Perusing the list of KHSAA basketball scores this week, one in particular stands out: 62-5.
That was the final tally after Phelps hosted Piarist, whose total enrollment of high school boys for the 2013-14 school year was 17. The Hornets, who cruised to a 39-1 halftime lead Tuesday, boasted a modest 111 boys during the same time frame.
Much ado was made in the Twitterverse about the ramifications of such a score. Last season, a California girls’ basketball coach was suspended for two games after beating an opponent 161-2. In 2009, a girls’ coach in Texas was fired for not apologizing after defeating a team 100-0.
While there appear to be no calls for the punishing of Phelps Coach Brody Justice, who won his high school debut after several years as the coach at Belfry Middle School, several folks said he ought to be ashamed of such a rout and questioned the sort of values being instilled in his players by participating in such a contest. They spewed all this criticism, of course, without actually being in attendance for the game.
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“People write stuff knowing that they weren’t here and it aggravates my kids a lot,” Justice said. “They’ve talked about it for the last hour (prior to practice Wednesday). A couple of my boys play football and they said, ‘There’s nothing ever said when we’re getting beat.’ They didn’t win a football game in two years.”
Phelps’ football team last won on Oct. 11, 2013. They’ve since lost 25 games, 10 in which they didn’t score a single point, so the school knows a thing or two about taking a punch to its pride. And so does Justice, who played his first two years of high school ball at Feds Creek before moving to East Ridge.
“When I was a freshman we won one game,” he said. “We went 1-21. In my senior year we won the region and I played in the state tournament. I’ve been on both ends, and there’s no way on Earth that I’m gonna try to run up the score on anybody. I’ve been at the losing end a whole lot more than I’ve been on the other side of it.”
Justice said his team started with a full-court press before disbanding it after getting up 6-0. From there, they played a 2-3 zone at half court then fell into a 1-1-3 zone. After the first quarter, “we didn’t even press outside the three-point line.”
Both teams on the floor that night were young. Phelps boasts two seniors to Piarist’s one. Phelps has two juniors who play but from there it’s underclassmen and middle-schoolers carrying the load, as is the case for Piarist.
“We’re as young as they are,” Justice said. “The team that I’ve got, we lost three starters from last year who transferred from other schools so all these kids I’ve got have never played. One of my juniors, this is his first year playing basketball.”
Piarist Athletic Director Kevin Tackett was adamant that Phelps “wasn’t the bad guy” some were making them out to be. Tackett, who also serves as the girls’ coach, recognizes that their athletic program faces an uphill battle (for instance, they have to travel about 20 minutes away to Knott County’s Sportsplex for practice) but at the end of the day it’s more about fostering a positive academic environment and giving students more access to scholarships.
“They could have pressed us and beat us to death if they really wanted to,” Tackett said. “It wasn’t like that we didn’t get shots. ... Honestly, I don’t think Phelps deserves to get a bad rap for it.”
The Phelps-Piarist score stood out because of the single digit final, but it wasn’t the largest margin of defeat in the opening week of play. The Leslie County girls’ team defeated Red Bird 87-6 on Tuesday. On the boys’ side, Breathitt County defeated Riverside Christian 94-26 the same night.
Coincidentally, that was also the first win for new Breathitt Coach Robert Amis. He said he played his starters “maybe seven minutes” after imploring his guys to be respectful and not to showboat against an opponent which brought a 28-game losing streak into the game. Amis used the rest of the game to give his freshmen and sophomores — there are no middle-schoolers on his varsity roster — some early playing experience.
The unfortunate truth is this: As long as schools wish to field teams irrespective of having the numbers to support a competitive squad, outcomes like 62-5 and 87-6 will continue to occur. The ADs, coaches and students are usually in it for reasons that go beyond the immediate gratification of a final score.
“The one thing that’s overlooked here is how many people in our athletic department that we’ve got college scholarships for,” Tackett said. “Michael Williams last year, he signed with Kentucky Christian. We’ve got two girls playing right now at UPike. We’ve put cross country people out there. ... For certain scholarships in college, you’re asked to have at least a year of varsity athletics because that makes you a well-rounded person. There’s definitely a purpose for it. We don’t bend these kids’ pinkies back and say ‘You have to play this sport.’ They know they’re gonna get beat but they actually want to play.”
And when you’re a larger school with no choice but to play overmatched foes because of district affiliation (Breathitt will play Riverside again this season because of that), you try your best to coach in a way that’s respectful to the other team as well as your own.
