High School Sports

One champ may not be enough

As high school basketball tries to thaw out for the last week of the regular season, baseball and softball players will trudge through snow for the start of pre-season practice on Monday.

Just as in basketball, the goal of every baseball and softball team is to make the state tournament and take a swing at a state title.

And just as in basketball, the KHSAA crowns just one champion in baseball and softball, so it's a tough road to reach the top.

Is it too tough for a lot of schools?

Baseball coaches Jody Hamilton of West Jessamine and Deron McDonald of Franklin County think so. That's why they're part of a push to have the KHSAA divide baseball, softball and soccer into classes.

"It's not fair for smaller schools to have to compete with 6A schools in those sports," Hamilton said. "It's been 20 years since a true Class A public school (Paintsville) won a (baseball) title. If we're talking about parity, something needs to be done."

It is odd that football has six classes and track and field has three, but teams in other sports compete for just one trophy. Hamilton and McDonald agree that hoops — and its Sweet Sixteen sacred (cash) cow -— should be left alone.

McDonald said his group originally came up with a three-class alignment for baseball, softball and soccer, but KHSAA assistant commisioner Julian Tackett suggested they reconfigure it into four classes.

The sticking point seems to be with far-flung schools in Western Kentucky, where travel would be more expensive. The next step is to contact each district to see whether they would absorb those extra costs in return for having a better chance at competing for a state title.

McDonald says the benefits are obvious, and points to a 1A school in his own town. "Frankfort wins track titles all the time. If they had to (compete) against 6A schools, they wouldn't."

Hamilton, who won a state title at Boyd County in 2001, says classification could also cut down on recruiting. "If a kid at a small school thought he had a chance to win a state title in baseball, he might stay there," he said.

What are the chances of baseball, softball and soccer being divided into classes? McDonald says it depends on who succeeds Brigid DeVries as KHSAA commissioner this summer. "If we get their support behind us, it can happen," he said. "I understand what they're worried about, that the next one knocking on the door will be basketball. And financially, they can't afford to do that."

■ Madison Central boys' basketball coach Allen Feldhaus Jr., who has been known to critique referees on occasion, is a model of decorum when watching his daughter Ashton play for the Lady Indians. But then he has no choice. He keeps the scorebook for Madison Central's girls' team. "I know I have to stay quiet," Feldhaus said with a laugh. Ashton, a 6-foot freshman, has helped the Lady Indians to a 23-1 record and No. 11 state rating. Feldhaus admits he gets nervous watching her play, but it's not as stressful as coaching his boys' team, "especially in a year like this," said Feldhaus, whose youthful Indians are 8-17. Madison Central's girls, meanwhile, are bidding for their first state tournament appearance. As if boys' and girls' hoops don't keep him busy enough, Feldhaus is also connected to Madison Central cheerleading. His wife, Karen, is the school's longtime sponsor, and their daughter Allie is a junior cheerleader. On Monday, dad missed Ashton's game against Lafayette so he could attend the 11th Region cheerleading championships. "We definitely don't have many nights off," he said.

■ Cumberland County Coach Brandon Combs calls 6-3 senior Shaun Wheat "the best undersized center in the state." Wheat is certainly one of the best shooters. He's made 116 of 169 field goal attempts (69 percent), and 110 of 135 foul shots (81 percent). He and fellow senior Cameron Stalcup each recently topped 1,000 career points. Stalcup and White are averaging about 16.5 points and six rebounds apiece.

■ Shelby Valley star Elisha Justice's seven steals in a win over East Ridge on Tuesday gave him 501 in his career and broke the state record of 499 set by Wayne County's William Shearer 15 years ago. Justice is averaging 20.2 points, 6.5 assists, 4.2 steals and 4.0 rebounds. He's 163 points shy of 2,000.

■ Lincoln County girls' coach Don Story said his players enjoy being rated fourth in the state by Dave Cantrall, but he's not worried about them getting overconfident. "I've got a senior-dominated group that's pretty focused. They've got certain goals in mind." Such as making up for a loss to Casey County in last year's 12th Region finals, and getting to the state tournament for the first time since 2001. Lincoln County (18-4) has won 13 games in a row by an average of 21 points. "In years past, our offense went stale, but that hasn't happened this year." Seniors Jessica Upchurch, Nikki Bustle and Kendra Brown, who average between 11 and 14 points, keep the offense perking. "The girls are very motivated," Story said. "They know this is their last go-around. That puts everything into focus."

