Jeremy Ward, a 6-foot-4 senior at Paul Laurence Dunbar, remembers taking a head-over-heels spill in the opening minutes of the Bulldogs' first preseason basketball scrimmage in November.
"I went unconscious for two or three minutes, and when I woke up, I was getting wheeled out on a stretcher," Ward said. "It was kind of scary."
Ward was diagnosed with a concussion that sidelined him for almost two months.
Sam Jones, a 6-4 senior at Madison Central, went up to block a shot in the first game of the season, had his feet clipped and was flipped into the air. He landed on his head "and immediately went into seizures," Coach Allen Feldhaus Jr. recalled. "That was the scary part." Jones had a concussion and didn't play again for six weeks.
Isaiah Patterson, a 6-5 sophomore at Tates Creek, took a tumble the week after Christmas. He was undercut while going up for a shot in the Berea Holiday Classic. Diagnosis: concussion. He has yet to return to the court.
Tre Penny, a 6-1 junior at Dunbar, was hustling after a loose ball near midcourt in a game in early January at Madison Central when he slammed into the scorer's table. Diagnosis: concussion. He's not sure when, or if, he'll return. His situation is complicated by the fact that while playing football, he suffered a concussion in the last game of the season.
Penny's symptoms? "Lots of headaches — migraines every two hours — and lots of blurred vision," he said. "It's hard to read, and math is just a no-go. It worries me if I have a third (concussion), so I'm a little scared to get back out there."
That's four players in the 11th Region (that we know of) that have had concussions this season. And you thought football was the sport rife with head injuries. "Football gets a lot of the bad press, but concussions can occur in any sport — baseball, basketball, soccer, volleyball," said Rob Ullery, an athletic trainer and director of outreach for University of Kentucky Sports Medicine.
Ullery said state law and KHSAA recommendations are in place to make sure kids aren't rushed back into action. "Just because a player gets cleared by a physician doesn't mean he can return to play that night. That's why we have return-to-play protocols. It may take three days, it may take 10 days, it may take even longer to get back to 'normal,' A lot of the return-to-play criteria are based on symptoms."
Dunbar Coach Scott Chalk said "it's good that we're more aware of the seriousness of concussions" and their long-term effects.
Feldhaus recalled that Quan Taylor, a member of Madison Central's state championship team two years ago, suffered a concussion. "But other than Quan and Sam, I can't remember another player of mine having one in my 29 years of coaching. We take a lot more precautions now, and that's a good thing."
■ Let's hope Old Man Winter doesn't mess with Saturday's 25th Joe B. Hall Prep Classic at Montgomery County. Last year, snow forced the event to be postponed two weeks, and two teams had to cancel. Saturday's lineup includes Trinity, rated No. 2 in the state, and Knott County Central and Hopkinsville, which are tied at No. 3. Mr. Basketball candidates Ray Spalding of Trinity, Camron Justice of Knott Central, James "Beetle" Bolden of Holmes, Aric Holman of Owensboro and Jaqualis Matlock of Hopkinsville will strut their stuff. The schedule: Campbell County vs. Lincoln County, 1:30; Holmes vs. Trinity, 3:15; Hopkinsville vs. Knott Central, 5; Madison Central vs. Owensboro, 6:45; Montgomery County vs. Rowan County, 8:15.
■ Peyton Woods had 40 points, including a school-record 11 three-pointers, in less than three quarters of Wayne County's 94-59 victory over Rockcastle County. Woods, a 6-4 senior and son of Coach Rodney Woods, is among the state's all-time top long-range shooters. Peyton, who played varsity as a sixth-grader, has made 321 of 759 threes (42 percent) in his career. Only three players have made more: Lyon County's Ty Rogers (407), Paducah St. Mary's Ryan Cochran (398) and Newport Central Catholic's Ronny Dawn (328). According to his dad, Peyton is getting interest from a few schools in the OVC, SEC, Southern Conference and Atlantic Sun, and several Division II schools.
