All “A” Classic Finals Set

RICHMOND, Ky. – The semifinals of the All “A” Classic are in the books and only one game was decided by less than 10 points.

Clinton County edged Evangel Christian 44-42 as Keion Schrivener’s jumper with 0:04 remaining clanked off the iron before being rebounded by Clinton County’s Nick Brown in the first boys semifinal.

The nightcap saw St. Henry pull away from Lexington Christian in the fourth quarter to take a 72-49 win into the finals Saturday morning against Clinton County.

St. Henry is the boys All “A” Classic defending champion and will be seeking the school’s third All “A” crown. Clinton County is in the boys finals for the first time in school history.

St. Henry’s Wyatt Vieth led the Crusaders with 21 points.(Photo by Jeff McCurry from last season’s 9th Region tournament.)

Bethlehem joins St. Henry in a bid to go back-to-back as the Banshees won the All “A” girls crown last season with a 51-47 victory over Walton-Verona.

Bethlehem will once again faceoff with Walton-Verona in the finals after both teams cruised to semifinal victories.

Crusaders hold steady against Eagles

St. Henry shot out to a 23-5 lead over LCA at the end of the first quarter led by Jude Bessler’s seven points.

LCA (11-10) made just one field goal in the opening quarter before getting hot in the second and third quarters shooting a combined 13-for-25 to pull to within 50-41 at the end of the third.

Tanner Walton scored 12 points in the middle quarters for LCA before posting a total of 23 points on the night.

Wyatt Vieth led all St. Henry scorers with 21 points and 8 rebounds. Vieth was 6-for-11 from the field and 9-of-9 from the charity stripe for St. Henry (14-2).

Bessler chipped in 17 points and 8 rebounds for the Crusaders.

Evangel Christian eliminated by Clinton County

Dawson Black’s game-high 16 points was not enough as Clinton County eliminated the Eagles 44-42.

Clinton County (18-2) got out to a hot start thanks to the power of the mullet wearing Blake Melton.

Melton, who averaged just over 8 ppg going into the contest, knocked down a pair of three-point shots and another short jumper to tally eight of his 11 points on the night before exiting the game in the third quarter with an injury.

Evangel Christian (8-10) had the clear size advantage on the block with 6-foot-11 sophomore center Cyr Malonga towering over the Bulldogs, but Malonga was easily pushed around throughout the game by an aggressive Clinton County bunch.

Clinton County’s Nick Brown and Nick Delk added 11 and 10 points, respectively.

Banshees shoot down Rockets

Bethlehem (19-4) forced 23 Crittenden County turnovers and rode a stifling defense to an 80-54 victory despite Crittenden County’s Taylor Guess leading all scorers with 26 points.

Crittenden County (13-4) fell to behind 29-9 at the end of the first quarter and was never able to cut the deficit below 20 the rest of the game.

Ella Thompson looks to led the Bethlehem Banshees to back-to-back All “A” state titles. (Photo taken from Thompson’s Twitter account.)

Ella Thompson notched 18 points for the Banshees. Amelia Hodges and Xaviara Smalley added 15 points each for Bethlehem.

Lady Pirates sails never fly against Bearcats

Walton-Verona (15-6) limited Berea to an abysmal 17.9 shooting percentage for the game as the Bearcats easily defeated the Lady Pirates 56-18.

Maggie Buerger of Walton-Verona was the only player to score in double digits for either team as she tallied 10 points.

Finals Matchups Set

Bethlehem will meet Walton-Verona at 9 a.m. for the girls title game. St. Henry and Clinton County will begin their game at 11:30 a.m.

Both games can be viewed by going to

Something in the Water: Bulldogs ‘Tapped’ Out by Cardinals

Martin County has had its share of negative press over the last decade, namely their clean water woes that have not only been a major concern by legislators, but have became the brunt of jokes across the state — including opposing fan sections.

But in 2019 — the ship began to right. A brand new, state-of-the-art school opened its doors and the name Sheldon Clark High School was abandoned for a new beginning: Martin County High School, they would be, and remain the Cardinals (#CardsForLife)

Their programs seemed to flourish; Thanks to Coach Josh Muncy, football was competitive again. Under Coaches Harless and Hinkle, Volleyball had its winningest season in history. Boys Soccer had its first collegiate signee… and the list goes on.

The school’s girls basketball program suffered great loss in the death of both Head Basketball Coach Tim Rice and assistant Pam Maynard — but a familiar face came along to pick up those pieces bit by bit; Hall of Fame legend Robin (Harmon) Newsome took the helm and led her team to a District Title — for Pammy, she says, and in honor of her friend Coach Rice.

