High School Basketball

Eastern Kentucky gym will host first high school basketball game in 24 years this weekend

Johns Creek Elementary, which formerly was a high school, will host a boys’ varsity basketball game between Pike County Central and Phelps on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. Johns Creek High School and Mullins High School consolidated into Pike County Central after the 1992-93 school year. This is the gym floor, which was replaced two years ago.
Johns Creek Elementary, which formerly was a high school, will host a boys’ varsity basketball game between Pike County Central and Phelps on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. Johns Creek High School and Mullins High School consolidated into Pike County Central after the 1992-93 school year. This is the gym floor, which was replaced two years ago.

The recently announced closure of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus called to mind businessman P.T. Barnum, who helped found the latter organization. Chad Thompson may not be Barnum, but he’s helped spearhead an event the famous showman likely would envy.

On Saturday night, Pike County Central and Phelps will play their 60th District basketball game at Johns Creek Elementary, which formerly was a high school until it consolidated with Mullins in 1993 to form Central. It will be the first high school game played in the school’s gym in nearly 24 years.

Thompson, the principal at Johns Creek, and Mullins Elementary Principal Gary Fields wanted to do something to bring their two communities together while including the high school into which their schools feed. Thompson approached Pike Central Athletic Director Eugene Lyons about playing a varsity game in Johns Creek’s gym, which seats about 1,400 and was one of the largest in the area when it was built in the mid 1950s.

“The acoustics in it are horrible for anything outside of a basketball game,” Thompson said with a laugh. “If you try to have any type of assembly, it’s just very hard. It echoes like crazy. I’ve got no proof of this, but it’s got to be one of the loudest gyms, at least in the state of Kentucky and maybe more than that. A hundred people can make you not be able to hear yourself.”

Before tip-off, Pike County Central will honor any basketball players and cheerleaders who were part of Johns Creek and Mullins’ final graduating classes. Thompson said about 50 to 60 of those athletes had said they would come to the game. Fields is one of them.

“It’s created quite a bit of excitement,” said Thompson, who noted that the social-media response has led him to believe there could be a big crowd Saturday night. “Five hundred people would be deafening. But if we could get a thousand, well that would just be an awesome night.”

Ryan Whitaker, the former University of Pikeville player who’s in his first year coaching Pike Central after two seasons at Powell County, said community involvement has been disjointed in the past and hopes this event helps more people feel interconnected.

“A lot of my kids are going back to where they played grade school and middle school ball,” Whitaker said.

The gym reminds Whitaker of the old Cumberland High School gym, where he got to play when he was a student at Bell County.

“It gets so loud in there, you can’t really communicate to your team in a huddle during timeouts and things,” Thompson said. “It’s really, really cool.”

Thompson hopes the game grows into an annual event. This year it’s a district game, but what if a mighty mountain opponent — a Johnson Central or a Perry County Central, for instance — had to play the Hawks in Creek’s loud box? How would Lexington Catholic or Ballard respond to such an environment? What if a sponsor stepped up and afforded both participants throwback uniforms?

The possibilities are exciting. Barnum would be chomping at the bit.

▪  How wild did the student section at Covington Catholic get during the Colonels’ 55-52 win over fellow 9th Region contender Cooper on Wednesday night? Wild enough to collapse a row of bleachers during the game. Kudos to the crowd for bringing the energy all night.

▪  After several years of getting a raw deal thanks to district reshuffling, Lawrence County finally will get to host some district tournaments. The school will host the 60th District boys’ and girls’ basketball tournaments for the first time since 2010. It will also host the baseball and softball events this year.

Lawrence County was moved to the 58th District as part of the newest 15th Region alignment unveiled last week. That’ll go into effect beginning with the 2017-18 season.

“The big concern with us getting moved (again) was we were going to get stuck in the back end of another rotation,” Bulldogs Coach Travis York said. “ ... That is something we’re very excited about.”

▪  Mason County’s chances of repeating as the boys’ 10th Region champion took a blow when junior Isaiah Garrison decided to quit the team. Garrison, who led the team in rebounding (5.0 per game) and whose 16.6 points per game were second most on the team, “was very adamant he no longer wanted to be with us, and we granted that request,” Royals Coach Buddy Biggs told Danny Weddle of WFTM-AM 1240 in Maysville last Friday.

The Royals (10-9) also are dealing with injuries to freshman Sam Kumler (concussion) and junior Dalton Perkins (sprained ankle). They’ve dropped six of their last seven games heading into Friday’s matchup at Pendleton County.

That stretch includes a 91-64 defeat at home to Lexington Catholic on Saturday. Peter Whitman had 31 points, 11 rebounds and seven blocks in 21 minutes for the Knights in that game.

▪  Memphis signee Jada Stinson had her second triple-double of the season last Friday, finishing with 15 points, 12 assists and 11 steals in Elizabethtown’s 79-20 win over Taylor County. She accomplished the feat in only 21 minutes of action.

Stinson, who’s averaging 20 points and shooting 57.2 percent from the field, scored 26 points for the Panthers in a 67-56 win over Lafayette at Fairdale on Saturday.

▪  Bryan Station girls’ star Carah Burdette had a triple-double — 17 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds — in a 76-50 win at Tates Creek on Monday. The Defenders have won three of their last four games heading into a home matchup with Paul Laurence Dunbar on Saturday.

▪  Adair County senior Kel Stotts scored 20 points in a 76-53 win at Marion County on Tuesday. That put Stotts in the Indians’ 1,000-point club, the second school for whom he’s accomplished that feat. Stotts, who’s scored more than 2,500 points in his career, scored 1,591 at Russell County before transferring back to Adair County, where he played as a seventh- and eighth-grader, this season.

Josh Moore: 859-231-1307, @HLpreps

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