Walt Allen and Emily London are perfect examples of high school basketball stars — MVPs of the Sweet Sixteen, no less — who found college hoops happiness away from their old Kentucky homes.
Allen, who as a junior led South Laurel to the 2005 state title and as a senior was Mr. Basketball, wrapped up his career at Presbyterian College in Clinton, S.C., by being named Big South scholar-athlete of the year.
London, who as a senior led Lexington Christian Academy to the 2007 state championship, is finishing a record-setting career at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. She was just selected Southern Conference player of the year.
London, who has started since she was a freshman, is Samford's all-time leading scorer with 1,698 points going into the conference tournament. She's averaging 16.3 points this season, shooting 49 percent (77 of 157) from three-point range and 93 percent (96 of 103), best in the country, from the foul line.
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"One of the main things I was looking for in a college was a home-away-from-home feeling, and I got that on my first visit here," London said.
"It's been a fun four years. The basketball side of it has been amazing. My teammates are my best friends, and I can go to my coaches with anything. Overall it's been a great experience to be part of something with Samford in the name."
London will graduate in May with a degree in journalism/mass communications.
Allen, who will graduate in May with a degree in education, has not put up big numbers at Presbyterian — he averaged seven points the last two seasons after redshirting following his sophomore year — but he was always a gamer as the Blue Hose moved up to Division I midway through his career. "Walt has been absolutely awesome," PC Coach Gregg Nibert said. "He's just a guy who couldn't jump over the Clinton phone directory, and he's not the fastest guy around, but he's got a heart as big as Clinton."
Allen said it was an adjustment going from high school star to college role player. He thought about transferring to Asbury after his sophomore year, but he decided to stay at Presbyterian. "I felt God was telling me to stay and share Christ with the guys on the team. If it hadn't been for them, I would've left."
Allen had a memorable senior night last Saturday. He had 18 points to lead Presbyterian to a 73-66 victory over Liberty, which got 14 points from Warren Central alum Jeremy Anderson. Allen and Anderson also faced off in the '05 state finals. "At one part of the game, I hit a three, then Jeremy went down and hit a three. He looked at me and said, 'This reminds me of the old days.'" In his next-to-last college game, Allen had career highs in points (19) and rebounds (15) in a loss to VMI, which got 12 points from Tates Creek grad Michael Sparks. (See Page A1 for a story about him.)
Allen said his experience at Presbyterian shows "you don't have to go major Division I" to have a rewarding basketball career. "It's about going where you fit best and making the most of it."
■ Ryan Taylor came up with a steal and layup with 11 seconds left to cap a last-minute rally that gave Western a 64-63 victory over Central in the first round of the 6th Region tournament. Taylor, a 6-7 transfer from Indianapolis, finished with 25 points and 18 rebounds. Louisville's region semifinals figure to draw a packed house at Bellarmine Friday. The 6th semis (with Dave Cantrall's rankings): Butler vs. Pleasure Ridge Park (No. 8), 3:30 p.m.; Western (19) vs. Bullitt East (13), 5. The 7th semis: Seneca vs. Jeffersontown (15), 6:30; Eastern (1) vs. Ballard (2), 8:15.
■ Jay Lucas went from worried coach to proud dad in an instant when his daughter Alyssa hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to give Woodford County a 50-47 victory over Western Hills in the 41st District semifinals last week. "It was a shot I'll always remember," Lucas said. "I jumped higher than when I played at Transy." Woodford County, which lost to Scott County in the first round of the 11th Region tournament Monday night, finished 23-8.
■ Owensboro Catholic sophomore star Rebecca Greenwell has totaled 71 points and 30 rebounds in 3rd Region wins over Meade County and Muhlenberg County. Greenwell has 1,090 points this season alone and is averaging 33 points going into Saturday's region finals against Grayson County.
■ Makayla Epps had 30 points and seven assists to lead host Marion County past North Hardin in the first round of the girls' 5th Region. Marion County's boys, coached by former UK player (and Makayla's dad) Anthony Epps, are also in the region semifinals after beating LaRue County 55-53 Wednesday at Green County.