■ Augusta keeps making memories in boys' hoops. After upsetting Mason County and winning the 39th District the past two years, Augusta achieved another first last week by winning the All "A" 10th Region. The Panthers beat St. Patrick 55-48 in the first round, Paris 43-41 in the semifinals (on Jared Shoemaker's put-back at the buzzer), and Bishop Brossart 67-65 in overtime in the finals. Augusta will make its Touchstone Energy All "A" Classic state tournament debut against Owen County on Thursday night in the Frankfort Convention Center. Where does Augusta's All "A" breakthrough rank with its other achievements? "It's right up there," Coach Jason Hinson said. "We really wanted this. It was very important, very high on our list of goals this season." After the Panthers graduated star Brent Bach, Hinson said most people "didn't think we'd be any good. They shrugged us off. But the kids embraced that. These kids have played in some big games the last couple years. They were ready for this." Three juniors — Connor Maddox, Camryn Snapp and Owens Crawford — lead Augusta in scoring.
■ Whitefield Academy senior Andrew Patterson came close to a state record when he made 28 of 30 free throws in a 90-82 triple-overtime victory over Southern. Brett Meredith of Edmonson County set the record for made foul shots when he hit 29 of 31 (on his way to 52 points) in a win over Cumberland County in 2003. Patterson made 23 of 24 free throws in the overtimes and finished with 38 points.
■ Western Hills junior Dylan Jones hit a school record 10 threes and had 35 points in a victory over Burgin.
■ Pendleton County will mark the 50th anniversary of its 10th Region boys' championship by honoring the 1965 team before Friday's game against Mason County. Coach Phillip Wood's Wildcats upset Paris and Bourbon County in the first two rounds of the 1965 region, the first played in the new Mason County Fieldhouse. Pendleton County, led by Gary Barnard, Pete Wright and Jack Wright, knocked off Bryan Station in the region finals. (Bryan Station moved from the 11th Region to the 10th Region for the 1963-64 and 1964-65 seasons).
■ Mason County rebounded from a loss to Lexington Catholic on Saturday by ripping Holmes 70-46 on Tuesday. Dorian Henry, who had a season-low 13 points against Catholic, had 35 against the Bulldogs. It was Chris O'Hearn's 250th victory in 11 years at Mason County.
■ After 18 consecutive losses, Ashland Blazer's boys routed Rose Hill 80-36 for their first win of the season.
■ Braxton Blair broke Johnson Central's career assist record of 428, set by Terry Branham in 1979, in Friday's win over Pikeville. Blair, a senior, also has 1,332 points. He's started on Johnson Central's 15th Region championship teams the past three years. He has a scholarship offer from St. Catharine College.
■ Pike Central eighth-grader Cassidy Mullins had a triple-double (18 points, 10 steals, 10 assists) in a win over Allen Central. Mullins is averaging 13 points, and has hit 16 of 31 three-pointers (52 percent).
■ Tom Larkey won't be rehired as football coach at Harlan County. WYMT reported that Principal Edna Burkhart told Larkey that a change needed to be made. Larkey went 59-29 in seven years with the Black Bears, including a 2-9 mark last fall. Larkey previously coached at Laurel County and Rockcastle County. He led the Rockets for 23 years, highlighted by state runner-up finishes in 2001 and '02. Overall, Larkey has 292 victories, tying him with Joe Jaggers for eighth-most in state history.
■ Covington Catholic football coach Dave Wirth has stepped down after six years and a 49-27 record. His teams were 0-10 against archrival Highlands.
■ Glasgow football coach Rick Wood has resigned after five years and a 55-19 record. The Scotties were runners-up in Class 2A in 2011. Wood also coached at Edmonson County and Warren Central. He had an overall record of 142-63 in 17 years.
■ Warren Central football coach Howard Feggins told the Bowling Green Daily News he was shocked that he was fired after just one season. The Dragons went 6-5 last fall.
■ Calloway County football coach Brad Lawson has resigned. He had a 13-20 record in three years.
■ Bluegrass Runners honored Madison Central's Brennan Fields and Lexington Catholic's Michaela Rinehart as its local high school cross country runners of the year. Fields won the Class 3A state title with a 5K time of 15:54.73. Rinehart was runner-up in 2A with a time of 18:46.91. Bluegrass Runners is a non-profit running club based in Lexington.