The Coup de Grâce this season was the utter dominance Martin County showed over the ever-tough 57th District. In the 15th Region tournament their goal was to handle it game by game and simply win the day. After a hard fought final victory, tonight they bring home the community’s first region basketball championship since 1983. 

Box Score:

Martin County 16 16 16 17 – 65
Lawrence County 11 12 14 24 – 61

Martin County:
Trey James 17 points 8 rebounds 3 blocks
Brady Dingess 14 points, Braxton Maynard 14 points, Jordan Dalton 10 points 7 rebounds

Brady Dingess: 15th Region Tournament MVP  

Lawrence County:
Cody Maynard 18 points, Trenton Adkins 16 points, Tyler Maynard 13 points

Photos courtesy of Stephanie Stiles-May

The Dream of Many Will Become Reality After Regionals for Only a Few

Growing up in Kentucky whether it be the small towns such as Paintsville, Pikeville, Hickman, and Fulton or in the bigger metropolitan areas such as Lexington, Louisville, Owensboro, Bowling Green, and Florence, the dream of many children is to one day play in the KHSAA Sweet 16.

Many of those kids are playing on makeshift hoops without a net only to possibly one day cut the net off of the rim after a regional championship and, maybe, even a state championship.

Photo courtesy of Bob & Ted Jackson.

Regardless of what region or gender is playing on any given night, teams know that it is lose and go home from here on out. The field for the Mingua Beef Jerky/KHSAA Girls’ Basketball Sweet 16 will be finalized on Sunday, March 8, and the entrants into the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys’ Basketball Sweet 16 will be set on Tuesday, March 10.

Regional games are already underway as the 4th Region girls tournament started this afternoon at E.A. Diddle Arena on the campus of Western Kentucky University with Russell County defeating Glasgow 40-36 and Bowling Green trouncing Russellville 61-29.

Photo courtesy of Bob & Ted Jackson.

Last week, I posted an article where we went ahead and selected our thoughts on who the regional winners will be, but this article will now include my selections on who will be playing in the finals of each regional tournament as well as who will be punching their tickets to Rupp Arena.

Just like how it should be in real life when entering a building, ladies are first.

Please note that the times listed for the championship game for each regional is local to the site.

1st Region – March 7 at 6 p.m. – Calloway County over Marshall County at the CFSB Center on the campus of Murray State University.

2nd Region – March 7 at 6 p.m. – Madisonville-North Hopkins over Henderson County at Christian County High School.

3rd Region – March 8 at 3 p.m. – Owensboro Catholic over the winner of the Muhlenberg County/Apollo matchup at the Owensboro Sportscenter.

4th Region – March 7 at 7 p.m. – Bowling Green over Barren County at WKU’s EA Diddle Arena.

5th Region – March 7 at 7 p.m. – Bethlehem over Elizabethtown at Thomas Nelson High School.

6th Region – March 7 at 1:45 p.m. – Mercy Academy over Bullitt East at Valley High School.

7th Region – March 7 at 12 p.m. – Sacred Heart over Christian Academy of Louisville at Valley high School.

8th Region – March 7 at 7 p.m. – Simon Kenton over Walton-Verona at Collins High School.

9th Region – March 8 at 2 p.m. – Ryle over Notre Dame Academy at NKU’s BB&T Arena.

10th Region – March 7 at 7 p.m. – Bishop Brossart over Campbell County at Campbell County Middle School.

11th Region – March 6 at 7 p.m. – Scott County over Franklin County at EKU’s McBrayer Arena.

12th Region – March 7 at 7 p.m. – Rockcastle County over Southwestern at Lincoln County High School.

13th Region – March 7 at 7 p.m. – South Laurel over North Laurel at the Corbin Arena.

14th Region – March 7 at 7 p.m. – Wolfe County over the host Letcher County Central.

15th Region – March 7 at 5 p.m. – Shelby Valley over Pikeville at the Appalachian Wireless Arena in Pikeville.

16th Region – March 7 at 7 p.m. – Russell over Boyd County at Morehead State University’s Ellis T. Johnson Arena.

Now that the girls regional championship games have been picked, I will turn my focus over to the boys tournaments. While there are plenty of people that have been to far more games that I have been, there has been one team that has stood out, to me, as being my favorite to win it all and that is none other than the Colonels of Covington Catholic High School so the below picture will be the smallest of trophies that I think that they will win this postseason.

Photo courtesy of Bob & Ted Jackson.

