The Zip Zone Express Tip-Off Classic

The title is a mouthful but it is the most well-known pre-season Panorama in the basketball realm — and has been for over two decades.

Its host — Sheldon Clark High School — has done an incredible job of bringing in incredible talent each year. You can always expect to see Kentucky High School Basketball’s top teams of that year on the schedule — plus some elite out of state schools — and in doing so, it has featured big name recruits like Rajon Rondo, Allan Houston, O.J. Mayo, Damien Fishback, Tim Couch, John Pelphrey, J.R. VanHoose, and many more.

2015’s lineup had an appearance from John Calipari himself — who was there recruiting Sacha Killeya-Jones.

The game has also had some legendary contributors and staff. The most noteworthy being Robin Harmon Newsome. Robin is a former Kentucky All-Star, 4-time Regional Champion, and legendary coach. She said, “Along the way, the Tip-Off Classic became a first class event in which we really didnt have to invite teams. I had a waiting list of schools all over state who wanted in it.” Robin ran the tournament as Sheldon Clark Athletic Director from 2005-2017.

This year’s schedule may be one of the event’s best, as we will be seeing Pendleton County — led by Senior Dontaie Allen, who is the University of Kentucky’s first in-state recruit since 2013 — when Cal signed Dominique Hawkins and Derek Willis.

For the Louisville fans, you’ll also get a chance to see UofL’s latest in-state recruit: David Johnson of Trinity — and he is a joy to watch; UHA’s KyKy Tandy, an Xavier commit who plays some extremely smooth basketball; and last but not least, a highly skilled Michael Moreno of Scott County, who is currently uncommitted but sitting on several offers. Also participating, a bit of local talent: Lexington Herald-Leader Top 25 players 6’11” Sophomore Trey James and Senior Jacob Rice.

The Zip-Zone Classic Full Schedule
Saturday, November 24th 2018
Booth Energy Center (Formerly Sheldon Clark High School)

9:15  – Martin County Middle vs Logan, WV
10:15 – Sheldon Clark vs Prestonsburg (Girls)
11:55 – Pikeville vs Greenup County
1:20 – Shelby Valley vs Elliott County
2:45 – Scott County vs University Heights
4:10 – George Rogers Clark vs Trinity
5:35 – Johnson Central vs Knott County
7:00 – Pendleton County vs Chapmanville, WV
8:25 – Sheldon Clark vs East Ridge

For the first time in a couple of years, this tournament will be back in its original location, only under a new name: Booth Energy Center. Those of you familiar with the area will know it as Sheldon Clark’s old gym.

Martin County entrepreneur Jim Booth purchased and renovated the old building — and this will be the first event held in the newly named Booth Energy Center.

Jim and his family have contributed to the community of Inez in just about every way imaginable — from sporting events to providing jobs for the area — they’ve been a key part of what gives this tournament its longevity and success.

James Mills, VP of Operations for Zip Zone Express, Inc., says “Zip Zone Express is excited to continue our tradition of hosting the Tip-Off Classic. For over 20 years, we have been dedicated to putting together an exciting program that showcases high school basketball talent from around the state. Furthermore, Zip Zone Express has always been dedicated to our community, and we are looking forward to donating the proceeds from the event to the Sheldon Clark Athletic Department.”

Tickets for the Tip-Off Classic will be $5 for general admission, first come first serve — and like Mr. Mills said, the Zip Zone event is charitable — 100% of the proceeds from both ticket and concession sales go directly to Sheldon Clark Athletics. Programs will be available as well, make sure you snag one!

Now, for the good stuff. While you’re around, you’ve gotta eat. And maybe you or the kids will need a break from the roundball — so let this native Martin Countian give you an insider’s guide on what to do while you’re in town.

Lodging:

The Brookshire Inn
2965 KY-40
Inez, KY 41224

Now through November 24th, you can mention the Tip-Off Classic and get $10 off your stay. The Brookshire Inn is 1 mile away from the gym where the games will be played and puts you next to a Zip Zone location, where you can get fuel or grab some Papa Johns pizza!

Things to Do:

Main Street Cinemas
387 Main Street
Inez, KY 41224

You would be hard-pressed to find another theatre this clean and accommodating in this neck of the woods. Located in the Roy F. Collier Community Center Main Street Cinema hosts movie-release themed activities for kids and neighbors an arcade and indoor playground.

