High school notebook: Good luck figuring out 11th Region basketball

mfields@herald-leader.comFebruary 14, 2013 

Henry Clay's Christen Cunningham put up a shot over Madison Central's Dominique Hawkins (25) and Demarcus George. Cunningham led the Blue Devils with 22 points.

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Having observed Lexington high school basketball for 34 winters does not qualify me as an expert on city hoops because my knowledge of X's and O's is thinner than a six-man roster. That said, I cannot remember a more confounding regular season than this one.

District tournaments begin on Monday, and I'm still trying to decipher the numbers I've seen on the scoreboards. Take the five Lexington boys' teams that have been ranked in the state's top 25 and consider the good and bad in all of them in 11th Region competition:

Bryan Station: Good win (56-54) over Henry Clay. Bad loss (68-46) to Paul Laurence Dunbar.

Paul Laurence Dunbar: Good win (77-61) over Lafayette. Bad loss (70-43) to Lexington Catholic.

Henry Clay: Good win (71-51) over Scott County. Bad loss (79-54) to Lafayette.

Lafayette: Good win (79-54) over Henry Clay. Bad loss (77-61) to Dunbar.

Lexington Catholic: Good win (70-43) over Dunbar. Bad loss (76-58) to Madison Central.

Try crunching those numbers and I guarantee you'll get a headache.

■ If Linville Wright got his car repaired in time, he planned to make the trip from Washington, D.C., to Hazard for his Friday night induction into the Bulldogs' basketball Hall of Fame. In a phone interview this week, Wright said he hasn't been to Hazard in almost 40 years, but he has nothing but fond memories of the place where he grew up and was a basketball star. Wright attended all-black Liberty High in Hazard before Hazard High integrated in 1956. Wright said he and Liberty teammates Bobby Baker and Don Smith made a smooth transition to Hazard and helped the Bulldogs to a regional championship. They were among the first blacks to play in the KHSAA's Sweet Sixteen in 1957. "We got along with everybody. No problems. It was extremely good," Wright said. "My parents didn't talk much on the racial thing, and neither did the guys I ran with. Sometimes when you're a young fella, you don't know about things." Wright, 74, recalled the first time he saw the then-new Freedom Hall in Louisville for the 1957 state tournament. "I was just like a kid who'd never been to the circus walking into the big tent. I'd never seen anything like that before." Four other Hazard basketball alumni will be inducted on Friday: Bill Davis, L.D. Gorman, Happy Mobelini, Chris Pulliam and Charlotte Sizemore.

■ North Hardin's Ron Bevars became only the fourth coach in state history to reach 800 victories when his Trojans beat Marion County last week. Bevars is an institution at North Hardin. He's been there 42 years, the last 38 as head coach. He remembers his first victory. It came against East Hardin in 1975. That was ironic, considering when East Hardin opened in 1962, Bevars scored the first two points in the school's history. They came against, yep, North Hardin. Bevars has led the Trojans to 12 region titles, and a state runner-up finish made famous by the shot that beat them — Paul Andrews' half-court shot for Laurel County in 1982. But Bevars considers getting the North Hardin job as the highlight of his career. He said he got the position "by default" when a newly hired coach quit, leaving the school in a bind. The late Ray Story, North Hardin's principal at the time, asked Bevars if he'd take the reins. When he retired from teaching in 2001, Bevars figured his coaching days were numbered. "I didn't have any intention to stay this long, but I've come back one year at a time for 12 years." Bevars, who'll turn 70 in May, said after the season is over he'll "sit back for a few days and evaluate" whether to re-up for another season. The other 800-win coaches are William Kean of Central, Billy Hicks of Scott County and Dale Mabrey of Pleasure Ridge Park.

■ Omar Prewitt is finishing his Montgomery County career with a flourish. In four victories in five days last week, the 6-foot-6 senior averaged 30.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.7 blocked shots. In a win over Woodford County this week, Prewitt got his 1,000th career rebound. He holds school records for points (2,443), rebounds (1,004), three-pointers (328) and blocked shots (205). No. 8 Montgomery County is favored to win the 10th Region for the first time since 1995. Happy Osborne's Indians (25-4) close the regular season at Harrison County on Friday. They play Bourbon County in the 40th District on Tuesday.