Below will be my region-by-region championship game picks as well as those who will earn the right to represent their school, town, and region at Rupp Arena:

1st Region – March 8 at 3 p.m. – McCracken County over Marshall County at Murray State University’s CFSB Center.

2nd Region – March 10 at 7 p.m. – Madisonville-North Hopkins over Lyon County at Hopkinsville High School.

3rd Region – March 10 at 7 p.m. – Owensboro over Owensboro Catholic at the Owensboro Sportscenter.

4th Region – March 10 at 6 p.m. – Bowling Green over Warren Central at WKU’s EA Diddle Arena.

5th Region – March 10 at 7 p.m. – Elizabethtown over John Hardin at Taylor County High School.

6th Region – March 9 at 7 p.m. – Fern Creek over Butler at Valley High School.

7th Region – March 10 at 7 p.m. – Ballard over Male at Valley High School.

8th Region – March 10 at 7 p.m. – Oldham County over Collins at Henry County High School.

9th Region – March 10 at 7:30 p.m. – Covington Catholic over Highlands at NKU’s BB&T Arena.

10th Region – March 10 at 7 p.m. – George Rogers Clark over Campbell County at home.

11th Region – March 7 at 5 p.m. – Lexington Catholic over Scott County at EKU’s McBrayer Arena.

12th Region – March 10 at 7 p.m. – Somerset over the host Pulaski County.

13th Region – March 9 at 7 p.m. – South Laurel over Clay County at the Corbin Arena.

14th Region – March 10 at 7 p.m. – Hazard over Wolfe County at Knott County Central High School.

15th Region – March 9 at 7 p.m. – Martin County over Shelby Valley at the Appalachian Wireless Arena in Pikeville.

16th Region – March 10 at 7 p.m. – Ashland Blazer over Boyd County at Morehead State University’s Ellis T. Johnson Arena.

May the best team win their respective regional tournament. To all of the players, play with the passion for the game that you have inside of you. Play for yourself, your team, your coaches, your school, your family, and your community. Leave it all out on the court so that you know you gave it your all.

Region Championship Too Early Predictions

Photo courtesy Bob & Ted Jackson.

It is that time of year again folks and many people are wondering if their team(s) are going to make it out of their respective district tournament, but I am here to go ahead and make what some will say obvious predictions and a few thrown in their to possibly ruffle some feathers in hopes that some good conversations can be had.

The first prediction that I will make is the one that some people will say is the most obvious choice in Kentucky this season and that is Maddie Scherr will win the Miss Basketball title.

Photo courtesy Bob & Ted Jackson.

The first of my few surprise predictions will be that Zion Harmon will lead the Marshall County HS Marshals to Rupp Arena. Many people are placing their money (figuratively speaking) on McCracken County to win the 1st Region crown, but I think it will be Marshall County cutting down the next at Murray State University’s CFSB Center.

My other bold prediction will be what some may call a homer pick because I will officially be a graduate of Northern Kentucky University in May, but Coach Darrin Horn has done a good job in recruiting in his time at the helm of the Norse and to land Marques Warrick is only a sign of things to come for the Norse. With that having been said, I think Warrick will be crowned Mr. Basketball.

Photo taken from Marques Warrick’s Twitter account @marques_warrick

Below is a list of the teams that I think will be playing in the basketball Mecca of Rupp Arena in a few short week.

First will be the region champions competing for the Mingua Beef Jerky/KHSAA Girls Basketball Sweet 16:

Photo taken from the KHSAA website.

1st Region – Calloway County

2nd Region – Henderson County

3rd Region – Owensboro Catholic

4th Region – Bowling Green

5th Region – Bethlehem (if the Banshees can pull off the All A Class and Sweet 16 sweep, a book and movie would need to be made about the small school team from Bardstown)

6th Region – Butler

7th Region – Sacred Heart

8th Region – Simon Kenton

9th Region – Ryle

10th Region – Bishop Brossart

11th Region – Scott County

12th Region – Casey County

13th Region – South Laurel

14th Region – Wolfe County (this is the one that has the greatest chance of not happening out of the 16 predictions, but it is wishful thinking for a school that you never hear much out of. The city of Campton would shut down if their girls were playing in Rupp Arena)

15th Region – Shelby Valley

16th Region – Boyd County

Photo taken from the KHSAA website.

