Pike's peak: Shelby Valley leads parade
Shelby Valley's basketball players and coaches were hailed as conquering heroes when they returned home after winning the 93rd PNC/KHSAA Sweet Sixteen in Rupp Arena on Saturday night.
A caravan of more than 500 vehicles formed behind the team bus when it arrived at the Pike County line Sunday afternoon on its way to a celebration at the high school. Coach Jason Booher said the 10-mile stretch of road between Pikeville and Shelby Valley was lined like a parade route. "Unbelievable," Booher said.
A few days later the Wildcats toured the county elementary and middle schools where they were treated like rock stars.
On Tuesday, Shelby Valley will travel to Frankfort to be honored as state champs.
Booher has received more than 600 e-mails that he's going to put in a binder. He also got more than 200 text messages, and more than 400 messages on Facebook.
One of the first congratulatory calls he got was from former Paintsville coach Bill Mike Runyon, who led the Tigers to the state title in 1996. Paintsville was the last 15th Region team, and the last Class A school, to win the Sweet Sixteen before Shelby Valley. "He told me everything will set in in about 10 years and I'll finally realize what we did," Booher said.
■ Shelby Valley won its four Sweet Sixteen games by 23, 13, 20 and 12 points. Only three other champs in the last 50 years won all their games by double figures: Ashland in 1961, Male in 1971 and Lexington Catholic in 2002. Pretty elite company.
■ Because of its lack of depth, Shelby Valley had to avoid foul trouble last week, and it did. Cody Varney was the only Cats' starter to pick up four fouls in any tournament game. Elisha Justice had only five total fouls while playing 124 of 128 minutes.
■ Booher now has as many championships as his father-in-law, Hillard Howard. Booher has two All "A" titles and a Sweet Sixteen, equaling the three state football titles Howard won as Pikeville's football coach in the 1980s.
■ Shelby Valley's Elisha Justice played in seven Sweet Sixteen games in his career and totaled 150 points. That tied him for 21st place all-time, one point behind Virgie's Todd May and Fairdale's Jermaine Brown. Justice's tournament totals included 46 percent three-point shooting (18 of 39), and 88 percent free-throw shooting (36 of 41). He also had 30 rebounds and 22 assists.
■ West Jessamine's Jarrod Polson totaled 116 points, 29 rebounds and 23 assists in five Sweet Sixteen games in his career. Polson raised a few eyebrows late in the Colts' loss to Shelby Valley when he got well above the rim in an attempt to jam a rebound. Polson finished his career with 1,884 points and 482 assists.
■ Ballard's Keisten Jones had the sweetest-looking jump shot in the tournament. The 6-3 senior hit 11 of 27 threes and totaled 70 points. He has signed with Bellarmine, which is getting a steal.
■ Warren Central rallied from 22 points down to tie Ballard before Ian Chiles banked in a three-pointer to beat the Dragons 62-59. Warren Central Coach Tim Riley said people praised him for orchestrating the comeback. "But I reminded them I was also the coach in the first quarter when we fell behind (15-1)," he said with a laugh.
■ Christian County junior Anthony Hickey, who had 46 points in two games, is the most unguardable point guard I've seen in this state since Rajon Rondo.
■ Can't wait to see how good Scott County's Tamron Manning will be next season when he doesn't have to defer to the talented older players he's had around him the last two seasons.
■ Most impressive freshman in the tournament? Shelby County's 6-3 Darryl Hicks, who had 30 points, (6-for-11 three-point shooting) and six rebounds against Ballard. Some notable freshman performances in past state tournaments: Richie Farmer had 12, 21, 20 and 10 points in leading Clay County to a runner-up finish in 1985. Paintsville's J.R. VanHoose had 18 points and 11 rebounds in his debut as a freshman in a first-round loss in1995. Jason Osborne of Male had 11 points as a freshman in an opening loss to Fairdale in 1993. As for Hicks' future, with Shelby County splitting into two schools later this year, speculation is that he will relocate. Stay tuned.
■ Otto and Bea Newsome had front-row seats in Rupp Arena for the Sweet Sixteen finals so they had a good view of their grandson, Shelby Valley star Elisha Justice. Otto remembered that the Dorton Elementary principal told him that Elisha was "the most natural with a basketball he'd ever seen in his life." That was when Elisha was 7 years old.
■ Four of the five Shelby Valley starters are seventh cousins. Taylor Newsome, Tyler Newsome, Elisha Justice and Cody Varney are all seventh-generation descendants of Harrison Newsome and Peggy Lowe.