■ Lyon County's girls ended Henderson County's six-year reign as 2nd Region champion by beating the Lady Colonels 63-61 Monday night. Allison West and Aubrey Riggs combined for 38 points to lead the winners.
■ A couple nights after Monroe County beat Allen County-Scottsville in five overtimes in a boys' district semifinal last week, there were two four-OT district finals: Warren Central outlasted Bowling Green 81-79, and Elizabethtown slipped by John Hardin 81-76. Besides those marathons, there was a triple-OT thriller in a girls' district (Crittenden County beat Lyon County 62-59), three double-OT contests, and 10 other single-overtime games in district play.
To correct an item in last week's notebook: the longest post-season game in state history was Cumberland's 63-58 win over Corbin in six OTs in the 13th Region in 1984.
■ Pendleton County's boys pulled off what might have been the best comeback of the season when they beat Harrison County 61-60 in the 38th District finals. Pendleton County trailed by 21 with five minutes left, by 17 with 3:30 to go, and by 12 inside the last two minutes. The Wildcats pulled off the game-winning play with 2.8 seconds left. Aaron Bonar grabbed a tipped pass from Jared Rering and threw the ball to Gabe Antrobus, who hit a three-pointer to beat the buzzer. Pendleton County sophomore Mason Monroe had 14 points — making all eight of his free throws — in the fourth quarter. The Wildcats were due late-game good fortune after losing seven games by four or fewer points in the regular season.
■ Silver Grove grad Corey Pelle, a senior at West Liberty University, was named player of the year in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Association. Pelle is averaging 16 points, six assists and three steals for the Hilltoppers, who are 26-0 and ranked No. 1 in NCAA Division II. As a senior at Silver Grove in 2007, Pelle averaged 28 points and was the third-leading scorer in the state.
■ Former Lexington Catholic star Nathan Novosel, a junior at Rochester (N.Y.), is averaging 13.7 points and 5.3 rebounds as the Yellowjackets (20-5) go into the NCAA Division III playoffs against Elms College (Mass.) Friday. Nathan's twin sister Natalie, a junior at Notre Dame, leads the Irish (24-6) with 15 points a game.
■ Scott County alum Rebecca Gray, Miss Basketball in 2007, is missing the second half of the season at Union College because of a knee injury. She averaged 17.5 points in 12 games. Gray could be healthy in time to play golf for Union this spring. Gray started her college hoops career at North Carolina before transferring to UK. She left UK after last season.
■ Reigning state baseball champ Harrison County is No. 25 in the nation in ESPN Rise preseason Fab 50. Here's what ESPN Rise said about Mac Whitaker's Thorobreds: "Last year's Kentucky champ was loaded with underclassmen. Included are (state tourney MVP) Eric Sanders and sophomore pitcher Jordan Martin, who won the title game."
■ Henry Clay football senior Jerry Williams, who starred as a versatile athlete last fall, will walk on at UK. Williams also had an invitation to walk on at Louisville, and a scholarship offer from Georgetown. "Ever since I was a kid I wanted to play at Kentucky," Williams said. "(UK Coach Joker Phillips) has been watching me since the eighth grade."
■ Bryan Station QB Mike Winkler, who missed the second half of his senior season with a knee injury, will sign with Georgetown on Monday.
■ Clark County QB Andrew Dini signed with Robert Morris last week. Cards tight end Corey Rogers signed with UT-Martin earlier.
■ The Central Kentucky Football Officials Association is looking for new members, and assigning secretary Keith Morgan is recruiting college students who'll be in the area in the fall. Those interested can e-mail Morgan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
■ Breckinridge County football player Chance Anthony, who was chosen the 2010 Rudy Awards national winner in January, will be presented a $10,000 college scholarship and be named a Kentucky Colonel in a ceremony at the school on Friday. Anthony was a two-way starter for Breckinridge County despite being born missing the lower half of his right arm. He caught his first TD pass on homecoming night.