God’s Promise Trail

If you’re up for a good hike, right beside of the Roy F. Collier Community Center mentioned above, there’s a beautiful trail you can climb and really experience the joy of the beauty in the area. It is a wonderful spot to get back in touch with nature.

Dining:

Cloud 9 Cafe
2960 Airport Road
Davella, KY 41214

One of Coach Cal’s personal favorites is the Cloud 9 Cafe. Nestled on Route 3 South before arriving in Inez, it’s beside of Martin County’s very own airport. The view on the drive to the restaurant is picturesque — and if you drive slowly enough, you just might see a few Elk. Try the Monte Christo!

Inez Dairy Bar
402 E Main St
Inez, KY 41224

If you’re looking for a sit-down, local burgers-and-ice-cream joint, look no further than Inez Dairy Bar. They have a long menu with a lot of options for everyone — and make sure you try Mrs. Judy’s homemade desserts sitting right there in the case at the counter.

Pizza Stop
1488 Blacklog Rd.
Inez, KY 41224

Anybody that was raised in Inez and moved away will always tell you — their “must have” on a visit home is Pizza Stop. A wide variety of pizza flavors and sub sandwiches, you can’t go wrong with just about anything you choose. If you stop by, ask for the local favorite — the Ham Wedge.

Of course if you’re in a hurry, there are quite a few Fast Food choices in town. McDonald’s is just across the way from the gym, and in downtown Inez you’ll find Taco Bell, KFC, and a Subway — right across from the movie theater. If you stop by Subway, tell them you’re here for the Zip Zone Tip-Off Classic, and you’ll get a free cookie with your purchase.

I’ll be on site most of the day, hopefully enjoying some competitive basketball all while soaking in the nostalgia of the re-opening of my alma mater’s gym. See you all there!

Kayla Moore VanHoose
Bluegrass Basketball
Follow @BluegrassBball on Twitter!

Thanks go to Tiffany Nichols Fannin, Dwayne Sweeney, and Robin Newsome for your contributions of information for this article.

X Man

One of the more anticipated decisions of the c/o ’19 was resolved recently when Dekeyvan “KyKy” Tandy announced that he would be taking his game to the next level at Xavier University.

The combo guard from UHA was highly sought after by the likes of Clemson, Cincinnati, and Auburn (among others).  It ultimately came down to Ole Miss and Xavier.  He went into an official visit with the Musketeers on October 19th and had already planned to announce his decision the following Tuesday.  If they hadn’t won him over before then, apparently they sealed the deal on that trip.  He came home and made it official a couple days later.

Tandy is the second player from the state of Kentucky to join Xavier’s 2019 class joining Walton Verona’s big man Dieonte Miles (rated as high as a 3 star center from Walton, KY).

These two will make a total of 4 from the Bluegrass State joining junior Leighton Schrand (Villa Hills) and junior guard Quentin Goodin (Campbellsville, KY) who has played a big role in Xavier’s success over the last two seasons.

With the decision out of the way, Tandy is freed up to focus on his senior season.  As a junior he averaged 30.5 ppg while shooting nearly 45% from behind the arc and nearly 5 rebounds per game as well.  He will be in the mix, if not the favorite for the Mr. Basketball award.  His senior year will be one to keep an eye on, but where he will play in college is no longer in doubt.

For more coverage for hoops, be sure to follow @jndavis2181 on Twitter as well as @BluegrassBball

The King and I

Today is the 80th Birthday of Kelly Coleman —- one who basketball fans and aficionados alike know as “King” Kelly. B99C2F39-1004-4534-9AF8-946E91095F49 He graduated high school in 1956 and was named our first ever Mr. Basketball.

To you, he may be the KHSAA all-time leading scorer. He may be that legend and lore you’ve heard all of your life as a basketball player. To you, he may be the Greatest High School Basketball Player that Ever Lived. He absolutely is all of those things. You know what else he is?

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My best friend. He’s a shot at getting to enjoy a grandfather figure as I get older (because Lord knows mine were gone way too soon.) He’s someone I can ask about “back then”, someone I can talk about life, today’s struggles, and a simpler time.

Someone I get to laugh with, smile with, and as of lately — cry with, too.

I’ve only known Kelly for about 4 years but it feels like a lifetime.

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I could never replicate the joy he brings to my days as I grow older and begin to appreciate his wisdom, his troubles, his jokes, and even his choice in movies.

