It was a late-season junior varsity game that was lopsided in favor of the visiting team. So why were Woodford County fans whooping it up in the closing minutes of a 63-43 loss to Bullitt East on Tuesday night in Versailles?
Marcus George gave them reason to cheer.
George, a Woodford County senior, has been the basketball team's manager for four years. The Yellow Jackets' coaches and players, looking for a way to thank him for all his hard work, talked George into pulling on a uniform for the last home game of the season.
George didn't know it, but there was a conspiracy afoot to get him some playing time. With less than four minutes left, when Woodford County sophomore Mason Robinette was fouled, he faked an injury so that George could enter the game to shoot his free throws for him. Alas, George missed both attempts.
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Undeterred, however, and with the cooperation of Bullitt East's intentionally lax defense, George hit a layup and two three-pointers to the delight of Woodford County's fans. "Everybody went nuts," Jackets Coach Scott Hundley said. "It was one of those moments they'll always remember."
There was more.
When Jackets JV coach Ryan Wilson took George out of the game in the final seconds so the crowd could give him an ovation, Wilson held up his hand so George could high-five him. George was so excited he slammed Wilson's hand back into the coach's nose. "We all thought Ryan was crying because of emotion, but it was because Marcus busted his nose," Hundley said with a laugh. "You can't make this stuff up."
Hundley appreciated Bullitt East's cooperation in letting George score. "They helped make what was a genuine good moment."
On his drive home Tuesday night, Hundley said he was overcome with emotion, looking back not only on Marcus George's moment in the spotlight, but also Woodford County's 71-69 win over Bullitt East in the varsity game, and his freshman team's district title the night before. "Between tears and smiles, it was awesome. Cool stuff," Hundley said.
■ It's been a long winter for Tates Creek's girls. They're 0-27 and will likely finish the season 0-30. Second-year coach Tina Winn's optimism shines through, though. "I believe there's always a bright light somewhere," she said. "You've just gotta find it." She finds it in the way her girls have competed no matter the score, and how they've improved individually. "They see I don't give up, so they don't give up," Winn said. Haley Blackburn, a junior, is the only player with varsity experience. Freshman J'Lyn Martin leads the team in scoring. Winn said freshmen and sophomores get most of the playing time, so the future is promising. Winn was a star on Tates Creek's last Sweet Sixteen team in 1985. Two years after she graduated, Tates Creek went 0-24 with Danny Ellison as coach. Ellison, now a Lafayette assistant, said he has encouraged Winn, telling her to keep teaching her young team. Winn has gotten support from a lot of coaches. "They all tell me to hang in there, your time will come."
■ South Warren's girls tied a state record by hitting 50 free throws (in 56 attempts) in a 75-55 win over Bullitt East. Belfry's girls made 50 (of 72 tries) in a win over Johnson Central in 2001. South Warren is hitting 75 percent from the line this season. It made 27 of 30 against Franklin-Simpson last Thursday, then 50 of 56 against Bullitt East on Saturday. Against Bullitt East, the Spartans made 29 in a row during one stretch, and were 26-for-27 in the fourth quarter. Eighth-grader Amaya Lasley was 18-for-18 on the night. South Warren (21-7) has eclipsed the combined victory total (20) in the program's first three years. (The boys' record for free throws was set by Powell County, which hit 70 of 89 against Shawnee in 1972.)
■ West Jessamine's girls beat Burgin, Bardstown and Lynn Camp in succession in the last 10 days for the program's first three-game winning streak in 15 years. The Colts have won six of their last 11 games to push their record to 9-15. That's the most wins West Jessamine has had since it went 10-11 in 1999. The Colts' turnaround came after Jason Seamands took over as interim coach. Seamands stepped down as girls' coach at Lexington Christian last May, saying he needed a "mental and emotional break." But after talking it over with his family, he agreed to replace Stephen Greene at West Jessamine in late January. Chris Begley, a Colts assistant and former assistant at LCA, helped persuade his old boss into taking on the new challenge. Seamands said having Begley there made it a smooth transition with the girls "who've been really receptive to me." Senior center Ashlee Rose and freshman point guard Anna Lee have led West Jessamine's resurgence. "It's been a blast," said Seamands, who will wait until after the season to decide whether to stay on as coach.
