The best high school gym in Kentucky marked its 50th anniversary this week.
On Jan. 15, 1965, in the first game played in the Mason County Fieldhouse, the Royals beat Ripley, Ohio.
There are older gyms in the state, more intimate gyms, shinier gyms, more historic gyms, but there's no better place to watch and experience a high school basketball game than the Mason County Fieldhouse when it's jam-packed with more than 6,000 fans for a 10th Region finals.
One of the most entertaining games I've been lucky enough to witness was Montgomery County's 99-92 double-overtime victory over host Mason County in the region finals in 1995.
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Montgomery County's Billy Ray Fawns had 47 points, including three-pointers to tie it at the end of regulation and the first OT. Mason County's Shawn Myrick countered with a 44-point performance.
After Montgomery County won its first-ever region title, Indians Coach Bart Rison did a Jim Valvano-type celebratory dash onto the court, looking for somebody, anybody, to hug.
The Mason County Fieldhouse was the perfect stage for such high drama.
The Royals have fared well on their home court the last 50 years. According to Danny Weddle, sports director of WFTM AM-FM in Maysville, Mason County has won 77 percent of its games (664 of 861) in the Fieldhouse. Ronnie Lyons, Deron Feldhaus, Chris Lofton and Darius Miller are among the Royals' royalty who've played there.
Weddle saw his first game in the Fieldhouse in 1969 (Mason County vs. Maysville) when he was in fourth grade. He's called Royals' games on the radio since the 1978-79 season. Three of the most memorable games he's seen: Montgomery County's win over Mason County in the aforementioned 1995 region finals; Fleming County's 70-69 win over Mason County in the 1974 region finals. (Fleming County's Bill Brown hit two free throws with :03 left after Mason County blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead). And Harrison County's 92-90 win over Maysville in the 1991 region finals. (Jerry Fogle hit a last-second shot for the Thorobreds. It was the last game ever for Maysville, which merged with Mason County for the next school year.)
■ Allen County-Scottsville 6-foot senior star Morgan Rich, a University of Kentucky signee, has come back strong from a torn ACL last February. Rich is averaging 21.3 points and 6.7 rebounds for the Patriots, who are 13-3 and rated No. 4 in the state. Coach Brad Bonds said Rich's "athleticism is phenomenal. Her length and quickness allow her to do so much. She's just a natural with a lot of God-given ability." Rich broke the program's scoring record in her last game last season. She has since increased her career total to more than 2,000 points. "There are still parts of her game she has to polish up to be where she was before her injury," Bonds said. "But she's still a fantastic player and can do things other players would love to be able to do."
■ Bell County senior standout Maci Morris, a UK signee, has hit 105 of 116 free throws, an accuracy of 90.5 percent. Keyla Snowden of Lexington Catholic set the single-season state record by hitting 91 percent (142 of 156) from the line in 2007.
■ The Southwestern boys' basketball team got an unexpected treat when it was in Indiana last Saturday for the Challenge Cup in New Castle. Coach Steve Wright arranged a shoot-around for his Warriors in nearby Knightstown, whose gym was used in the movie Hoosiers as the home of Hickory High. "The kids really enjoyed it," Wright said. "The old wood bleachers, and the old locker room, all still intact." Southwestern lost to Indianapolis Scecina 51-49 in New Castle, the high school alma mater of Steve Alford. The Challenge Cup was a fundraiser for the Kentucky and Indiana high school basketball halls of fame. Southwestern is hosting its own event this Saturday to benefit the Kentucky Hall of Fame. It's called the "Essence of the Game" Hall of Fame Classic: Southwestern vs. Harlan County (girls), 11 a.m.; Campbellsville vs. Somerset, 12:30 p.m.; Cordia vs. West Jessamine, 2; East Jessamine vs. Grant County, 3:30; Lincoln County vs. Rowan County, 5; Madison Central vs. Southwestern, 6:30; Paul Laurence Dunbar vs. Wayne County, 8.
■ The 25th Joe B. Hall Prep Classic at Montgomery County on Jan. 24 has a strong lineup. Teams include No. 1 Trinity, No. 4 Hopkinsville and No. 5 Knott County Central, and players include Mr. Basketball candidates Ray Spalding of Trinity, Camron Justice of Knott County Central, James "Beetle" Bolden of Holmes, Aric Holman of Owensboro and Jaqualis Matlock of Hopkinsville. The schedule: Campbell County vs. Lincoln County, 1:30; Holmes vs. Trinity, 3:15; Hopkinsville vs. Knott County Central, 5; Madison Central vs. Owensboro, 6:45; Montgomery County vs. Rowan County, 8:15.
