They call the boys' Sweet Sixteen "The Greatest Show in Hoops," and we were reminded why once again Saturday night as Christian County and Rowan County played a state basketball championship game for the ages.
With the Rupp Arena crowd of 14,644 standing in rapture when the game was on the line time after time after time, Christian County finally prevailed 65-63 in double overtime when Veontae Lewis swished an 18-footer from the left side as the buzzer sounded.
Christian County's players, coaches and fans erupted in celebration of the school's first state championship. Rowan County's players, coaches and fans were left with a hole in their hearts.
Christian County's Anthony Hickey, a 5-foot-11 guard whose flash and dash has to be seen to be believed, was the obvious MVP of the 94th PNC/KHSAA Sweet Sixteen.
All he did this week was total 90 points, 29 rebounds, 26 steals and 19 assists. Before wrecking Rowan County in the finals, he helped take down powerhouses Lexington Catholic and No. 1 Eastern.
"I think his performance will stack up with about anybody's in (state tournament) history," Colonels Coach Kerry Stovall said. "I know that's big words, but look at what he did."
Hickey's feelings after leading Christian County to the top of Kentucky high school basketball?
"Happiness, just pure happiness," he said, with confetti sprinkled in his pony-tailed dreadlocks.
Stovall deserves some kind of coaching medal (mettle?) for the guts he showed in the middle of the season when he completely revamped his offense and defense because his Colonels were struggling. He gave his players more freedom to create on the floor. Christian County senior leaders Hickey, Lewis, Donovan Kates, Marcoreyon Tandy and Nick Riley wound up creating the greatest moment in school history.
Even in defeat, Rowan County fashioned one of the most memorable stories in Vikings' history by almost winning the 16th Region's first state championship since the legendary 1961 Ashland Tomcats.
Coach Shawn Thacker had Rowan County playing superbly the last few weeks, using tenacious defense to string together 15 consecutive victories that brought it to the brink of a state title.
Oh, how close they came.
The heroes — yes, they were heroes even though they lost — included Corey Hunter, whose blocked shot and layup sent the game into overtime; Darrell Cross, whose three-pointer beat the buzzer to force a second OT; and D.J. Townsend, who orchestrated the Vikings boffo show all week.
But most of all there was Adam Wing, who like Hickey, put on a performance that will be remembered for a long time.
In Saturday morning's semifinals, the 6-foot-4 junior was 5-for-5 on three-pointers and had 19 points in Rowan County's upset of Bullitt East.
In Saturday night's finals, he hit his first seven three-pointers — add 'em up, that's 12-for-12 — against Christian County. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds.
Last year Wing and his dad Greg came to the Sweet Sixteen finals and sat up in the nose-bleed section of Rupp Arena. Wing remembered how he felt when they turned down the lights for pre-game introductions.
"I got chill bumps," he said, "and thought, wouldn't it be something if we could be down on the floor in the middle of that.
"Standing here a year later, it's amazing that we got here. It hurts right now, but in a couple of weeks or so, I think we'll all realize we were part of something special."
That's why they call it the "Greatest Show in Hoops."