“You can’t tell your kids to let up or not go out there and play if a kid sticks the ball in front of him,” Amis said. “That’s a natural instinct and you’re just gonna take it. ...
“But I tip my hat to Riverside. They played with a great attitude the whole time.”
When the Garrard County girls’ basketball team took the court at Lexington Catholic on Monday, it was the first face-off between Golden Lions Coach Scott Latham and LexCath’s Scott True. Latham was a longtime assistant under True, including his first two years at LexCath, before taking the Garrard job last season. Said Latham about a week before the game:
“My first game last year was the first time I ever had him not sitting there with me. ... It’s tough to do but it’s still fun and we wanted to do it. We missed one practice and one game over the 13 years between Clark (County) and being here. We were together a lot. The kids here said it was kind of creepy because we’d finish each other’s sentences all the time.
“For him not to be sitting behind me was a little bit different (at the start of last season). But he’s got a great opportunity at Garrard.”
True bested Latham in their first head-to-head battle. Ashley Frebis scored 16 points to lead the Knights in a 48-40 win. Maddy Day has a game-high 22 for Garrard County.
PRP to celebrate baseball, Miller
Pleasure Ridge Park set into motion plans to celebrate its baseball success about a year ago. About 500 people are coming to Louisville on Saturday for a banquet, ceremony and speeches celebrating its history, which includes five state title teams — second most in state history.
The event is also serving as a chance for former players, fans and the like to reconnect with longtime coach Bill Miller, who in October was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, currently incurable but treatable.
“We were all shocked here,” PRP Athletic Director Nick Waddell said. “It was a pretty rough week here (when we found out). We love Coach Miller ... and he’s like a father to us.”
Waddell said Miller has responded well to early treatment and will remain the school’s head baseball coach in perpetuity.
“If you ask him, he would say he feels as good as he did before,” Waddell said. “ ... He’s our coach until he decides not to be.”
Whitney Creech, a prolific Jenkins scorer, wasted no time lighting Eastern Kentucky on fire to start the year. The WKU commitment had 57 points and 25 rebounds in the Cavaliers’ 81-51 win at Pike County Central to open the season. That put the senior at 3,908 points for her career.
From this point, if Creech were to average 42 points a game (her mark from last season) and plays in the minimum of 29 games remaining on Jenkins’ schedule (includes a district game), she would annihilate the state scoring record held by Highlands’ Jaime Walz (4,948) and become the first player — boys or girls — to reach 5,000 points.
The Cavaliers host June Buchanan on Friday. Creech went for 91 points and 27 rebounds in the two meetings between the schools last season.
Jim Rose Classic
Lexington Christian announced Tuesday the inaugural Jim Rose Classic, a new basketball event to be held next weekend.
Rose, a former coal operator and banker who died in 2011, was a key figure in the financing and development of Lexington Christian Academy, which formed in 1989.
“Mr. Rose meant so much to our school’s history, we felt building a first-class event would be a proper way to honor him,” LCA boys’ basketball coach Nate Valentine said in a release.
The slate features a girls’ game, LCA vs. Barbourville, at 7 p.m. on Dec. 11, as well as five boys’ games all to be played on Dec. 12. Those games are: Holmes vs. Daviess County, 2:15 p.m.; Bullitt East vs. Cordia, 3:45 p.m.; Newport vs. Rowan County, 5:15 p.m.; Western Hills vs. Bath County, 6:45 p.m.; LCA vs. Campbell County, 8:15 p.m.
Tickets are $6 for the event. All six games will be broadcast at LCADN.TV.
Runner heads to national finals
South Oldham senior Cole Dowdy earned an automatic invitation to compete in the Foot Locker Cross Country National Championship finals by placing seventh at the South Regional on Saturday. He was the only Kentuckian to qualify.
The top 10 boys and the top 10 girls in Saturday's seeded races qualified to compete against runners from three other regional meets in the national finals on Dec. 12 in San Diego, Calif.
We asked you to pick winners in the six football state championship games via Twitter. Your lock of the week? Johnson Central over South Warren. Here are the full results:
Pikeville vs. Beechwood: 62 percent chose Pikeville
Mayfield vs. Newport Central Catholic: 69 percent chose Mayfield
Lexington Catholic vs. Belfry: 60 percent chose Belfry
South Warren vs. Johnson Central: 75 percent chose Johnson Central
Bowling Green vs. Pulaski County: 69 percent chose Pulaski County
Male vs. Lafayette: 67 percent chose Lafayette