Sweet 16 Round 1 Recap

KAYLA VANHOOSE
J. TODD HOWARD

Round 1 of the KHSAA/Whitaker Bank Sweet 16 is complete and we have had a great first two days of the tournament.

Wednesday, March 6th 

Game 1 was the first game of the Sweet 16, tipping off Wednesday at 12pm. It featured Walton-Verona, who hadn’t made an appearance in the Sweet 16 since the 1940s. Walton-Verona brought quite the crowd… and energy. The Bearcats capitalized on Knox Central’s game plan of shutting down Xavier commit Dionte Miles — and had everyone else scoring. The threes were falling rapidly for Walton-Verona in the 3rd Quarter, sealing the blowout over Knox with a final score of 76-54.

Game 2 was your largest loss in the tournament thus far — with 7th Region Goliath Trinity facing the mountain boys of the 15th Region — Johnson Central. Trinity came out strong, holding Johnson Central to only 2 points in the first quarter. While Coach Tommy McKenzie seemed to steady the Golden Eagles’ ship in the second quarter, Louisville commit David Johnson was just too much for Johnson Central to handle, with a final score of 70-28.

Game 3 matched undefeated John Hardin High School with Campbell County. A lot of folks were pulling for JHHS to continue their streak but Campbell County’s Reid Jolly lead the Camels to victory with his 3 point performance. Final score: Campbell County 61, John Hardin 60

Game 4 brought two teams together with the richest Sweet 16 heritage — both Owensboro and Ashland have had more success in the tournament than any school, with Ashland having 6 titles under its belt. Both teams had struggled to get to Rupp in recent years but made for one of the most well-matched games of the day. Ashland bested Owensboro in the end, winning its first Sweet 16 game since 2001. Final score Ashland 58, Owensboro 50.

Thursday, March 7th

Game 5 pitted another Mountain team against a Louisville squad as Perry County Central tried to advance to the Elite Eight against Butler. The game was tight with several lead changes and an Overtime but two last second threes by Butler’s Maurice Tolley sealed the win for the Bears outside of regulation, defeating the Commodores 65-62.

Game 6 brought us a rematch of last year’s Sweet 16 finals, Scott County vs. Covington Catholic. The game seemed to be all Scott County’s, with a lead as large as 19 late in the 4th Quarter. CovCath mounted the largest comeback I have personally witnessed by going on an 18-0 run in the final two minutes. Scott County squeaked by with a late layup to live another day, final score 64-61.

Game 7 Madisonville North-Hopkins topped Lincoln County in their first Sweet 16 victory since 1989 under the stellar performance of Junior Kenny White, who had 21 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 blocks. Madisonville fans brought the best energy to Rupp I saw all day, helping their squad win 57-49.

Game 8 brought Mayfield up against Warren Central in Mayfield’s first Sweet 16 berth since 1992. Coach Chris Guhy was hoping to extend his final season as a head coach, however, Warren Central had three players in double digit scoring, with Tre Boyd charting a double-double. Final score: 73-55.

Updated Bracket courtesy of the KHSAA Scoreboard:

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Follow @BluegrassBball on Twitter for Live Sweet 16 updates.

#S16: Wednesday March 6, 2019

Redd Hutchinson has written up a short and Sweet preview of Wednesday’s games. We will post updated brackets for you as the week progresses. Follow @BluegrassBball on Twitter for live game recaps!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019 Afternoon Session 

12:00PM

Knox Central (30-4) 13th Region Champions

Beat North Laurel in regional championship game 80 – 53.

VERSUS

Walton Verona (27 – 6) 8th Region Champions

Beat Oldham County in regional championship game 60 – 51. _______________________________

1:30PM

Trinity (Louisville) (26 – 8) 7th Region Champions

Beat Louisville Ballard in regional championship game 59 – 37.

VERSUS

Johnson Central (27 – 7) 15th Region Champions

Beat Pikeville in regional championship game 66 – 61.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019 Evening Session

6:30PM

John Hardin (35 – 0) 5th Region Champions

Beat Taylor County in regional championship 62 – 51.