■ Three-time defending 2nd Region boys' champ Hopkinsville lost to Henderson County 75-73, ending the Tigers' 55-game winning streak in the region. Henderson led by 11 with 1:32 left before Hoptown made a closing rush. Jaqualis Matlock had 18 points and 22 rebounds for the Tigers. Henderson County was led by Brady Norman's 22 points and D.J. Washington's 21. David Simmons, limited by foul trouble, had 13 points and nine rebounds.
■ Henry Clay, which hosts No. 1 Trinity on Jan. 28, has added No. 2 Ballard to its schedule. Henry Clay will visit the Bruins on Jan. 22.
■ Wolfe County freshman Deven Stone tied a school record by hitting nine three-pointers in a loss to Jackson County. He was 9-for-18 on threes and had 30 points.
■ Paintsville ended a seven-game losing streak to three-time defending 15th Region champ and cross-town rival Johnson Central. Quinton Hensley scored with 10 seconds left to give the Tigers a 57-56 victory.
■ Marshall County beat Paducah Tilghman 56-45, three weeks after it lost to the Blue Tornado 74-38. Marshall County's 47-point turnround came without leading scorer Mason Wooten (15 ppg), who was out due to minor injuries he suffered in a car accident. Collin Travis led the Marshals with 19 points and 12 rebounds.
■ Three undefeated teams are left in the state: Williamsburg's boys (12-0), Holmes' girls (16-0) and Male's girls (13-0). No. 15 Male, coached by Champ Ligon, visits No. 18 Henry Clay on Wednesday.
■ Taylor County junior guard Quentin Goodin had a triple-double (17 points, 10 rebounds, 13 assists) in a win over Green County. Goodin, who has scholarship offers from Louisville, Florida and Indiana, among others, will play in Lexington on Feb. 7 in the Jock Sutherland Classic at Lafayette. Taylor County will play Lincoln County at 4:45 p.m.
■ Boyle County senior guard Jeremiah Bell had a triple-double (25 points, 12 rebounds, 12 assists) in a win over Garrard County.
■ Ashland Blazer's Christian Villers had 46 points in an overtime loss to Russell. He was 16-for-32 from the field and 11-for-14 from the free throw line. Marty Thomas set the Tomcats' record with 54 points in a 121-31 rout of Jellico, Tenn., in 1993.
■ Fairview, led by 6-foot-5 junior Alex Roy's 14 points and 25 rebounds, beat winless Ashland Blazer 70-46, ending an 11-game losing streak to the Tomcats.
■ Jenkins junior Whitney Creech has eclipsed 3,500 career points. That's fifth-most in state history for girls.
■ Toyota Classic boys' basketball at Scott County: Jan. 21: Franklin County vs. Scott County, 7:15; Dixie Heights vs. Lafayette, 9; Jan. 22: Casey County vs. Shelby Valley, 7:15; Elizabethtown vs. Wayne County, 9; Jan. 23: Semifinals, 7:15 and 9; Jan. 24: Finals, 9.
■ Reese Ryan (Lexington Catholic) threw for 129 yards and two touchdowns, and Arien Beasley (North Oldham) ran for 113 yards and a TD, and caught a TD pass to lead the Kentucky all-stars past Tennessee 33-32 in the eighth annual Border Bowl last Saturday. Austin Hatfield (Belfry) rushed for 60 yards and a TD. Connor John (South Oldham) led the defense with 12 tackles and seven assists. Jim McKee (Scott County) coached Kentucky to the victory, which tied the series 4-4.
■ Steve Stonebraker, Woodford County's football coach the last five years, is leaving the Yellow Jackets to take over at Jeffersontown. "It's a good opportunity, and it's going to be a heck of a challenge," Stonebraker said of J-town, which is moving up from Class 5A to 6A. "I like what they're doing in terms of commitment to football." Stonebraker was 16-36 at Woodford County. "I enjoyed working here, loved the kids and was always proud of them," he said. Stonebraker has also coached at Garrard County and Casey County.
■ Justin Combs is Clay County's new football coach. He played at Breathitt County in the early 2000s, and was an assistant at Magoffin County last year.
■ Alexis "Lex" Hull, who played varsity softball at Lafayette as a seventh- and eighth-grader, is now a senior at Ballard and has signed with South Carolina.Hull, a catcher and left-handed power hitter, has a .403 batting average over the last three years.
■ The Kentucky High School Diving Invitational, involving 27 teams, is Saturday at UK's Lancaster Aquatic Center. Girls' competition will be from noon to 3:10 p.m., followed by the boys.