McCracken County High School's nickname is Mustangs, but Musketeers might be a better fit because of the basketball team's all-for-one, one-for-all spirit that has carried it to the Boys' Sweet Sixteen.
McCracken County, in its first year after the consolidation of Heath, Lone Oak and Reidland, beat Marshall County 43-41 in overtime in the 1st Region finals Tuesday night. Kam Chumbler, who hit the game-winning shot, and teammates Jared Burnett and Bryce Rodgers earned all-tournament honors. Last season Chumbler played for Lone Oak, Burnett for Reidland, and Rodgers for Heath. That shows just how well this team came together after consolidation.
"It went unbelievably well," said McCracken County Coach Burlin Brower, who had been at Heath. "We use the term 'unselfish' a lot. We've got players who were starters at the other schools but have had to take a backseat role here. But they cheer on their teammates. It's a special group."
Brower said he "rolled the dice" in the pre-season by not cutting any seniors who played last year. "I thought it'd come back to haunt me, that something bad was gonna happen. I figured after three months on the bench every Tuesday and Friday night, somebody was going to get frustrated and say something. But it never happened. Now I'm thinking keeping all those (eight) seniors was our saving grace."
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Juniors Caleb Stoneciper and Jason Armstrong, who were at Heath last season, also start for McCracken County. The bench includes a mix of former Pirates, Purple Flash and Greyhounds.
Brower wasn't surprised the players put aside their old-school allegiances and bonded. "Times are different now, with social media. Kids at different schools know each other and get along. You hardly ever see our kids walk into practice with Heath or Lone Oak or Reidland T-shirts or sweatshorts on. They're all Mustangs now."
And they're all headed to Rupp Arena next week. McCracken County plays Wayne County on Thursday in the first round of the Sweet Sixteen.
Heath hadn't been to the state tournament since 1933. Reidland's last region title was in 1940. And Lone Oak's only Sweet Sixteen appearance was in 2005. So consolidation is looking pretty good to the McCracken County Musketeers, er, Mustangs.
■ The Kentucky Lions Eye Foundation will announce the winners of Mr. and Miss Basketball at an awards ceremony Tuesday night in the Bluegrass Ballroom at the Lexington Center. General admission is $10, and VIP tickets, which include dinner at 7 p.m., are $50. Former UK Coach Joe B. Hall will make the award presentations at 8. Mr. Basketball finalists are Quentin Snider and Kelan Martin of Ballard; Jackson Davis of Lafayette; Trent Gilbert of Scott County; Justin Johnson of Perry Central; Brandon Hatton of Dixie Heights, and Shane Hall of Johnson Central. Miss Basketball finalists are Makenzie Cann and Eriel McKee of Anderson County; Ivy Brown of LaRue County; Javonna Layfield of Ballard; DaiJia Ruffin of Sacred Heart; Nicole Kiernan of Newport Central Catholic, and Kayla Rankin of Perry Central. For tickets call (502) 583-0564.
■ The boys' Sweet Sixteen includes eight teams that were in Rupp Arena last year, including three-peat region champs Hopkinsville (2nd), Knott Central (14th) and Johnson Central (15th). Making back-to-back appearances are Pleasure Ridge Park (6th), South Oldham (8th), Wayne County (12th), Clay County (13th) and Fleming County (16th).
■ Brandon Hatton, who played on Dixie Heights' varsity as a seventh-grader, ended his career with big numbers, including 3,045 points. He played in 183 games, made 334 three-pointers (third most in state history). He hit 783 of 959 free throws (82 percent), and had 522 rebounds, 270 assists and 193 steals. He signed with Vermont.
■ LaRue County's loss to Elizabethtown in the girls' 5th Region finals meant the end of Ivy Brown's six-year career. She played in 176 consecutive games and set a bunch of school records with 2,906 points, 1,618 rebounds, 622 steals, 438 assists, 292 blocks and 158 three-pointers. Brown, a Miss Basketball finalist, has signed with Western Kentucky.
■ John Herndon, longtime sports editor of the Anderson News, came up with a cool "history repeats itself" story involving Anderson County star Eriel McKee and her dad, Dagger McKee. Eriel had 32 points and 10 rebounds in the Lady Bearcats' win over Simon Kenton in the 8th Region finals last Sunday, 40 years to the day after Dagger's defensive play helped Anderson County beat Scott County 55-54 in the boys' 8th Region finals.