■ Nick Ruthsatz became Covington Catholic's all-time leading scorer in last week's win over Dixie Heights. Ruthsatz, a senior guard averaging 22 points and five assists, broke Andy Listerman's record of 1,730 points. Ruthsatz, son of CovCath Coach Scott Ruthsatz, has signed with Division II power Findlay (Ohio).
■ Perry Central's Kayla Rankin, a Miss Basketball finalist, had a career-high 45 points and 22 rebounds in a 105-83 win over Jenkins. "In my 30 years of coaching I've never been involved in a game like that, with no defense," Commodores Coach Randy Napier said. Jenkins sophomore Whitney Creech, the state's top scorer, had 43 points. She has broken the Letcher County scoring record of 2,635 set by Brigette Combs of Whitesburg.
■ Trent Gilbert has reached 2,000 career points at Scott County and eclipsed Rick Jones as the program's top scorer. Gilbert had 426 points as an eighth-grader at Wolfe County before transferring to Scott County. He has 2,057 points in four years with the Cardinals. That gives the Mr. Basketball finalist 2,483 points overall, topping Rick Jones' 2,479. Jones' total includes his playing days at Corbin. He transferred to Scott County for his junior year and led the Cards to the state title in 1998. He was Mr. Basketball in 1999.
■ East Jessamine junior Ronnie Carson, with 1,625 points, has broken Butch Jointer's school scoring record of 1,617. Carson could threaten Vince Bingham's all-time Jessamine County mark of 2,479 points next season. Jaguars junior Hayden Smith's 95 three-point goals are a single-season school record. Smith set a single-game mark with eight threes against Garrard County, then hit nine threes against North Laurel four days later.
■ Rowan County senior Tyler Thacker, who wears No. 14, became the 14th member of the Vikings' 1,000-point club. Thacker, averaging 12.5 points this season, joins former teammates Adam Wing, D.J. Townsend and Jason Eagan to reach the plateau. They all played on Rowan County's 2011 state runner-up team.
■ Edmonson County senior Madison Rich reached 2,000 career points last week. The Austin Peay signee is averaging 25 points and nine rebounds. Stephanie Dennison (Class of 1995) holds the Lady Cats' scoring record with 2,390 points.
■ Bryan Station boys' coach Mike Allen has missed the last few games and it's unclear when he'll be back. Defenders Athletic Director Chad Luhman said Allen is on leave for undisclosed reasons. Bryan Station plays host to Henry Clay in the 42nd District Tournament on Tuesday night.
■ Paul Laurence Dunbar sophomore Darius Williams had 34 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in a loss to West Jessamine on Tuesday. It was the fourth time Williams has topped 30 this season. He's averaging 20 points and 7.5 rebounds.
■ Riverside Christian's Sean Hughes, who hit 14 threes against Prestonsburg early in the season, reached 2,000 career points in a loss to Piarist two weeks ago. Hughes is averaging 30 points and six threes a game.
■ Former Lafayette all-city basketball player Ali Ross has helped DePauw University to 58 consecutive victories, the fifth-longest winning streak in NCAA women's history. Ross started for DePauw's undefeated (34-0) Division III national champs last year. The senior guard is averaging 10 points this season for the Tigers (24-0).
■ Brandon Smith is the new football coach at South Warren, where he was an assistant the last three years. Smith, 27, is the son of Chuck Smith, who recently returned to coach at Boyle County. Brandon played for his dad at Boyle County and quarterbacked the Rebels to state titles in 2002 and 2003, the last of their five consecutive state titles under Chuck Smith. Brandon, who played at Western Kentucky University, was defensive coordinator at South Warren last fall when the Spartans led the state in defense, allowing only 56 points in 13 games.
■ Mallory Eubanks of Tates Creek, who won Miss Soccer honors last fall, has been named Gatorade's player of the year in Kentucky. "She impacts the game more than any other player I've ever coached or coached against," Tates Creek Coach Bo Lankster said. Eubanks, who helped Tates Creek win the 2012 state title, is also an academic star with a weighted 4.39 GPA. She has signed with Mississippi State. Tates Creek had three other players sign letters of intent — Mazie Fry and Aaron Lankster with Murray State, and Katie Workman with WKU.