■ How did Anderson County boys' coach Glen Drury react to notching his 400th victory last week? "Lot of good players, lot of good coaches, lot of luck," he said in his low-key style. Drury prefers to look ahead, not behind. His Bearcats have a shot at defending their 8th Region title, although they'll get plenty of competition, especially from Shelby County and South Oldham. Anderson County is led by seniors Jacob Russell and Will Ruggles, both four-year starters. Drury is proud of his team's versatility. "We can play up-and-down, and we can play half-court," he said. "That keeps us in the game with a lot of people." Evidence of that came when the Bearcats pushed Shelby County to the limit before losing 32-30.

■ Southwestern's Danay Fothergill has become the program's all-time leading scorer. She has eclipsed her older sister Devin's mark of 1,505.

■ Corbin's boys had a 16-game winning streak snapped when they lost at McCreary Central on Tuesday. The Redhounds expect another test Friday when they host DeSales. That's fine with Corbin Coach Tony Pietrowski, who wants his team toughened up for tournament time. The Redhounds, 20-3 and No. 15 in the state, are favored to repeat as 13th Region champs. Senior guards Madison Johnson (22 ppg) and Isaac Wilson (18 ppg) have carried the load. "But our depth has been a big key, too," Pietrowski said. Senior Aaron Manns, along with juniors Brody Freeman and Matthew Taylor, and sophomore Travis Smith have been strong role players. "They're kind of the X-factor for us," Pietrowski said.

■ Bowling Green has two players averaging a double-double: Chane Behanan (19.4 points, 11.6 rebounds), and D.J. Ray (13.4 points, 10.5 rebounds). The Purples beat Greenwood 54-51 last week, the third time this season they've beaten their cross-town rivals by three points. They won earlier matchups 64-61 and 56-53. "I guess they're just three points better than us," Greenwood Coach Blane Embry told the Bowling Green Daily News.

■ West Carter's Kristen Perry had career highs in points (30) and rebounds (18) and blocked seven shots in a win over Ashland Blazer.

■ Three Sweet Sixteen championship teams from years gone by will be recognized at this year's state tournaments. Whitley County's 1985 girls' titlists will be honored on their 25th anniversary at halftime of the girls' finals in Bowling Green on March 13. Hopkinsville's 1985 boys' champs will be honored during the Sweet Sixteen quarterfinals in Rupp Arena on March 18. Flaget's 1960 title team will be recognized for its 50th anniversary at halftime of the March 20 finals. Any players, coaches, managers or cheerleaders from those teams may contact Brent Miller of the KHSAA for more information. Call (859) 299-5472, or e-mail bmiller@khsaa.org.

■ Paul Laurence Dunbar's Kristen Wilson will try to win her fifth consecutive 50 freestyle state title in the Pannell/KHAAA Swimming & Diving championships Friday and Saturday at the University of Louisville. St. Xavier's boys are seeking their 22nd consecutive championship. Manual's girls are going for their sixth title in a row.

■ Dunbar hosts region wrestling on Friday and Saturday, with the top four finishers in each weight class advancing to the state tournament in Frankfort next week. Lexington's top wrestlers include Dunbar's Pat Milford (103 pounds), Tates Creek's Zac Brown (112) and Lafayette's Will Bryant (119). Saturday's finals will start around 6 p.m.

■ Pikeville's new football coach is a familiar face. Chris McNamee, who starred on the school's 1987 state title team and who coached the Panthers from 1999-2004, is back in charge. He was Pikeville's defensive coordinator last year. Before that he was head coach at Pike County Central for four seasons.

■ Andrea "Bug" Brown is leaving Nelson County to become girls' soccer coach at Scott County. Brown led Woodford County to three final fours before taking over at Nelson County in 2007.

■ Monroe County football standout Neil Wilson, a member of the Herald-Leader's Class of the Commonwealth, will walk on at Western Kentucky. The 6-2, 190-pound senior had 94 career receptions for 1,726 yards and 25 TDs, and 4,332 all-purpose yards in his career. He's also a 4.0 student.