VERSUS

Campbell County (29 – 4) 10th Region Champions

Beat George Rogers Clark in regional championship 61 – 49.

8:00PM

Owensboro (23 – 7) 3rd Region Champions

Beat Breckinridge County in regional championship game 63 – 57.

VERSUS

Ashland Blazer (17 – 16) 16th Region Champions

Beat Boyd County in regional championship game 59 – 43.

Mr. and Miss Basketball: The Process

BY KAYLA MOORE VANHOOSE

After some constructive dialogue, it occurred to me today that most people do not understand the process of how the Mr. and Miss Basketball award is nominated for/voted on/announced.

If you care to go further, you’ll gain an insight into the system and probably think “hey, I like the way they do this.”

First — there are two parties that contribute to the Mr. and Miss Basketball selection. The Kentucky Lions Eye Foundation (KLEF) and the Kentucky Association of Basketball Coaches (KABC).

KLEF is a non-profit organization that works to provide financial help to families who cannot afford vision screenings, treatment, etc. In short: they work miracles. KLEF has named Mr. and Miss Basketball since it became a voted-on award and because most of us are proud of holding on to Kentucky’s high school basketball heritage — they have an important role in the voting process.

KLEF gives a voice to media, former Mr. and Miss Basketball Recipients, and also does something unique that most are overlooking — they provide Head Coaches with a chance to nominate a Mr. or Miss Basketball outside of their Region. Their nomination form goes out first and runs for 1 week.

The KABC is our state’s coaches association. I don’t say this only because I am employed by the KABC — you’ll not find an entity that advocates for players and coaches across the state the way they do. They host a yearly Coaches Clinic and conduct regular Board meetings to hear voices of Coaches all over. Since the KABC has a close, working relationship with high school coaches — they have a key role in the voting process as well.

The KABC has an end of season award — Region Player of the Year. Only their members — which consist of Head and Assistant Coaches alike — have a vote on this award. This vote is made by all member coaches and they may only vote for players within their Region — but cannot vote for their own players.

The two parties doing their separate processes brings us the most accurate, non-biased selection of what players should be on the final ballot for the big ticket. KLEF gives us a statewide picture of whose name should be out there and KABC gives us the name of the best player in every single region. If we eliminated the KLEF nomination, you would only get the opinions of coaches in each Region. If we eliminated the KABC ballot, you would only have a list of 3-4 kids consistently nominated and likely all from the same area. The two systems balance one another out.

Once the KABC Player of the Year voting and the KLEF Mr./Miss Basketball nomination is complete — both parties get together and compare their data — which is why you end up with Co-Player of the Year in some Regions. Once names from all Regions are collected — The Kentucky Lions Eye Foundation puts out a final ballot — and a mix of Media, Past Recipients, and Coaches place their vote to crown the next winner.

Hopefully this lays it out for a better understanding from all. And remember, we are all working together each season to make the process better.

I hope to see all of you at the Mr. and Miss Basketball Banquet, it’s a wonderful evening celebrating our State’s most talented athletes, the money raised goes to a fantastic cause, and it is a wonderful excuse to dress up and spend an evening in Downtown Lexington.

A Celebration of Owensboro’s Sportscenter

BY GREG LAWSON

Owensboro is the host city for this year’s inaugural 2 A Championships. The city of Owensboro has been a spectacular host for the tournament and the historic Sportscenter is a great venue for most any event. The Sportscenter is celebrating its 70th year drawing fans of all types to western Kentucky. The venue seats 5,500, many of them chair back. Even these seats give a visual representation of the history that is a part of the Sportscenter. There is the modern blue, plastic seats that surround the lower sections of the arena. As you move up to the mezzanine, there are wooden chair back seats with metal frames harken to the first days of the Sportscenter. They are the original 1949 chairs. The top section features wood bleacher seating. Well over 75% of the seating is original to the building.