And now for the predictions of the 16 teams that I think will be representing their school, town and county in what many call “The Greatest Show in Hoops,” aka the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Sweet 16:

1st Region – Marshall County

2nd Region – Madisonville – North Hopkins

3rd Region – Owensboro

4th Region – Bowling Green

5th Region – Elizabethtown

6th Region – Fern Creek

7th Region – Male

8th Region – Oldham County

9th Region – Covington Catholic (a trip to Rupp Arena wouldn’t be the same without two things…the first being a vanilla soft serve ice cream cone and the second being the chance to see some terrific basketball from the CovCath, but mainly to get to see the Colonel Crazies a.k.a. the greatest cheering section in all of Kentucky high school athletics)

10th Region – Bourbon County

11th Region – Henry Clay

12th Region – Somerset

13th Region – South Laurel

14th Region – Hazard

15th Region – Martin County

16th Region – Ashland Blazer

Division I-filled Oak Hill Academy (VA) downs CovCath 50-38

Oak Hill Academy receives trophy after defeating CovCath 50-38.

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. – Oak Hill Academy out of Mouth of Wilson, Va., rode strong performances from Cam Thomas and Darius Maddox to defeat Covington Catholic High School 50-38 in Game 1 of the 2019 Griffin Elite Prep School Classic on Saturday afternoon at the BB&T Arena on the campus of Northern Kentucky University.

Thomas, who has already signed to play for the LSU Tigers next season, scored the majority of his 17 points at the charity stripe where he was 10-for-10 on the day. Thomas was just 3-for-12 from the field including 1-for-4 from behind the three-point arc, but he did make up for it defensively with six steals.

Cam Thomas drives by a CovCath defender.

Maddox, a Virginia Tech Hokies signee, had the best performance for Coach Steve Smith’s team that is ranked 24th in the country according to the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 Writers’ Poll. Maddox went 6-for-11 from the field including 2-for-4 from behind the three-point arc.

Virginia Tech signee Darius Maddox during opening intros.

Covington Catholic (0-2), who is a favorite to win the 9th Region basketball tournament also to be held at the BB& T Arena, was paced by Grant Disken’s 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field and 2-for-5 from three-point land. Disken added three assists, two rebounds and a steal for Scott Ruthsatz’s Colonels.

Grant Deskin attempts a first-half shot over Cam Thomas.

On a day where many were focused on Covington Catholic’s Class 5A state football game against Frederick Douglass, the basketball team came out fighting hard against the perennial national power.

Covington Catholic’s Chandler Starks proved to be a force to be reckoned with on the boards for years to come as the freshman grabbed a game-high 13 boards (four offensive and nine defensive). Starks showed a poise and fighter’s attitude against the Warriors that will prove to be beneficial as he may not see that level of collective talent again the rest of the season.

Freshman Chandler Starks (42) had impressive rebounding performance leading the game with 13.

The Colonels led by as many as five with 3:20 to go in the first quarter and could never pull away from the Warriors, but the team played with a spirit that didn’t die as their school motto says.

It wasn’t until late in the fourth quarter before the Warriors were able to pull away after the Colonels pulled to within 34-31 at the end of the third quarter.

Two things that Covington Catholic will need to clean up as the season marches on are the turnovers and free-throw shooting. The Colonels committed 19 turnovers and shot just 4-for-8 from the charity stripe.

KK Robinson, who has committed to the University of Arkansas, tallied a game-high seven steals for the Warriors to go along with his nine points.

Neil Green added eight points and four rebounds for the Colonels who will next face a St. Henry District High School squad that is off to a hot start with a pair of wins over 9th Region foes Cooper (51-33) and Conner (52-47). Tipoff for the Tues., Dec. 10 contest is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

Please note all game photos are courtesy of Bob & Ted Jackson.

Sweet 16 Round 1 Recap


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:

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 


Knox Central (30-4) 13th Region Champions

Beat North Laurel in regional championship game 80 – 53.


Walton Verona (27 – 6) 8th Region Champions

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


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

Beat Louisville Ballard in regional championship game 59 – 37.


Johnson Central (27 – 7) 15th Region Champions

Beat Pikeville in regional championship game 66 – 61.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019 Evening Session


John Hardin (35 – 0) 5th Region Champions

Beat Taylor County in regional championship 62 – 51.


Campbell County (29 – 4) 10th Region Champions

Beat George Rogers Clark in regional championship 61 – 49.


Owensboro (23 – 7) 3rd Region Champions

Beat Breckinridge County in regional championship game 63 – 57.


Ashland Blazer (17 – 16) 16th Region Champions

Beat Boyd County in regional championship game 59 – 43.

Mr. and Miss Basketball: The Process


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


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


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.