A new home for All 'A?'
It's never easy to end a long-term relationship that's been a winner for both sides, but the 19-year marriage between the Touchstone Energy All "A" Classic and the city of Richmond is in jeopardy.
The boys' and girls' small-school state basketball tournaments, which have been held in Eastern Kentucky University's McBrayer Arena for 19 years, might be played elsewhere in 2011.
The All "A" board will vote Sunday morning on whether to stay in Richmond, or move to Frankfort, Corbin or Pikeville. The decision will be announced at Sunday afternoon's title games.
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Tournament chairman Stan Steidel, the driving force behind the event since its inception, wishes it hadn't come to this. But a few months ago, when the All "A" needed a commitment, Steidel said things were tough financially in Richmond, so the city was understandably reluctant to re-up. "A lot of people were unsure what they could do, would do, or wanted to do," he said. So Steidel started talking to other people and "found out we're a pretty popular entity." He got offers from other cities. Then Richmond got "real serious about wanting us back again."
Now it's time for All "A" officials to make the call: stay or go. Steidel said he has told the board, "Let's make a good, honorable decision."
■ Mike Deaton is only half-kidding when he likens himself and the All "A" Classic to the "six degrees of separation" game that can tie any actor to Kevin Bacon. Deaton always seems to have a connection to the small-school state tournaments. He coached Caverna's boys to the All "A" four out of five years in the early 1990s. Last year, he had a couple of rooting interests. Green County's girls, including Deaton's daughter Morgan and niece Raegan, were runners-up to LCA. Shelby Valley took the boys' title under Coach Jason Booher, who got his start as an assistant to Deaton at Corbin. This year's tournament included Glasgow's girls, coached by Chris Crain, who played for Deaton at Caverna. Deaton is now Campbellsville superintendent. The Eagles lost to Glasgow in Thursday's opener. Green County's girls won their first-round game, so Deaton's daughter and niece are still hooping it up in Richmond.
While Deaton is a fan of the small-school shoot-out, he said he would like to see students admitted for a reduced price. "When your school district has over 70 percent free and reduced (lunch), that ($8 ticket) can be a real hardship for some kids, especially if your team plays more than one game. I wish we could drop that price back down to $5 for students."
■ The girls' All "A" provided "déjà vu" moments for Caldwell County Coach Stephanie Duncan Crick and Russell Coach Mandy Sterling Layne. They both played in the Sweet Sixteen in EKU's McBrayer Arena. Stephanie Duncan was a star on Webster County's 1998 state tournament team that lost in the first round to eventual champ Elizabethtown. Mandy Sterling was a starter on West Hopkins' 2000 title team.
■ When the All "A" commenced in Richmond this week, what was the winningest and highest ranked team in town? (This is a trick question because it wasn't a team in the All "A.") It was Madison Central's girls, 20-1 and rated No. 3 by the Associated Press. "Playing quality 11th Region teams and quality teams outside the region, you don't expect to be 20-1," Coach Robbie Cooksey said. The Lady Indians figured to be good because they returned four starters from last year's 21-10 team: Seniors Brislyn Sizemore and Christina Ciolek, junior Jenna Cornelison and freshman Ashton Feldhaus. Freshman Larryn Brooks is running the point. Junior Erica Parks now starts instead of Ciolek, who plays a reserve role along with Iesha Farris, Briana Johnson and Kaity Busch. "We've got the luxury of having those seniors giving us a huge lift off the bench," said Cooksey. "We've also got really good student-athletes. We've got a team GPA over 3.5, so we're working with smart kids." Madison Central is enjoying its newfound status as a state power, but the Lady Indians' main goal is success in the post-season. The school has never made the girls' Sweet Sixteen. "This is a really big opportunity for us," Cooksey said. "But it's also uncharted waters, especially for our younger kids."
