As Kentucky celebrates the 100th year of its one-size-fits-all boys’ basketball state tournament, here are 10 classic games that loom large in the event’s lore:
The game that made the Sweet Sixteen into a statewide fascination. An unbeaten powerhouse, Ashland, vs. a Cinderella team from the mountains, Carr Creek, in a four-overtime game where the state championship seemed to hang on every play.
2. Hazard 15, Male 13, 1932 state championship game
Morton Combs’ put-back basket in the last 20 seconds made Hazard the first team from the Eastern Kentucky mountains to claim a state championship. Twenty-four years later, Combs brought another title back to Appalachia when he coached Carr Creek to the 1956 state title.
3. Carr Creek 68, Wayland 67, 1956 semifinals
Carr Creek’s Fred Maggard (father of the late-1980s Kentucky Wildcats quarterback of the same name) hit a shot from the top of the circle with four seconds left to end the state championship dreams of Wayland and its charismatic star, “King” Kelly Coleman.
4. Wayland 122, Bell County 89, 1956 consolation game
Denied the state title by Carr Creek in the semis, high-scoring Wayland star “King” Kelly Coleman took out his frustrations on Bell County in the third-place game. Coleman scored a whopping 68 points — without benefit of the three-point shot — to end his legendary high school career with 4,337 career points and his senior season with a scoring average of 46.8.
5. Shelby County 62, Apollo 55, 1978 first round
Coached by Wayne Chapman and led by stars Steve Barker and Jeff Jones (now the coach at Old Dominion), Apollo entered the Sweet Sixteen 35-0 and was within four wins of being the first undefeated Kentucky boys’ state champion since Brewers in 1948. In a tense game, Shelby County’s Charles Hurt put the Rockets ahead to stay with a layup with two minutes left and Shelby guard Mike George hit five free throws down the stretch as the eventual state champions ended the Eagles’ perfect season.
6. Laurel County 53, North Hardin 51, 1982 state championship game
Call it “The Shot Heard ’Round Kentucky” or just “The Shot,” but the half-court shot that Laurel County’s Paul Andrews hit at the final buzzer to win the 1982 state championship is the most famous one in the history of high school basketball in the commonwealth.
7. Henry Clay 35, Carlisle County 33, (three overtimes), 1983 state championship game
Fifty-five years after the famous Ashland-Carr Creek four-overtime state title game, another matchup between a big-school favorite, Henry Clay, and a small-school Cinderella kept going and going and going. With the game still tied as the end of the third overtime neared, Henry Clay’s Greg Bates soared into the air for a follow shot with one second left to break Carlisle County’s hearts and make the Blue Devils state champions.
8. Clay County 76, Ballard 73, (overtime), 1987 state championship game
Ballard 88, Clay County 79, 1988 state championship game
In the 1987 finals, Clay County junior star Richie Farmer scored the Tigers’ final nine points of regulation. In overtime, Farmer hit the shot that put Clay ahead to stay as Coach Bobby Keith’s team brought the state championship back to the Eastern Kentucky mountains for the first time since Carr Creek in 1956. The following year, Ballard and its star, Allan Houston, turned the tables and overcame Farmer’s 51-point explosion to seize the 1988 state title.
Scott County scored 11 points in the game’s final 36 seconds and ousted state tournament favorite Lexington Catholic when Cardinals guard Rick Jones hit a running three-pointer at the final buzzer.
10. Madison Central 65, Ballard 64, 2013 state championship game
Madison Central’s Ken-Jah Bosley picked up a loose ball, dribbled once to his right, rose up and let rip with a three-pointer over two on-rushing Ballard defenders. When Bosley’s bomb wriggled through the nets with 2.2 seconds left, it completed Madison Central’s comeback from 16 points down and made the Indians state champions.
About the Sweetest Century series
Kentucky is celebrating the 100th year of the boys’ state high school basketball tournament as the Sweet Sixteen plays out in Rupp Arena this week.
Over the course of the 2016-17 high school basketball season, the Herald-Leader has published regularly appearing stories on Kentucky.com and in the newspaper highlighting memorable moments from the state tournament’s history.
Our coverage examines the significance of the tournament to our state’s history, revisits memorable games, champions and moments and looks at where the event goes from here. We’re exploring the joy, the heartbreak and the social impact of the event and recalling the teams and players every Kentuckian should know about.
We wrapped up the series this week as part of our annual Sweet Sixteen preview special section in Wednesday’s Herald-Leader and in posts you’ll be able to find all week on Kentucky.com and Kentucky.com/high-school.
And be sure to stay with our coverage throughout the week as new memories are made during the 100th state tournament.
Here are installments in the Sweetest Century series published to date:
March 15, 2017: Ten iconic Kentucky boys’ state tournament teams
March 15, 2017: Catching up with some of the Sweet Sixteen’s great folk heroes
March 15, 2017: At 100, Sweet Sixteen remains authentically Kentucky
March 14, 2017: Hazard played surprising role in integrating the Sweet Sixteen
March 13, 2017: A year-by-year history of the boys’ Sweet Sixteen
Feb. 15: 2017: Mason County’s Chris Lofton was ‘one of a kind’
Jan. 15, 2017: The team that saved Kentucky’s Sweet Sixteen
Nov. 27, 2016: From chaos, the Kentucky boys’ Sweet Sixteen was born