As track and field, baseball and softball wind up their seasons during the next couple weeks, guess what issue is bubbling up? The public versus private debate:
■ Crittenden County, Livingston Central and Lyon County, three small schools in Western Kentucky, won't compete in the All "A" Classic boys' basketball tournament next season because they think they can't compete with private or independent schools that provide scholarships to student-athletes. Crittenden County Coach Denis Hodge met with All "A" representatives, including event founder Stan Steidel, and expressed his concerns. "We're very appreciative of the All 'A' and the work that's been done, but times have changed. It's being dominated by schools that have no recruiting boundaries and can use scholarships to attract athletes."
Newport Central Catholic has won the past three boys' All "A" titles. University Heights, which is in the 2nd Region with Crittenden County, Livingston Central and Lyon County, has been in the small-school tournament 20 times and won it eight times. Hodge said recruiting is too difficult to get a handle on, so his focus is on scholarships. "We respect private schools, their athletics and their purpose in our state and country, and we don't want to discriminate against them. With that said, if you give financial aid to a student to play sports, that's a scholarship. You can say you gave financial aid because a kid is a good citizen or a good student, but if he's 6-6 and can dunk a basketball, everybody knows why he's there. He wasn't picked randomly." Hodge said a "principal, superintendent or somebody with a pay grade higher than a coach would have to sign off on whether their school has athletes on scholarship who play basketball."
Steidel sympathizes with Hodge, but he said it's an issue beyond the control of the All "A". "It has to do with the cheating going on across the state," he said. "I've addressed that issue with the (KHSAA) Board of Control and the athletic directors association in the last month. I contend that's why our crowds are down at the state tournament. Fans don't want to watch kids from other towns, other states, other countries play instead of the local kids." Steidel said he can't respond to Hodge's request because "there's a whole lot of private schools that do give some money to kids that don't cheat. And any time you want to do a survey, I'll give you two publics to each private that are cheating in the state."
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■ Tates Creek trailed Lexington Christian 6-2 in the bottom of the seventh inning of the 43rd District baseball semifinals Tuesday night when, for a few seconds, Coach Dom Fucci thought his Commodores were going to tie the game. The bases were loaded with one out ,and Jaren Shelby came to the plate. Shelby, who had hit 13 home runs this season, made solid contact and sent the ball soaring into left field against the wind. "I thought he'd hit another one," Fucci said. But it wasn't to be. Shelby's shot wound up being a sacrifice fly, and Tates Creek ultimately lost 6-4. "Any other ballpark in town, it would've at least been off the wall," Fucci said. After hitting three homers as a sophomore, Shelby broke Ryan Fucci's school record of 11 this season. "Just a matter of Jaren maturing, and he has real good bat speed," Fucci said of Shelby's power surge. Shelby's 13 homers stack up well with the numbers posted by three Lexington players who won Mr. Baseball honors. Collin Cowgill of Henry Clay hit 18 homers in 2004. Scott Hodges of Henry Clay hit 15 in 1997. Austin Kearns of Lafayette hit 11 in 1998. Dom Fucci said UK has shown a lot of interest in Shelby, whose brothers John and JaVon have played for the Cats.
■ Boyd County's Jacob Barnwell has 28 doubles this season, breaking the state record of 27 set by Tim Baldwin of Paintsville in 1997 and tied by Brandon Hedrick of Corbin in 2007. Barnwell, a senior catcher who has signed with Ohio State, is having a big season. He's batting .504 (60-for-119), with seven triples, three homers, 61 runs, 50 RBI and 20 stolen bases. Boyd County won the 64th District title.
■ Louisville freshman pitcher Lincoln Henzman (Lexington Christian Academy) made the Atlantic Coast Conference all-freshman team. Going into the ACC Tournament, Henzman, a right-hander, led the Cardinals' staff with 23 appearances, including 21 in relief. In 42.2 innings, he had a 4-1 mark with a 2.32 ERA and 36 strikeouts.
■ The KHSAA track and field championships are this weekend at UK. Class 2A competition starts Friday at 4:30 p.m. Class A is Saturday at 9 a.m., and Class 3A is Saturday at 4:30 p.m. Bryan Station is defending 3A girls' champion. Live event-by-event results will be available on the KHSAA's track and field page at KHSAA.org.
■ Cameron Wallace of Bowling Green signed to play football at Eastern Kentucky. The 6-7, 210-pound tight end is the son of Bowling Green Coach Kevin Wallace. Cameron was part of the Purples' state title teams in 2012 and 2013. He suffered a season-ending knee injury four games into his senior season. Wallace will "grayshirt" and begin his eligibility at EKU in January.
■ Aric Holman, who starred on Owensboro's Sweet Sixteen championship team, will sign with Mississippi State. The 6-9 senior averaged 16 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks for this season for Owensboro.
■ The Kentucky Association of Basketball Coaches is reaching out to retired coaches. Ken Trivette of the KABC said any retired high school or college basketball coaches in the state can receive free lifetime membership and take part in any of the organizations' activities. Go to the KABC website, Kentuckybasketballcoaches.org to sign up, or call Trivette at (859) 533-6553.
■ Paige Bowling is Pendleton County's new girls' basketball coach after serving as an assistant for three years. She played at Campbell County and Thomas More College.
■ Lexington Christian's doubles team of Brody Bilderback and Adam Slone gave McCracken County's Tommy Hagan and Logan McKinney a battle in the semifinals of the state tennis tournament. Bilderback-Slone lost to Hagan-McKinney 3-6, 6-3, 10-8. The McCracken County duo beat St. Xavier in the title match.
■ Paul Laurence Dunbar senior swimmer Alexis Kess ler signed with Bellarmine.
■ Six LCA student-athletes made their college choices recently: Dima Ballard (UK baseball), Emily Davis (Ohio University swimming), Bradley Dickinson (Westminster football), Drew Schacht (Centre baseball), Robbie Stephens (Brown baseball) and Hunter Wills (Transylvania baseball).
■ Three Lafayette baseball seniors have made their college choices: pitcher Brandon Calia (Georgetown), first baseman C.J. Compton (Asbury) and outfielder Cy Marshall (Asbury).
■ According to the Somerset Commonwealth-Journal, the Pulaski County school board has voted not to install artificial turf football fields at Pulaski County and Southwestern this summer. It was an about-face for the board, which earlier voted 4-1 in favor of the project. Pulaski County is reigning Class 5A state champion. The Maroons' home field was a muddy mess late in last year's playoffs.
■ Here's the website to buy tickets to the Kentucky-Indiana all-star basketball games June 12 in Transylvania's Beck Center: Bluegrasssports.org/kentucky-indiana-all-star-classic.