■ In his Mr. Basketball career at Paintsville, J.R. VanHoose had only one triple-double (29 points, 21 rebounds and 15 blocked shots against Sheldon Clark in 1997) so he knows how rare it is to accomplish the feat. As girls' coach at Phelps, however, VanHoose had two players get triple-doubles on consecutive nights last week. On Jan. 21, Kayla Ratliff had 15 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in a win over Riverside Christian. On Jan. 22, Chasity Wolford had 10 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in a win over Matewan (W.Va.). Phelps also set a state record with 78 rebounds against Riverside, led by Caitlyn Norman's 21 boards.
■ Most Lexingtonians were heartsick watching UK suffer its first loss of the season at South Carolina Tuesday night. Former Tates Creek coach Nolan Barger was an exception. "We celebrated quietly," he said. South Carolina is the only UK opponent Barger roots for because the Gamecocks are coached by one of his former Tates Creek players, Darrin Horn. Barger left a brief congratulatory message on Horn's cell phone late Tuesday night. Barger then called Darrin's older brother Greg, a Lexington minister, Wednesday morning to rehash South Carolina's first-ever win against a No. 1 team. Barger said he isn't surprised Darrin is 3-0 against UK since he took over the Gamecocks. "He's a very talented individual," Barger said. "He would've been successful at anything, but he's an especially gifted coach. As a player, his presence made everybody better. He had an attitude that was genuine and unbreakable. He's a difference maker because he believes."
■ Pairings for the boys' and girls' Sweet Sixteen basketball tournaments will be determined Friday at 1 p.m. WKYT-27 will air the draw.
■ Carrington Roberts has become Madison Southern's all-time leading scorer with 1,571 points. That eclipses the record of 1,542 set by Jared Carpenter 15 years ago. Roberts is averaging 17 points and helped the Eagles to more wins (17) than any team in the 11th Region. He had 16 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds and seven steals in a win over Rockcastle County this week.
■ Since losing its first three games of the season, defending 12th Region boys' champ West Jessamine has won 16 of 18, including an upset of then-No. 3 Jeffersontown last week. The Colts' first-year coach, Damon Kelley, said it "let us know we're good enough to beat a team on J-town's level. Our defense was outstanding, and Jarrod (Polson) showed that he's as good as any guard in the state. He handled their pressure and traps and allowed our guys to finish plays." West Jessamine used the win over J-town as a springboard to a No. 25 rating.
■ Shelby Valley, No. 6 in the state, overshadows its 15th Region rivals, but Pikeville is earning some attention, too. The Panthers are 15-5, their best start in 11 years. Three of their losses came when leading scorer Gatlin Clark missed seven games with a knee injury. Wes Rowe, a 6-4 junior center, has had seven double-doubles. Pikeville Coach Bart Williams concedes that Shelby Valley is a huge favorite to repeat as region champ. Williams remembers Paintsville's glory days in the mid-1980s with Mr. Basketball John Pelphrey, and again in the mid-1990s with Mr. Basketball J.R. VanHoose. "But without question, Shelby Valley is the clearest favorite I can ever remember from the 15th. They are a special team that is clearly better than everyone else. I'm just hoping we're one of a few teams that might close the gap by tourney time."
■ When Ryle's boys knocked off highly ranked Lafayette a couple of weeks ago, it didn't mean much because Lafayette was missing three starters. But Ryle deserves attention after upsetting defending state champ and No. 8 Holmes 51-46 Tuesday night. Bobby Stauffer and Lee Pinkston combined for 31 points to lead the Raiders (10-10).
■ Mason County sophomore Bailey Menke set a school record by hitting seven of seven three-point attempts against Harrison County. She's the sister of Lady Royals senior Keller Menke, who's averaging 18 points and eight rebounds.
■ Marshall County has hired Ron Barnard as its new football coach. Barnard was an assistant at Campbellsville University. He had previous experience as an assistant at Mayfield, Graves County and Paducah Tilghman.
■ The Kentucky High School Baseball Coaches Association awarded $750 scholarships to Apollo's Jacob Boswell (WKU), Glasgow's Drew Royse (WKU), Montgomery County's Drew Lee (Morehead) and Washington County's Lee Mudd (UK).
■ Lafayette All-City volleyball player MacKenzie Burke signed with Asbury.