When the Touchstone Energy All "A" Classic marks its 22nd year as a statewide basketball shootout next week, Newport Central Catholic will be favored to become the first school to sweep the boys' and girls' titles in the same year.
NewCath's boys are No. 11 in Dave Cantrall's Rating the State; NewCath's girls are No. 18. No other teams in the All "A" are in Cantrall's top 25.
NewCath already owns a couple of small-school crowns, and Ron Dawn coached both title teams. In 2000, he guided the Thoroughbreds to the boys' All "A" championship and his son, Ronny Dawn, was tournament MVP. Dawn retired as coach in 2001 to become athletic director. He returned to the sidelines as NewCath's girls' coach in 2008, and they won the All "A" last year.
Dawn has a special fondness for the small-school hoopalooza. In the late 1980s he was coaching at St. Henry when the All "A" was still a Northern Kentucky event. In 1990, Stan Steidel of Dayton and Mike Swauger of Bellevue spearheaded the move to make it a statewide tournament. "It's become a big deal for small schools all over the state. It's truly a state tournament," Dawn said.
It took Dawn time to adjust to coaching girls after coaching boys for 15 years. "With the boys, it seems like it's basketball all the time, even when you're not playing. With the girls, it seems when they're on the floor they work hard, but when the game or practice is over, they move on to something else. I'm not so sure they don't have the right approach." Dawn is still adjusting. He'll come to practice and ask the girls if they happened to see a college game on TV the night before. "They'll say, 'No we were watching Jersey Shore,' " Dawn said with a laugh.
Coaching at NewCath is like coaching family. Dawn said he taught or coached many of the parents of his players. NewCath boys' coach Grant Brannen played for Dawn, as did Eddie Eviston, who coached the Thoroughbreds to the Class 2A football championship last month.
"It's really a tight-knit community," Dawn said. "People really pull for each other." Even when they're coaching against UK. John Brannen, who played hoops for NewCath in the early 1990s, is an assistant at Alabama and was part of the Crimson Tide's upset of UK.
■ University Heights Academy is in the boys' All "A" Classic for the 17th time after beating Crittenden County 58-36 in the 2nd Region finals. Matt McGowan led UHA with 30 points. The Blazers have won the small-school state title eight times.
■ Sayre's 62-50 victory over Bryan Station on Monday was the Spartans' first win over a Lexington public school since they clipped Henry Clay in double overtime in 2007. Before that, Sayre's last victory over a public school rival was on Valentine's Day in 1998 when Brad Nahra's 49 points led an upset of Henry Clay. Sophomore Mike Smith led the Spartans over Bryan Station. He had 26 points (including the 1,000th of his career), nine rebounds, eight steals and five assists.
■ Harrison County boys' basketball coach Mike Reitz can brag about his son getting a mention in Sports Illustrated last week. He only wishes SI had mentioned John Michael Reitz by name. SI's feature on Morehead State basketball star Kenneth Faried included this sentence: "(Faried is) in his dorm room at Morehead, a rectangular, ground-floor triple in which he occupies one end; best friend Demonte Harper, the Eagles' highest-scoring guard, occupies the other; and a student manager's bed is wedged in the middle space." John Michael Reitz, a sophomore at Morehead, is the student manager.
■ Daziah Kimberland didn't let hard luck keep her from becoming Bardstown's all-time top scorer in girls' hoops. Kimberland missed her entire sophomore season with a knee injury. A few weeks ago Kimberland, a senior, hurt her knee again. She had 15 points against arch-rival Nelson County when she left the game in the third quarter. It turned out to be a season-ending injury. Despite the setbacks, Kimberland finished with 1,616 points and 902 rebounds in her career.
■ The news of Red Bird's impending demise was exaggerated. The tiny community school in Clay County was supposed to close its doors for good last spring because it had no money. "It's a sad, depressing time," longtime boys' basketball coach John D. Wilson said last May. But Red Bird got a reprieve last summer when supporters raised enough money to keep the school open at least through the next school year. There has been a significant staff reduction, and enrollment is down to about 50 students. "But at least we're still here," Wilson said. "We had a game the other night where we had 12 players, 12 cheerleaders and about 12 kids in the pep band," Wilson said. "We had over half the school participating in extracurricular activities. That's a good thing."
■ Bowling Green won Round 1 of this season's rivalry with Warren Central, beating the Dragons 70-59 last week. Chane Behanan's 33 points and 14 rebounds led the host Purples in front of a packed house of 4,000 fans. George Fant had 19 points for Warren Central. "They're just a tougher team right now — mentally and physically tougher," Dragons Coach Tim Riley said. The teams meet again on Friday. They will probably clash again in the district tournament, and possibly the region finals.
■ Tates Creek's boys have taken a liking to Mount Sterling. The Commodores' 57-44 victory over Jeffersontown in the Joe B. Hall Prep Classic last week improved their record to 7-0 at Montgomery County over the last two seasons. Wayne Breeden's Creekers won the Gateway Holiday Classic there the last two years, then came the win over pre-season No.1 J-town. The Chargers' 44 points against Tates Creek was their lowest point total in 127 games, dating to a 55-42 loss to Doss in the 2007 Louisville Invitational Tournament. Tates Creek gets a shot at No. 1 Eastern next week in a rescheduled game that was snowed out in early December. The Commodores host Eastern on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
■ Ashland Blazer's boys hit 16 of 32 three-pointers in a 110-65 romp over East Carter this week.
■ Friday's draw for the girls' and boys' state basketball tournaments will be broadcast on WKYT, and streamed live by iHigh.com through www.khsaa.tv. at 1 p.m. The Girls' Houchens Industries Sweet Sixteen is March 9-12 in WKU's Diddle Arena. The Boys' PNC Sweet Sixteen is March 16-19 in Rupp Arena.
■ Clark County's boys won the Toyota Classic championship at Scott County last week. It was the first invitational title in three years for Scott Humphrey's Cardinals.
■ Dick Morse, a four-sport official and supervisor for 50 years, died last week. He was 77. Morse was selected for the Dawahares/KHSAA Hall of Fame last year and will be inducted posthumously in April. Morse officiated baseball, basketball, football and wrestling before taking over as a supervisor. He was Kentucky's Official of the Year in 1995, and Supervisor of the Year in 2002.
■ Luke Salmons, who turned Lawrence County's football program around, is leaving the Bulldogs to become coach at Cabell Midland (W. Va.), according to the Ashland Independent. Lawrence County was 0-11 in Salmons' first year in 2008, then posted an unbeaten regular season in 2009. The Bulldogs went 9-3 in 2010.
■ Brad Todd is stepping down as Elizabethtown's football coach after posting a 26-23 record in four years. The Panthers started last season 0-7 before finishing 4-8. "I'm not real tickled with where we're at as a program and some things need to change," Todd told the Elizabethtown News-Enterprise.
■ Brandon Combs, who righted Fort Knox's sinking football ship, has resigned after three seasons. Under Combs, the Eagles ended a 40-game losing streak in 2009, then went 4-8 last fall, including their first playoff victory in eight years.
■ Henry County's new football coach is Southwestern assistant Jason Spencer.
■ Heath football coach Cory Tilford resigned after his teams went 6-26 the last three years. Heath's new coach won't have a long stay. McCracken County schools will consolidate into a new school that will open in 2013.
■ Tates Creek alum Kelsey Floyd, a sophomore at Tennessee, was named national Division I swimmer of the week after she broke the Lady Vols' 200 butterfly record with a time of 1:56.68. She also had a season-best times in the 100 butterfly (53.56) and 200 backstroke (1:59.36).