The nostalgia of the Sportscenter permeates the air. The smell of popcorn wafting through the building while imagining in years gone by all of the fans that had the same sensation when they were watch Adolf Rupp’s University of Kentucky Wildcats or E.A. Diddle’s WKU Hilltoppers host opponents at the Sportscenter. “Did Rupp sit here?” “Did Diddle use this sink or give a pre-game speech in this locker room?” These are real possibilities at the Sportscenter. UK and WKU both hosted home games in the 1950’s at the Sportscenter.

The Sportscenter was the home of the Owensboro Senior High Red Devils boys and girls’ basketball until the 2010-11 season. It continues to be the home of both the Aces and Lady Aces of Owensboro Catholic. In addition, Kentucky Wesleyan College plays their men’s and women’s home at the Sportscenter, where the Panther Men’s teams have eight national championships (1966, 68, 69, 73, 87, 90, 99, and 2001). There is also a semi-pro team, the Owensboro Thoroughbreds (of the TBL) that call the Sportscenter home. The 10th District Tournament (Owensboro, Daviess Co, Apollo, Owensboro Catholic) and the 3rd region tournament are annual staples here.

As I compose these words, I sit on a stage that countless graduates have walked across. Over the decades, area high schools and colleges have used this venue to recognize the outstanding leaders and learners that have matriculated through their institutions. Countless comedians, musical artists, and others continue to perform at the Sportscenter. Nationally-known comedian Bill Engvall will be saying, “Here’s your sign.” On this stage February 15. Comedians have been bringing laughs to Owensboro since the early days of the Sportscenter. Bob Hope performed here in the 1950’s. Country-Western stars Gene Autry (who would later own MLB’s California Angels) and Roy Rogers have made appearances at the Sportscenter. Musical artists from Louis Armstrong to KISS have graced the Sportscenter stage (and yes, the building did catch on fire the night KISS performed). Aaron Lewis, former front man for the band “Staind”, will be giving a concert at the Sportscenter March 15.

Jessica Wilson Beckmann, Director of the Sportscenter, was brought on six months ago to oversee the Sportscenter’s operations. She shared that there are typically 90-100 events a year at the Sportscenter. Many that often last over multiple days. “We see a lot of potential for what we can bring into the facility, renovate it, but keep the historic aspect.” Jared Bratcher of “Visit Owensboro” shared that the economic impact of the Sportscenter for Owensboro and the region easily reaches into the millions of dollars per year. It is estimated that the 2 A Championships alone will bring in around $600,000.00 to the local economy. Mrs. Beckmann also has a lot of personal history with the Sportscenter. She was born and raised in Owensboro and played basketball for Kentucky Wesleyan in the Sportscenter, “My grandfather was the coach at KY Wesleyan (Robert R. Wilson) when they started playing here and he is a

Kentucky Wesleyan Hall of Famer. And when Ray Harper was at (KY) Wesleyan and Bruce Pearl at USI (Southern Indiana) there were 5,000 people here and it was rocking.”

Mr. Bratcher added at the end of our discussion, “This place is a historic landmark in Owensboro. It’s an old venue but it a great venue for basketball. About 10 years ago there was talk about getting rid of the Sportscenter and building a new facility. At the end of the day, we did not want to get away from the history of the place.” It’s good to know that Owensboro knows how important it is to smell the popcorn, see the original seats, and feel the history of the Sportscenter.

The 2A Classic: Thoughts

BY: GREG LAWSON

Last spring I first became aware of movement by some school administrators to make Class 2 A Championships a reality. I felt it was an interesting idea and a neat opportunity for student-athletes at schools with smaller populations. I have always been a fan of the “All A Classic” that does the same thing for Kentucky’s smallest schools. Yet, the first two people I spoke to were adamantly against the development of the 2 A Championships. One of the opposition was a colleague at Bluegrass Basketball. I was surprised with their push back. Both expressed they were opposed to the 2 A championships because of their belief that having these events for these schools and athletes are a move to class basketball state champions.

