, beat Manual 58-41 in the first round of the St. Elizabeth HealthCare/KHSAA Sweet Sixteen Thursday afternoon in BB&T Arena.

    It was Murray’s 28th consecutive victory, a streak that includes the All “A” Classic title. Covington Holy Cross swept the All “A” and the Sweet Sixteen last year, and Murray has its eyes on the big prize, too.

    Maddie Waldrop led the Tigers against Manual. The 6-foot-2 junior had 22 points, 14 rebounds, 3 blocked shots and 3 steals.

    Alexis Burpo and Lex Mayes had 9 points each. Brittany Lawson chipped in with 8 points.

    Murray point guard Macey Turley contributed 7 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds before injuring her ankle in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter. Coach Rechelle Turner expects Turley to be available for Friday’s quarterfinals. “It’s a quick turnaround, but […]

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    Thursday’s Sweet Sixteen matchups

    FieldsColumn

    The first round of the St. Elizabeth HealthCare/KHSAA Sweet Sixteen continues Thursday at BB&T Arena:

    • Murray (33-1) vs. Manual (21-7), noon
    • Butler (27-5) vs. Bowling Green (29-4), 1:30 p.m.
    • Elizabethtown (29-4) vs. Henderson County (18-9), 6:30 p.m.
    • Owensboro Catholic (30-5) vs. Harlan (27-4), 8 p.m.

    The Murray-Manual winner will face the Owensboro Catholic-Harlan winner in Friday night’s quarterfinals. The Butler-Bowling Green winner will play the E-town-Henderson County winner.

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    Holmes ‘D’ does in the Red Devils

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (March 9, 2016)

    HIGHLAND HEIGHTS — Holmes relied on unrelenting defense to get to the state tournament for the first time in 14 years, so it was no surprise that its defense was the difference in a 49-35 victory over Russell in the St. Elizabeth HealthCare/KHSAA Sweet Sixteen Wednesday night in BB&T Arena.

    The Bulldogs earned their 10th win in a row and a date with Mercer County in Friday’s quarterfinals.

    Jynea Harris, a 5-foot-6 senior guard, led Holmes with 18 points. Maurissa Brown had 10 points. Tyrah Englemon contributed 9 points and 9 rebounds.

    Russell was led by Maggie Jachimczuk’s 13 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocked shots. Madison Darnell added 10 points for the Red Devils, who shot 33%.

    Holmes had a 21-10 halftime lead on Russell, which had a difficult time against the Bulldogs’ swarming pressure.

    The Red Devils, 16th Region champs for the first time since 1994, had a […]

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    Campbell County gets its first ‘Sweet’ win

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    HIGHLAND HEIGHTS — It was Wednesday —  hump day — and the Campbell County Camels got over the proverbial hump and won their first-ever Sweet Sixteen game.

    Campbell County beat Trimble County 48-33 in the St. Elizabeth HealthCare/KHSAA Sweet Sixteen at BB&T Arena Wednesday night.

    The Camels, who lost in the opening round in three previous state tournament appearances, were led by Taylor Jolly (17 points, 3 steals) and MacKenzie Schwarber (13 points, 14 rebounds, 3 steals).

    Kylie Kramer and Taylor Clos combined for 12 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists.

    Trimble County, which upset Simon Kenton to win the 9th Region, gave the Camels a tough way to go. Campbell County Coach Beau Menefee said his team had a difficult time defending Trimble County’s Shelbe Black. The 6-foot junior led the Raiders with 12 points, 6 rebounds and 3 steals.

    Mila Consley had 8 points, 5 rebounds and 3 blocks for Trimble County. Kaylee Clifford added 5 points, 6 asssits, 3 rebounds and […]

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    Cook leads Franklin County by Shelby Valley

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    HIGHLAND HEIGHTS — Franklin County has four 1,000-point career scorers in its lineup, so it’s rare when the Flyers go starving for offense.

    So it didn’t matter that Princess Stewart, Franklin County’s top scorer this season, went 0-for-9 from the field and had only 2 points (on 2 free throws in the final minutes) in the first round of the St. Elizabeth HealthCare/KHSAA Sweet Sixteen Wednesday afternoon.