■ Thirty years after Richie Farmer first played in the Sweet Sixteen as an eighth-grader for Clay County, his son Trey will suit up for the Tigers wearing No. 32 (just like dad) in the state tournament. Richie watched Trey score 20 points and lead Clay County past Corbin in the 13th Region finals Monday night in Corbin. Trey, a 6-3 sophomore, was named tournament MVP. Richie said he was much calmer as a player than he is as a parent/fan. "When I played I had some level of comfort with it because I had some control over what happened." But, he added, the pride he felt watching his son "means a lot more to me than anything I ever did. Absolutely."
■ Madison Central's Bailey O'Bryan, who averaged 10 points, four rebounds and four assists this season, signed with Alice Lloyd. O'Bryan was MVP of the 44th District Tournament and she made the 11th Region all-tournament team.
■ Gregg Longacre, who has been part of Fairdale basketball for most of the last four decades, resigned as Bulldogs coach. Longacre played at Fairdale in the early 1980s, was an assistant on the Bulldogs' state title teams in 1990, '91 and '94, and has been head coach the last nine years. He had an overall record of 147-121, including a 6th Region title in 2007.
■ Warren East boys' coach Casey Simpson and girls' coach Aaron Richmond both resigned. Simpson had a five-year record of 61-77 with the Raiders. Richmond went 10-78 in three seasons.
■ The Kentucky Association of Basketball Coaches' East-West girls' basketball all-star game will be played Saturday at 3 p.m. (EDT) at Warren Central. This year's game will be played in memory of Oscar Dee Dawahare, who was instrumental in the revival of the event.
1st Region: Summer Simmons (Calloway County), Allie York (Marshall County); 2nd: Meg Starling (University Heights), Jolaine McNary (Madisonville); 3rd: Madison Rich (Edmonson County), Kaylyn Pearson (Owensboro Catholic); 4th: Shalika Smith (Glasgow), Sydney Gooch (Franklin-Simpson); 5th: Ivy Brown (LaRue County), Kayla Bale (Green County); 6th: Danielle Lawrence (Butler), Emily Fryman (Bullitt East): 7th: Javonna Layfield (Ballard), Madison Raque (Eastern); 8th: Makenzie Cann (Anderson Co.), Abby Owings (Simon Kenton).
9th: Nicole Kiernan (Newport Central Catholic), Maddie Meyers (Conner); 10th: Sarah Futscher (Bishop Brossart), Jordan Doram (Harrison County); 11th: Brooke Todd (Paul Laurence Dunbar), Sarah Cooley (Lafayette); 12th: Essence Grey (Danville), Devin Conley (Boyle County); 13th: Brandi Smith (Whitley County), Sara Robinson (Clay County); 14th: Kayla Rankin (Perry Central), Keeley Rogers (Powell County); 15th: Jamie Castle (Magoffin County), Rachael Potter (Pikeville)' 16th: Taylor Wheeler (Boyd County), Bryana Greenhill (East Carter).
Cantrall's ratings for Boys' Sweet Sixteen
Dave Cantrall rates the 16 teams in the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys' Sweet Sixteen that will be played March 19-23 in Rupp Arena:
1. Trinity (29-5) 84.8
2. Scott Co. (32-3) 83.2
3. Hopkinsville (30-2) 83.1
4. Wayne Co. (31-1) 82.7
5. Cov. Catholic (29-2)82.1
6. Bowling Green (27-6) 80.5
7. Knott Central (25-6) 80.1
8. Johnson Central (25-6)79.4
9. PRP (26-7) 78.8
10. Bardstown (26-6) 76.3
11. Owensboro (21-10) 75.8
12. Clay Co. (23-8) 73.4
13. Campbell Co. (21-8) 72.0
14. South Oldham (22-4) 71.8
15. Fleming Co. (24-9) 71.2
16. McCracken Co. (24-8)70.0
Baseball pre-season poll
The Kentucky High School Baseball Coaches Association pre-season rankings.
1. Henderson County
2. Pleasure Ridge Park
3. Central Hardin
5. Tates Creek
7. St. Xavier
9. Mercer County
10. Bullitt East
11. Lexington Catholic
12. McCracken County
13. Harrison County
17. West Jessamine
18. Logan County
19. South Warren
20. Paul Laurence Dunbar
24. Meade County
25. North Laurel
Other receiving votes: Lawrence County, Letcher Central, North Bullitt, Covington Catholic, Bowling Green, Johnson Central, Lewis County, Madison Central, Bethlehem, Ryle, Caldwell County, Union County, Dixie Heights, South Laurel.