When the idea of the 2 A was brought to my attention, it never crossed my mind that this would be the ruination of Kentucky’s athletic crown jewel – The Sweet 16. Kentucky continues to be only one of two states in our country that offers a single state championship. It is a unique and wonderful experience for players, coaches, and fans around the Commonwealth. I have had the opportunity to coach in the Boys’ Sweet 16 twice, have had friends that have competed and won state tournaments, and can attest that there is nothing more special in this state for players and coaches that being on that stage. There is nothing that can replace the Sweet 16. I would never support anything that would take the feeling of walking on that floor or standing with that trophy.

The pushback against the 2 A continues to be people who are opposed to class basketball championships. The 2 A Championships are not a move to class basketball. It is another opportunity for smaller schools to compete in a post-season like environment during the season. It is no different than the King of the Bluegrass, Toyota Classic, the “All A”, or any other regular season tournament. I have not been made aware of any pushback against the “All A” because it was destroying the Sweet 16. In the 29 year history of the “All A”, there has only been one team that was both the “All A” and Sweet 16 champion – Shelby Valley in 2010. Though in 1992 it was close – Lexington Catholic won the “All A” but lost to the team they defeated, University Heights in the Sweet 16 finals. It is one of the more forgotten championship games because the end of the third quarter of that final coincided with a shot by the University of Kentucky’s Sean Woods and a subsequent shot by Duke’s Christian Leattner. 27 years ago, two teams met in the “All A” championship matchup and the Sweet 16 finals. There was no cry to eliminate the “All A” because it was taking away from the Sweet 16. The last 2 A team to compete in the finals of the Boys’ Sweet 16 was Rowan County in 2011. When talking with multiple teams during the quarterfinal round of the inaugural 2 A Championships in Owensboro, all of them spoke positively regarding the experience. Christian Academy of Louisville Girls’ Coach Perry White expressed his appreciation for the 2 A Championships after his Lady Centurions defeated Mercer County 66-51 in their quarter final matchup. “This has been a great experience…It is good for our kids to not only play in this tournament environment, but to play on a college floor.” Coach White talked about how the 2 A is a great preparation ground for their upcoming games in the L.I.T. and the postseason. Scott High School’s head coach Steve Fromeyer called their run in the 2 A Championships a “great bonding experience” and said he felt it was good for his team to travel and play a quality opponent to push you out of “your comfort zone.” Every team that was interviewed and asked about the 2 A experience echoed similar sentiments about the quality of the tournament and the value in preparing them for a postseason run. The only time the Sweet 16 was brought up was in the context of the 2 A Championships being an important tool for preparing teams for their regional tournaments and the Sweet 16.

“This has been a great experience…It is good for our kids to not only play in this tournament environment, but to play on a college floor.” Coach White talked about how the 2 A is a great preparation ground for their upcoming games in the L.I.T. and the postseason. Scott High School’s head coach Steve Fromeyer called their run in the 2 A Championships a “great bonding experience” and said he felt it was good for his team to travel and play a quality opponent to push you out of “your comfort zone.” Every team that was interviewed and asked about the 2 A experience echoed similar sentiments about the quality of the tournament and the value in preparing them for a postseason run. The only time the Sweet 16 was brought up was in the context of the 2 A Championships being an important tool for preparing teams for their regional tournaments and the Sweet 16.

“Great to see the hard work of so many of our ADs see their vision fulfilled. With the first day of the Kentucky 2 A Tournament. Good work on behalf of kids. And thanks to local partners Jared Bratcher and the folks from Kentucky Legend for their help.”

When speaking with the Athletic Directors that comprise the Board for the 2 A Championships, none of them have voiced that this tournament is an effort to move Kentucky to class basketball state champions. Jon Kasten, Henry County High School Athletic Director, sits on the board and, has served as a media liaison for this first 2 A Championship. He states adamantly that the 2 A is not a vehicle to divide state champions into classes. “This is a mid-season tournament for schools that are slightly larger than Class A. The purpose is not to take away from the Sweet 16. It is in my opinion, one of the best tournaments in the country. Being raised in Indiana, I have seen what class champions have done to basketball there. I like the purity of Kentucky’s Sweet 16.” The KHSAA Commissioner, Julian Tackett, is a supporter of the 2 A championships. He attended the quarterfinals at the Sportscenter in Owensboro and posted on social media,

Jeremy Tackett, Athletic Director at Union County High School and Chair for the 2 A Board shared that the 2 A Championships are an effort to push back against calls for class basketball state champions. The 2 A Board wants to build something great for their 2 A schools and student-athletes while keeping the sanctity of the Kentucky Sweet 16. “Our goal is to give teams that fit the criteria a great environment to prepare for the postseason and the KHSAA Sweet 16, which is the ultimate goal of every athlete in the Commonwealth.”