    Rebecca Cook stepped up to lead the Flyers with 19 points and Dasia Kilbroune added 10 in a 47-39 victory over Shelby Valley in BB&T Arena.

    It was Franklin County’s first victory in the Sweet Sixteen since 1980.

    “When you haven’t won a state tournament game in 36 years, I guess it’s supposed to be hard,” Coach Joey Thacker said. “We just never could turn them over and get points, so we had to grind it out in the halfcourt.”

    Stewart, Cook, Kilbourne and Malaka Frank are all 1,000-point […]

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    Chris Souder’s ‘best year’ of his coaching life

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (March 9, 2016)

    Mercer County Coach Chris Souder is having a ball during March Madness, and it keeps getting better.

    Tuesday night, Souder watched Mercer County’s boys beat Casey County to win the 12th Region title. His son Conner, a senior, plays for the Titans.

    Wednesday afternoon, Souder guided Mercer County’s girls to a 68-39 victory over Leslie County in the opening game of the St. Elizabeth HealthCare/KHSAA Sweet Sixteen in BB&T Arena. It was the Titans’ 30th win — a school record — and put them in the state quarterfinals for the first time.

    “This has been the best of year of my coaching career,” Souder said. “The fact that we won the region, and that I got to watch my son also win the region and knowing he’s going to step on the Rupp Arena floor next week.

    “I played at Harrodsburg (class of 1984) and it was always a dream […]

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    Mercer County rolls by Leslie County

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    HIGHLAND HEIGHTS — Mercer County began the St. Elizabeth HealthCare/KHSAA Girls’ Sweet Sixteen by erasing all memory of last year’s lopsided loss in the state tournament.

    The Titans, who were buried by Elizabethtown 79-38 in the first round in Bowling Green last year, leveled Leslie County 68-39 in Wednesday afternoon’s opener at BB&T Arena.

    “What a difference a year makes,” Mercer County Coach Chris Souder said. “These kids worked extremely hard, and they came out really strong and played intense.”

    Souder conceded that there was a big difference in the draw, too, noting E-town was the top-rated team in last year’s tournament, and Leslie County was the bottom-rated team this year.

    “Nothing against Leslie County,” Souder said. “I was in his (Coach Mark Collett’s) boat last year.”

    Mercer County started the game with an 11-0 run and added a 16-0 surge later in the quarter. Leslie County, making its first state tournament appearance in 30 years, couldn’t recover from a 42-12 halftime deficit.

    Junior […]

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    Mason County ends Augusta’s run in 10th

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (March 8, 2016)

    MOUNT STERLING – Everything that is good and clean and competitive and entertaining and heartening about Kentucky high school basketball played out in a rousing 10th Region championship game at Montgomery County Tuesday night.

    In a classic big school vs. small school matchup, traditional power Mason County outlasted tiny Augusta 48-41 in front of a packed house of 4,200 fans to earn a trip to Rupp Arena for the 99th Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys’ Sweet Sixteen next week.

    Mason County (enrollment 800) now owns 15 region titles, and the Royals’ heritage also includes two state championships (2003, 2008).

    Mason County will play 5th Region champ Taylor County in the first round of the state tournament.

    Augusta (enrollment 85) was denied its first region title in 90 years.

    It was easy to cast Mason County as Goliath and Augusta as David, but both coaches felt that was a misrepresentation of their team.

    […]

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    Boys’ Sweet Sixteen field taking shape

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    netcutThe Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys’ Sweet Sixteen is taking shape. Five region champions have been crowned, and 11 more will be determined tonight to complete the field.

    Christian County (2nd Region), Doss (6th), Newport Central Catholic (9th), Paul Laurence Dunbar (11th) and South Laurel (13th) have locked up spots in the 99th state tournament, which will be played March 16-20 in Rupp Arena.

