High School Sports

Fields' dreams: 16 reasons to watch

Not to be a NIT-picker, but the best basketball in town this week is in Rupp Arena, where the 92nd National City Boys' State Tournament will be played out over four unpredictable days and nights.

Sixteen reasons to pick Sweet Sixteen hoops:

1. After Lexington Catholic's Vee Sanford swishes one of his gravity-defying floaters, referees halt play and inspect his sneakers, suspecting the soles are pumped with helium.

2. Sixty years ago Cliff Hagan led Owensboro to the state title, and 10 years ago his Lexington restaurant, Cliff Hagan's Ribeye, closed. I bet his hook shot and grilled steaks are still money.

3. Hazard fans, who watched their football team reach the state football finals last fall and their boys' basketball team get to the All "A" Classic and the Sweet Sixteen this winter, are smiling all over the place.

4. West Jessamine junior lefty Jarrod Polson, who hit 19 of 19 foul shots in the region semifinals, and 30 of 37 in a regular-season win over Lexington Catholic, gives former UK star Kyle Macy tips on free-throw shooting.

5. Graves County Coach Terry Birdsong reveals that he has "35-34" tattooed on his right ankle to commemorate his performance in the 1987 Sweet Sixteen when, as a Marshall County senior, he outscored Ballard sophomore Allan Houston 35-34 in a first-round loss to the Bruins.

6. The Jonas Brothers (aka the Jo Bros) cancel their August appearance in Rupp Arena, saying they can't possibly match the Sweet Sixteen show put on by Elliott County's Faulkner brothers, Ethan and Evan.

7. The Webb Cos. announce that the downtown CentrePointe project might be completed in time for the 100th Sweet Sixteen in 2017.

8. President Barack Obama asks Central Coach Doug Bibby's advice on reviving the economy after hearing that Bibby resuscitated the Yellowjackets from an 0-8 start and led them to a second consecutive Sweet Sixteen.

9. It's a good thing when Adair County fans shout, "Oh, Fudge!" They're cheering 5-foot-9 senior guard Nick Fudge, son of Indians Coach Mark Fudge.

10. Former Mason County star Chris Lofton, playing pro hoops in Turkey, gets a "Wish you were here" text message from the Royals. Former Mason County star Darius Miller, playing for UK in the NIT, sends a "Wish I were there" text to the Royals.

11. A newspaper headline somewhere, sometime during the tournament will include "Poetic Justice" or "Justice Prevails" to describe the exploits of Shelby Valley junior star Elisha Justice.12. Holmes junior standout Elijah Pittman, whom Coach David Henley calls the "happiest-go-luckiest guy around," proves it by updating his Facebook page in the locker room at halftime.

13. Basketball/football stars Tevin Barksdale of Bowling Green, and Ridge Wilson and Tim Patterson of Central, are disappointed that Rupp isn't outfitted with padded walls like it is for Kentucky Horsemen football games.

14. Eastern Coach Jason Couch digs out videotapes of the 1997 Eagles to show his team how much it plays like Trent Coward, Ashley Olinger and Antwan Taylor, who led Eastern to the state title that year.

15. The KHSAA thought it had a new title sponsor for the Sweet Sixteen, but the credit-card deal fell through after a Herald-Leader investigation into financial misconduct by the former executive director of Blue Grass Airport. So the event was not renamed the 92nd Michael Gobb State Tournament.

16. ESPN basketball sideline reporter Jeannine Edwards shows up in Rupp Arena and finds 16 courteous coaches available for halftime interviews.