■ Mason County's Jordan Gilbert should put on a clinic to teach little guys how to shoot what Coach Chris O'Hearn calls a "running scoop shot." Gilbert, a 5-10 junior, used it to help beat Clark County in the 10th Region finals, and he hit it several times in the Sweet Sixteen, including a game-winner in overtime against North Hardin.
■ Mason County's 6-7 junior Treg Setty committed to play college basketball at Southern Illinois on Wednesday, according to recruiting analyst Evan Daniels of Scout.com. Daniels said Setty also received offers from Ohio and Miami (Ohio).
■ Flaget's 1960 state title team was honored during Saturday night's championship game. When the players arrived at Rupp Arena, they sang the school's fight song as they checked in at the pass gate. They took their time going to their seats after they spotted a TV showing Northern Iowa's upset of Kansas in the NCAA Tournament. Among the last players to pry himself away from the TV was former Flaget and UK star Ted Deeken.
■ The Sweet Sixteen teams combined to shoot 44 percent, including 29 percent on threes, in Rupp Arena. They shot 64 percent from the foul line. Shelby Valley was markedly better in each category — 46.5 percent from the field, 35 percent on threes, and 77 percent from the foul line.
■ Scott County Coach Billy Hicks got two more state tournament victories, giving him 20 overall and tying the record held by Dale Mabrey of Pleasure Ridge Park. Chris Renner, who led Ballard to a state title in 1999 and runner-up finishes in 2003, '07 and '09, has 14 Sweet Sixteen wins. Tim Riley of Warren Central, who won the title in 2004 and was runner-up in '05, has 12.
■ An early guess on the top five boys' basketball teams for the 2010-11 pre-season: 1. Christian County; 2. Clark County; 3. Lexington Catholic; 4. Warren Central; 5. Tates Creek.
■ Brian Milam of WYMT in Hazard passed along this story: Stan Begley of Perry County, a Sweet Sixteen and mountain basketball fan most of his life, died of cancer last week. His wish was to stay alive through the state tournament, but he passed away on Friday. He was 56. Begley was buried this week holding the Sweet Sixteen tickets he did not get to use.
■ Marla Gearhart scored more than 2,200 points in her career at West Carter, and led the Lady Comets to the 1996 girls' state tournament in Diddle Arena. But she got a bigger thrill last week when she became the first woman to officiate the boys' Sweet Sixteen title game. "I have to admit, there's something magical about Rupp Arena," Gearhart said. "When I found out Friday night I was in the finals, I was thrilled to death. I told myself, 'Marla, this is what you've worked for.'
"You just can't throw on a striped shirt and put a whistle in your mouth and call yourself a referee. I've been working toward this for six years, going to camps every summer, giving up vacation. It was something I've worked very hard for."
Gearhart said her assigning secretary in the 16th Region, and everybody at the Sweet Sixteen, including the other referees, "supported me 100 percent. They didn't view me as a woman official, they just viewed me as an official there to do a job." Gearhart, who teamed with James Pouncy and Scott Bottoms to call the finals, is the second woman to referee in the boys' state tournament. Sherianne Shuey was the first in 2004.
Gearhart's younger sister, Megen, who was Miss Basketball in 2003 out of West Carter, gives Marla a tough time about being a referee. "She says I went over to the dark side," Marla said with a laugh.
■ Sayre freshman Mike Smith was the city's leading scorer in boys' basketball this season with a 19.2 average, three years after his brother Dee topped the city by averaging 19 for Sayre. Mike Smith edged out Tates Creek's Ryan Fucci (18.3) and Lexington Christian's Will Evans (18.1)
■ Centre sophomore Alex Lloyd, who played at Sayre, was named defensive player of the year in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference.
■ Former Lexington Catholic quarterback Jacob Doss is the new football coach at Windermere (Fla.) Prep. Former Lexington Catholic basketball coach Danny Haney is the athletics director at Windermere. Doss threw for 8,034 yards and 112 touchdowns for the Knights from 1999-02, and still holds the state record for TD passes in consecutive games (39).Doss played college football at Wyoming.
■ Knott County Central has hired Jay Cobb as its football coach. Cobb led the Patriots to the playoffs four years in a row, including their last winning season, 8-3 in 1996, before leaving to coach at Somerset. He had a record of 87-48 in 11 years with the Briar Jumpers. He resigned as their coach two weeks before the 2009 season.