    Here’s a region-by-region rundown:

    • 1st Region: McCracken County (24-9) vs. Murray (28-5)
    • 2nd Region: Christian County (29-2)
    • 3rd Region: Owensboro Catholic (21-9) vs. Meade County (22-10)
    • 4th Region: Barren County (28-5) vs. Bowling Green (29-2)
    • 5th Region: Bardstown (26-7) vs. Taylor County (23-8)
    • 6th Region: Doss (27-5)
    • 7th Region: St. Xavier (23-9) vs. Trinity (28-6)
    • 8th Region: Anderson County (18-13) vs. South Oldham (27-5)
    • 9th Region: Newport Central Catholic (28-4)
    • 10th Region: Augusta (24-6) vs. Mason County (22-10)
    • 11th Region: Paul Laurence Dunbar (29-6)
    • 12th Region: Casey County (16-17) […]

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    Remembering kicking guru George Barber

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    lCondolences to the family of George Barber, who passed away March 7, 2016, after becoming ill on a trip to Florida. Barber was involved in Lexington high school football for more than four decades and was best known for coaching kickers, including his son Collin at Lexington Catholic. Here’s a story I wrote about him for the Lexington Herald-Leader in November, 2010.

    BY MIKE FIELDS 

    George Barber gets his kicks coaching kids how to kick a football.

    Here’s the kicker: He’s been doing it for 40 years.

    Barber has taught dozens of Lexington high school players the finer points of place-kicking and punting.

    Despite dealing with serious heart issues the last year, Barber is tutoring Lafayette’s Matt Green, Lexington Catholic’s Jake Pumphrey and Paul Laurence Dunbar’s Matt Puracchio. The trio has made 13 of 19 field goals and 65 of 72 extra points this season.

    “I hope they get something out of what I’m trying […]

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    Creech’s 48 points lift Jenkins to region finals

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (March 4, 2016)

    STANTON – Whitney Creech, whose prodigious scoring has raised the roofs of gyms throughout the mountains this basketball season, has lifted Jenkins’ girls into the 14th Region finals for the first time since 1997 and given them a shot at their first region title in 40 years.

    Creech, a 5-foot-9 senior, poured in 48 points Friday night to lead Jenkins past host Powell County 67-58 in the region semifinals. The Cavaliers will play Leslie County Saturday night with a trip to the Houchens Industries/Sweet Sixteen on the line.

    Leslie County beat Breathitt County 64-56 in the first semifinal Friday night.

    Creech, who came into the game averaging 50.3 points, had 23 in the fourth quarter against Powell County, including 14 of 18 free throws.

    “This is something every competitor dreams of,” Creech said.  “Survive and advance, and get a chance in the finals. If we can (win Saturday), it’ll […]

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    Recalling Tim Couch’s basketball glory days

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (March 4, 2016)

    Tim Couch, arguably the most accomplished quarterback in the history of Kentucky high school football, grew up thinking of himself as a basketball player first.

    “I honestly didn’t like football at all until, I think, my sophomore year (at Leslie County),” he said. “I just played it because my older brother (Greg) did. My first love was basketball. I always considered myself a basketball player. That’s what I wanted to play when I was young.”

    And he played it very well. Before he got to high school, he was picked to be on a national all-star team that toured Australia. He was MVP at summer camps.  When he was in the eighth grade, he got a recruiting letter from Minnesota coach Clem Haskins.

    As a kid, Couch loved going to the state tournament with his dad Elbert and soaking up the atmosphere in Freedom Hall and Rupp Arena.

    “That was […]

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    Justice latest Kentuckian to play hoops at Vandy

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (Feb. 29, 2016)

    Vanderbilt freshman Camron Justice was in the middle of the celebratory swarm on the Memorial Gym court after the Commodores beat Kentucky 74-62 in Nashville Saturday.

    “I never was a huge fan of UK, but I was a Kentucky kid and I grew up watching their basketball team, so beating them was a big deal,” Justice said. “A bunch of people back home called and texted me congratulations.

    “It was a huge momentum-builder for our team. It helped bring us together.”

    Since the first month of the season, Justice, a 6-foot-3 shooting guard from Knott County Central, hasn’t gotten a lot of playing time. He averaged 16 minutes and 5.8 points in Vandy’s first six games, but a subsequent groin injury slowed him down. He missed five games, and coming off that injury, his play has been spotty.

    He did have a career-high 12 points (on 4-for-7 three-point shooting) against Tennessee on Jan. 20, but he’s had only […]

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    Faulkner twins leaving quite a legacy at Caverna

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (Feb. 25, 2016)

    Madison and Mason Faulkner, the highest scoring twins in the history of Kentucky high school basketball, aren’t ready for their careers at Caverna to end just yet.