There is nothing as special in high school basketball as the Sweet 16 state tournament. The experience of the 16 regional tournaments and a 16 team championship that crowns a single winner has become a unique and special feature of athletics in the Commonwealth. This championship is not going to crumble and disappear as a result of the 2 A Championships. The 2 A Championship is just another opportunity to prepare teams for the challenge and excitement for the real state tournament. Hopefully, the 2 A championships will grow and serve student-athletes across Kentucky the same way that the “All A” has for years and that both tournaments will serve to prepare teams for a special run at the Sweet 16.

Bluegrass Basketball Season 2, Episode 4

Bluegrass Basketball – Season 2, Episode 4.

Kayla and Jon are back after a much needed extended break. They recap the King of the Bluegrass tournament along with other Holiday matchups that you may not have heard about. The injury bug has bitten the whole state, it seems, so Kayla and Jon weigh in on what that means for the Mr. Basketball award. They end with a quick All A preview and are ready for next week!

Subscribe on iTunes or Google Play to get our Podcast first!

Former Floyd Central Coach Kevin Spurlock Opens Up About Allegations

In early December, a small school in Langley, KY made statewide headlines. Eight players left the Floyd Central basketball team, only returning on one condition — that Kevin Spurlock wasn’t the coach. The accusations were of verbal abuse, “crossing the line” beyond cursing — Parents claimed that highly graphic language was used. One parent’s complaint was with a verbal altercation with a fan during a game. No claims of physical abuse transpired; simply that the things Kevin Spurlock said and did somehow crossed the line for their children.

Floyd Central’s administration, along with Floyd County’s Superintendent and Athletic Director, investigated the matter, meeting with each child, and ultimately deciding that Spurlock in fact broke their Zero Tolerance Policy for swearing, and the decision was made to give Coach Spurlock a 3-game suspension. Administrators did not find enough corroborating evidence to other allegations brought forth.

The kids and parents were not satisfied with that decision; Players did not return. Posts on social media continued to ridicule the investigation and Spurlock himself. It became clear that they were accepting nothing short of termination.

The administration of Floyd County Schools found no evidence of offenses worthy of firing Kevin Spurlock — yet trouble persisted. Darkness loomed over the program; Players who stuck with the program suffered through 12 losses: Spurlock knew what he needed to do.

On Friday, January 4th, 2019 — Kevin Spurlock gave his resignation to the administration of Floyd Central High School.

A local radio station, WMDJ, did an interview this morning with Floyd County Superintendent Dave Adkins who said: “When I met with Coach Spurlock… he was never forced to resign, he was not fired, he did this on his own accord and I think his concern was for the program and for the school. I think that led to his decision.”

With so many instances of Coaches fading into the background when controversies occur — taking the role of villain in silence — Kevin Spurlock is sharing his perspective on the story.

While Kevin admits guilt in a few of the complaints — the verbal altercation with a fan, the cursing at players — he also denies several of the accusations. He shared how this has affected him personally, how his family has been impacted, and how some time off may do some good.

Spurlock also acknowledges that possibly he just wasn’t the right fit for this program — and what he would have done differently if he knew then what he knows now. He admits that maybe he pushed these kids too hard — or pushed the wrong ones. He claims a level of fault in the matter but knows his style works — he has the resume to back it up.

He closed his interview with well wishes and a statement that he would still do anything for those kids despite the recent controversy — and he will prove it next week as he presents Ethan Smith-Mills with his 1000 Point milestone commemorative basketball — at Ethan’s request.

You can watch Kevin’s story at-length below.