You see, King Kelly is a great basketball legend, and that will carry on for lifetimes in the record books and stories… but he is so much more than that, too, and that will carry on in my heart for the rest of my days.

I hope it has been the absolute best birthday anyone could experience. And I hope I get to see many, many more.

Happy 80th Birthday, old man.

Forgotten Legends: Lester West

One of the greatest high school teams of the early years of Kentucky High School basketball was the Inez Indians. In ten amazing seasons, from 1932 to 1941, Coach Russell Williamson and his teams won 298 games, including two seasons with 40 wins each; eight 58th/59th District titles (1932, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937, 1939 and 1940); seven 15th Region championships (1934, 1935, 1936, 1937, 1939, 1940 and 1941), appeared in five “Sweet 16” Final Fours (1935, 1936, 1937, 1940 and 1941) and won one Kentucky High School state championship (1941). Starting5 This is an amazing accomplishment when you consider the enrollment at Inez during those years never exceeded more than 110 high school students. Possibly the greatest praise the Indians were given after winning the 1941 State Tournament came from Adolph Rupp, head basketball coach at the University of Kentucky. Rupp was quoted in the Indianapolis Star saying, “that Inez had done more for the advancement of basketball in Kentucky than any other team.”
Those 1940-41 Indians were led by a strong core of seniors – Alex Harmon, Bob Cooper, Charlie Kirk, Billy Taylor and Lester West.Perhaps the best player of the bunch was Lester West. Standing 5’10 and weighing 160 lbs., West, known for his ball-handling and passing skills, was one of the toughest high school players in the state. Dislocating his shoulder in an early January game at Louisville Male he continued to play the rest of the season despite the injury. He played so well in fact that he was named to the “Sweet 16” All-Tournament team for the second consecutive year after helping lead Inez to that state title. image4West and the rest of the Inez starting five played so well throughout the season that all five were named to the prestigious Kentucky All-Star team who would take on their counterparts from Indiana in the annual All-Star Game between the two states in the summer of 1941.
Lester West went on to play collegiate basketball at Murray State Teachers College (now Murray State University) in the 1941-1942 season, earning a varsity letter under first year coach Rice Mountjoy. Suiting up for the Racers, West teamed-up with future NBA great Joe Fulks, who was also beginning his first year at Murray as well as another great freshman from Hardin, a former teammate of West on the Kentucky All-Star team, John Padgett. Despite a great regular season, finishing with an 18-2 record, Murray State did not fare as well in the two post-season tournaments they played in that year. The Racers lost to Western Kentucky by two, 46-44, in the first round of the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (KIAC) Tournament and then lost to East Central (OK) State in the first game of the NAIB Tournament in Kansas City by one, 46-45. The disappointing post-season did not discourage Murray State fans from looking forward to next season, even a few sports writers were encouraged with the players returning. The Messenger-Inquirer of Owensboro, KY had this to say about the 1942-43 Racer team in September 1942, “… Murray should have a great team next season with such stars as Captain Hyland Grimmer, Joe Fulks, John Padgett, Leonard “Red” Metcalfe, Herbert Hurley, Lester West and Wid Ellison returning. To inherit a ready-made machine like that is a dream few coaches realize…”
Unfortunately, Lester West would not be a member of the team that next season. World War II had been raging in Europe for three years and in December 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor sending the United States to war. Answering the call of duty, Lester West left Murray State and enlisted in the United States Army at Huntington, WV on November 10, 1942. image5After completing basic training, West was sent to receive additional training as a flight engineer and gunner in the Army Air Corps. After a long and arduous training regimen West was assigned to a crew who would be flying a B-24 Liberator into war. The crew of ten included the pilot, 2nd Lt. Edwin T. Szczypinski; co-pilot 2nd Lt. Robert F. Allgeier; navigator 2nd Lt. Bernard Wienckowski; bombardier 2nd Lt. Elmer Pahl; Lester West, recently promoted to Sergeant, was the flight engineer; his assistant engineer was Sergeant Ernest Szydlowski; the radio operator was Sergeant Carl Swift; the final three crew members were all assigned as gunners, Sergeants John Refy, Edward Westpfahl and Harvey Hitt.
In late January 1944, the flight crew, now known as Training Crew 18, were assigned to the 42nd Bomb Squadron in Hawaii for six weeks of additional training. In Hawaii the crew performed three weeks of flight training before finishing with three weeks of ground school training. Flight training included gunnery, formation flying, strange field landings, bombing, navigation and search missions. It was then on to ground school that included lectures on water landing procedures, radar communications, photo interpretation, ordnance, aircraft and sea craft recognition and identification as well as a course on the general geography of the Central Pacific. Even while the crew was being trained on the ground, they were expected to fly every day. Military officials hoped that this type of training would prepare the crew for the missions they were about to fly against the Japanese and expose them to any situations they may face, including flying over the wide expanse of the Pacific.
On March 29, 1944, with training complete, West and the rest of his B-24 crew were assigned to the 26th Bomb Squadron, 11th Bomb Group of the 7th Army Air Force operating out of Eniwetok Atoll. At that time, the 26th was regularly bombing Japanese held Truk Atoll. Considered the most formidable of all Japanese strongholds, Truk was Japan’s main naval base in the South Pacific. image3In February 1944, the United States had launched Operation Hailstone, a three day bombing campaign against the atoll that was a huge success, sinking twelve Japanese warships, thirty-two merchant ships and destroying 275 aircraft. Truk then earned the nickname “the biggest graveyard of ships in the world.”
