A couple things have changed in the 15 years since Paris last reached the All “A” Classic state tournament.
The event, which since 1990 has determined a small-school champion using a format that mirrors the actual state tournament, was held at Eastern Kentucky University’s McBrayer Arena when Paris made the field in 2002. This year’s edition will be the fifth straight contested at the Frankfort Convention Center.
Bracket: Boys’ All “A” Classic state tournament Bracket: Girls’ All “A” Classic state tournament
Terence Brooks was an assistant on the boys’ staff when the Greyhounds played in Richmond. Brooks, a former standout at the school who went on to play at Murray State, coached the Paris girls’ team for six seasons and the Berea College women for four seasons before returning to his alma mater to lead the boys in 2013.
His 2004 girls’ team reached the quarterfinals of the Sweet Sixteen, and all six teams played in the All “A” state tournament. The boys’ program has played in only four All “A” Classics, total.
“I don’t think our kids will realize what they’ve done until they actually get down there and actually see it,” Brooks said after Paris’ 64-52 win over Bracken County in the 10th Region All “A” finals on Jan. 14. “It’s a boost to the tradition of our school and our program. When I was coaching girls, it was an annual thing for a while. These guys haven’t experienced that.”
Following a 4-4 start, Paris had won 10 of its last 12 games and five straight heading into a Tuesday matchup at Mason County. The Greyhounds open the All “A” against Elliott County, making their third trip in the last four seasons and ninth overall, on Thursday.
Senior Jekobi Wells and junior Eric Johnson each are scoring 15 points a game to lead Paris. Brooks runs a few sets for those two on offense, but otherwise “everybody gets in where they fit in” for the Greyhounds. He referenced three game-winning shots last season made by three different players — Johnson, senior Marcus Ashford and senior Jordan Davis — to illustrate the team’s big-shot ability.
“I just believe that you can’t develop a team when you run everything for one kid, because other kids don’t feel important,” Brooks said. “ ... So, everybody’s gotta be ready when they’re called on.”
Paris’ strong showing in December’s Traditional Bank Holiday Classic at Lexington Catholic, in which it reached the semifinals, and in the 10th Region to this point — 9-1 before the Mason County game — has Brooks believing this team could make noise this week and beyond. A trip to the Sweet Sixteen — which would be Paris’ first since 1970 — isn’t a pipe dream.
“This group has a chance to go down in history as one of the special groups to come through here,” Brooks said.
All ‘A’ notes
▪ Lexington Christian reached its first All “A” state tournament in 2004 and has played in 12 of the last 13 editions, but trip No. 13 could end up being the Eagles’ finest. LCA is the only participant ranked in the top 25 of the Cantrall Ratings (coming in at No. 7) and is rated about 10 points better than the next-closest team in the field, Elliott County. The Eagles (16-4) have lost in the semifinals three times and never reached the finals.
▪ Sayre’s girls will represent the 11th Region in the girls’ tournament for the third time in the last four seasons. The Spartans (12-4), who have won nine of their previous 10 games, are 0-2 all-time in the All “A.”
▪ Murray, the highest-rated team in the girls’ field and the defending girls’ champion, could meet the second-highest-rated team, Monroe County, in the quarterfinals. Murray, ranked ninth overall in the Cantrall Ratings, starts against Danville, while Monroe County, ranked 14th, gets Covington Holy Cross in its opener.
▪ Cordia and Newport Central Catholic, who met in last year’s boys’ semifinals, will meet in the first round at 11:30 a.m. Thursday. Cordia defeated Murray for its first All “A” state title last season.
▪ East Ridge is making its first appearance in the boys’ All “A” Tournament. The Warriors (12-7) defeated Sheldon Clark 48-45 in overtime to claim the 15th Region’s berth.
▪ University Heights’ boys will extend their tournament record for appearances to 21 when they open against Fort Knox at 1 p.m. Thursday.
All ‘A’ Classic Cantrall Ratings
1. Lexington Christian
2. Elliott County
3. Owensboro Catholic
8. Newport Central Catholic
10. University Heights
11. Louisville Holy Cross
12. Kentucky Country Day
14. East Ridge
16. Fort Knox
2. Monroe County
3. Green County
4. Covington Holy Cross
5. Leslie County
t7. Owensboro Catholic
9. Trimble County
10. Nicholas County
13. West Carter
15. Crittenden County
16. Kentucky Country Day
All ‘A’ Classic
When: Wednesday through Sunday (girls’ first round begins Wednesday at 8:30 a.m.; boys’ first round starts Thursday at 8:30 a.m.)
Where: Frankfort Convention Center