    Madison, a 5-foot-8 senior, poured in 42 points to lead Caverna’s girls to a 68-52 victory over LaRue County in the 18th District semifinals Tuesday night. They will play host Green County for the district title Friday night before heading on to the 5th Region tournament at Hart County next week.

    Mason, a 6-2 senior, had 31 points to spark Caverna’s boys past LaRue County 54-43 in the 18th District semifinals Tuesday night. They will play host Green County for the district title Friday night before heading on to the 5th Region tournament at Nelson County next week.

    “It’s been a long journey, from no one knowing about either one of us to a lot of people knowing about both of us,” Mason […]

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    LexCath will miss region for only second time in 30 years

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    BY MIKE FIELDS (Feb. 24, 2016)

    A history of post-season success and a current top 25 ranking won’t get a basketball coach a cup of coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts, much less guarantee his team victory at tournament time.

    Just ask Lexington Catholic Coach Brandon Salsman.

    His Knights, rated No. 13 in Dave Cantrall’s Rating the State, lost to No. 18 Lafayette 55-48 in the boys’ 43rd District semifinals Tuesday night. That means Lexington Catholic will miss the 11th Region for only the second time in 30 years, a testament to its staying power among the state’s elite.

    Salsman has guided the Knights to seven district titles in 11 years, and he’s been involved in nine of the program’s 12 region championships (one as a player, four as an assistant, four as head coach).

    But all of that glorious history didn’t take the sting out of Tuesday’s defeat.

    “It was devastating,” he said. “When you walk in that locker room and […]

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    State wrestling championship matchups

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    Here are the matchups for tonight’s title matches at the KHSAA State Wrestling Championships at the Kentucky Horse Park’s Alltech Arena. Opening ceremonies for the finals are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.

    • 106: Cagen Wallace (Wayne Co.) vs. Chase Yost (Woodford Co.)
    • 113: Tanner Yenter (Campbell Co.) vs. Konner Kraeszig (St. Xavier)
    • 120: Saul Ervin (Union Co.) vs. Dallas Ochsenbein (North Oldham)
    • 126: Connor Cambron (Fern Creek) vs. Bryce Sheffer (Union Co.)
    • 132: Zane Brown (Male) vs. Keegan Duncan (Trinity)
    • 138: Angel Vasquez (Lafayette) vs. A.J. Binder (Fern Creek)
    • 145: Cody Huston (Cooper) vs. Jackson Oxford (Union Co.)
    • 152: Benjamin Barton (Trinity) vs. Brady Emerson (Oldham Co.)
    • 160: Max Andreoni (Woodford Co.) vs. Hudson Heidorf (Trinity)
    • 170: Chris Morrow (Madison Central vs. Casey Cornett (Simon Kenton)
    • 182: Elijah Allgeier (St. Xavier) vs Max Emerson (Oldham Co.)
    • 195: Ray Karl Irving (Henry Clay) vs. Grant Krueger (Ashland Blazer)
    • 220: Chance Orr (Paducah Tilghman) vs. Garrett Chandler (Male)
    • 285: Landon Young (Lafayette) vs. Landin Jones (North Oldham)

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    Mr. and Miss Basketball finalists

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    The Kentucky Lions Eye Foundation and the Kentucky Association of Basketball Coaches have released the lists of finalists for Mr. and Miss Basketball — 18 boys and 17 girls, who earned Player of the Year honors in their respective regions.

    Voting by coaches and media will be conducted until Feb. 26. Mr. and Miss Basketball be announced March 15 in Lexington, the night before the Boys’ Sweet Sixteen begins.

    The favorites for Mr. Basketball are Quentin Goodin of Taylor County and Carson Williams of Owen County.

    Goodin would be the first 5th Region player to win the award since Steffphon Pettigrew of Elizabethtown in 2007. Williams would be the first 8th Region player to win it since Rick Jones and Scott Hundley of Scott County were back-to-back winners in 1999 and 2000, respectively.

    The favorites for Miss Basketball are Erin Boley of Elizabethtown and Whitney Creech of Jenkins.

    Boley would be the second 5th Region player to win Miss Basketball in three […]

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