However, Truk still remained a stronghold and American bombers were tasked with reducing the Japanese forces still remaining. The base was still sending aircraft to other parts of the Pacific against Allied forces and was defended by somewhere near forty anti-aircraft guns. Because of the amount of gunfire aircrews were receiving over Truk, it was determined that the best way to attack the Japanese troops there was to fly at night.
On April 16, 1944, just two weeks after being assigned to the 26th, Lester West and his crew found themselves on a night mission flying a B-24 nicknamed Heavy Date against the Japanese at Truk. The Heavy Date went through the mission undamaged and bombardier Elmer Pahl was able to drop his bombs on target, even after “a 6,000 foot dive to avoid enemy searchlights and night fighters.” However, it was on the flight back to Eniwetok that the crew realized they did not have enough fuel to return to base. At 8:19pm local time, the Eniwetok radio station picked up the first SOS call from radio operator Carl Swift, “SOS SOS SOS Ditching Flying Course 73…” The radio transmission was acknowledged and radio operators immediately tried to get a fix on the aircraft’s position. After being asked how much more time the plane could remain in the air, Swift replied with “Not over an hour at most.” The problem with lack of fuel was communicated and the aircraft climbed to 10,000 feet. The bombardier Elmer Pahl later recalled the mood of the men on the plane, “We knew we did not have enough gasoline to make it and would have to come down in enemy territory, probably on the water. Everyone took it calmly and went about the business of throwing out everything that would lighten the plane… It made me feel proud to be with them, the way they took it. I don’t think there was a man aboard who wasn’t sure that he would come through all right and be rescued. Some of them stuffed themselves with K-rations while waiting but I was too scared to eat.”
At 9:36pm, the radio operator on Eniwetok recorded in his log that the Heavy Date “sent scrambled, nervous [radio calls], unable to make sense out of transmission.” It had been an hour and seventeen minutes since the first SOS had been sent and fuel was now critically low on the aircraft. In the next few minutes the crew watched as one engine ran out of fuel and stopped running. The bombardier Pahl recalled, “The pilot [Edwin T. Szczypinski] let us know that we were going down. He kept calling off the altitude as we got closer and closer to the water…” At 9:48pm the Heavy Date made a crash landing “in Japanese-controlled waters off [the island of] Ponape [Pohnpei].”
Because of the violence of the crash, the next few moments were a blur for members of the crew. Edwin Pahl remembered that, “I was in the tail and all I remember is the spray coming in the window. Then I was in the water swimming my head off.” Gunner Harvey Hitt, knocked unconscious for a few moments when the plane hit the water, was also in the tail of the plane but came to in the bomb bay before swimming to a nearby life raft. The pilot, 2nd Lt. Edwin T. Szczypinski, was severely injured in the crash, suffering severe cuts on both legs as well as a compound fracture of his left leg. He only remembered being able to release his safety belt and use his arms to swim away from the plane, finding a raft. Assistant flight engineer Ernest Szydlowski, despite a broken thigh bone, managed to swim clear of the sinking plane and reach the life raft that held Pahl and Hitt. Before long it became clear, these four men were the only members of the crew of the Heavy Date to survive.
A few weeks later, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph West, who had moved from Martin County to Waverly, Ohio, were informed of the death of their son. It wasn’t long before news of his death spread around the state of Kentucky. The Louisville Courier-Journal reported the following on July 13, 1944, “Lester West, Murray State College basketball star who was in the Army Air Corps, has been reported killed in the South Pacific. West, who captained Inez to a state championship in 1941 and was unanimous choice for the all-state team, was considered one of the best passers ever to enroll at Murray and had a brilliant cage future until he left school in the fall of 1942. He was reported to have been killed in a crash when the plane made a water landing. Efforts to save the crew were only partially successful, four members of the staff being picked up…” Nearly a month later, on August 7, 1944, the College News of Murray, KY informed their readers, “Lester West was killed in action on April 16 near Truk Island. He was an engineer gunner on a bomber. His commanding officer wrote his parents as follows: ‘The crash occurred while returning from a bombing mission against the enemy base. Just prior to making the water landing, radio contact with the plane was maintained and the approximate location of the crash was received. Our planes, together with Navy sea planes were dispatched immediately to that area. At first nothing could be found but after a continued search four survivors were rescued after drifting in life rafts for two days. The survivors confirmed the fact that your son, along with other members of the crew, had been killed in the crash.’ Before coming to Murray State in 1941, West had played four years on the Inez High School team where he was on the all-state team for two years. Inez won the championship in 1941 and West was captain of the all-state team. He was awarded a letter in 1942 as a member of Murray’s basketball squad.”
The bodies of Lester West and the other five crewmembers of the Heavy Date lost on April 16, 1944 were never recovered. The names of these men are inscribed on the Walls of the Missing at the Manila-American Cemetery and Memorial in Manila, Philippines.