■ Whitley County girls' coach Larry Anderson, who has 473 career wins, is retiring at the end of the season. He has been at Whitley County 26 years. Before that he was at Williamsburg for five. Anderson saw a record-setting performance on Monday when Maria Johnson had a school-record 11 three-pointers while scoring 33 points in a win over Jackson County.

■ When Lafayette's boys beat Henry Clay this week, it was the Generals' third win in a row over their longtime rivals. Henry Clay leads the series, which began in December 1939, 87-84.

■ LeeAnn Grider, a 5-foot-5 senior point guard, is the first 2,000-point scorer in the Russell County girls' program. Grider has been playing varsity since she was a seventh-grader. "We've won 100 games in my six years here, and LeeAnn has been involved in every one of them," Coach Craig Pippen said. "She's a special player." Pippen said Grider is leaning toward playing college hoops at Transylvania.

■ Harlan County has had three seniors — Tyler Brewer, Alex Sergen and Chad Massingill — reach 1,000 career points this season, the first to reach that mark in the school's five-year history.

■ Clay Clevenger, Henderson County's football coach the last six years, has left the Colonels to become coach at Danville. Clevenger was an all-state lineman at Danville and played on Sam Harp's state championship teams in 1992 and '94. Harp took a job as coach at Lebanon, Tenn., last month. Clevenger, who had a 45-27 record at Henderson, told the Henderson Gleaner his move isn't just about football. "It's an opportunity to go back home and raise our kids around their grandparents." He and his wife, Katie, are expecting their second child this summer.

■ Mark Brown, who won a state football title at Nelson County and built John Hardin into a powerhouse, has retired after 36 years as a head coach. Brown had a record of 272-121 coaching at Marion County, Nelson County and John Hardin. He led Nelson County to a Class 4A championship in 1996. He started John Hardin's program in 2001 and had a 116-34 record there, including unbeaten regular seasons five of the last six years.

■ Condolences to the family and friends of Ashlea Hollon, a Lexington Christian assistant girls' basketball coach and former Clark County and Asbury University player, who died last week. She was 23. "Our girls are devastated," LCA Coach Jason Seamands said. "Ashlea had so many gifts. One of them was finding that balance between connecting with players on a personal level, and still being able to coach them. She was an ambassador to Christ. She had the ability to make you feel better about yourself just by being there." Ms. Hollon was in Bart Flener's first recruiting class at Asbury and played four years for him. "Her smile lit up the room, and she cared so much for her teammates," Flener said. "She had a real heart for the Lord and a passion for mission." Flener said 33 current and former Asbury players attended Ms. Hollon's funeral Sunday in Campton. "Ashlea brought them all together," Flener said. Dorian Downs, an Asbury senior, will wear Ashlea's No. 4 jersey the rest of the season to honor the memory of her close friend.

■ Lexington's reputation for producing top-notch baseball talent can be partly attributed to Harold Denniston, better known as "Mr. D". He died this week at age 84. Mr. D coached and taught baseball for 50 years, and a roll call of his students would include John Shelby, Doug Flynn, Marv Foley, Steve Chandler, Jeff Parrett, Joe Cowley, Dom Fucci, Chuck Ross, Vic Travis, Robbie Buchanan and Joe Modica. "Lots of folks (most actually) probably knew more baseball than he did, but very few had his ability to make kids believe in themselves and perform at a high level on and off the baseball field," his son, Sonny Denniston, said in an email. "In the 32-plus years I've been associated with high school athletics and summer baseball, I cannot count how many conversations I have had where I was asked, 'How's your dad?'" Mr. D was involved in Castlewood Park Pony League, Northern Babe Ruth and South Lexington Connie Mack. In the early 1980s he opened Mr. D's Batter's Box, where he was a swing doctor for 27 years. He also taught girls' softball players when that sport took off. Mr. D, who grew up on a farm near Cynthiana, won a trip to a Cincinnati Reds game when he was 10. "I never forgot it," he told the Herald-Leader in 2001. "That's when I got interested in baseball." The youth of Lexington were the real winners.

■ The KHSAA is sanctioning an archery state championship for the first time this year. The 7th Region Tournament, involving about 600 archers, is Saturday at the Providence Activity Center in Nicholasville.

Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337 Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com

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