We’re Back: The Kentucky/Indiana All-Star Game

In 2017, the Kentucky Association of Basketball Coaches became the Administrators of the Kentucky/Indiana All-Star Game. The game was held at the Civic Center in Frankfort, giving the now-demolished building one last hoorah.

In the last 10 years, interest in the game has waned on our state’s side, we’ve seen attendance down below 500 in recent games.

The KABC plans to change that.

If you attended last night’s game at Bellarmine University, you’ll understand. If you didn’t — let me paint a picture for you.

Knights Hall holds 2,181 patrons and approximately 30 members of the media. The arena was full of fans — just 100 tickets shy of a complete sell out crowd.

The game directors pulled out all of the stops. The programs, with interactive QR codes and historical blips/videos/photos weaved in and out of current information, sold out long before the boys game tipped off. T-shirts flew off their respective tables and fans from all over filled the gym.

The game committee chose an elite Cheerleading squad from Pikeville High School to bring some spirit to the gym. PHS cheer donned tank tops to match the Kentucky teams and performed floor cheers to get the crowd involved.

KABC also decided to bring back a tradition that had been lost in recent times by inviting All-Star Game alumni back and honoring them at center court.

Former Girls All Stars such as Miss Basketballs Geri Grigsby, Jamie Walz Richey (All-Star game coaching staff), and Lindsay Duvall joined Candace Bingham and several others to have their name called and gave the crowd a wave.

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Boys All-Star alumni were well represented — Kentucky Wildcats Derek Anderson and Anthony Epps joined prime time prep stars such as Mr. Basketballs Ralph Richardson and J.R. VanHoose. Louisville basketball great James Boo Brewer, an All-Star Assistant Coach, also stepped out of the locker room to join his fraternity of players.

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Adding a nice nod to our history, video interviews of All-Stars of old played during Media Timeouts. Fans turned to the video board to listen to stories from long ago.

To cap the evening off — both Kentucky teams came out hot. Our girls team brought it during both halves and grabbed their win. The boys, up against 5+ Big 10 commits from Indiana were predicted to lose by a large margin. With team chemistry and grit, they commanded a lead early. Several Kentucky boys answered the call and came out victorious.

The magic in the room did not go unnoticed. Kentucky fans enjoyed the atmosphere, the lore, and most importantly, the win.

For a game that has all but had its Death Certificate signed by the sports realm’s most heavy hitters — it sure seems like it’s  not ready for the end.

The Kentucky/Indiana All-Star Game is back, folks. Hop on the bandwagon, I’ll scoot over and make some room.

Kayla Moore VanHoose
Bluegrass Basketball