Twenty-five years ago, high school basketball coaches across Kentucky (and the nation), hoping to inspire their players at tournament time, took them to theaters to see Hoosiers, a movie about a small school in Indiana that beat the odds and the big schools and won the state championship.
Hoosiers is regarded as a classic sports flick, but I doubt many coaches still use it as a motivational tool.
Maybe they should rethink that, though. With a pair of teams from big schools in Louisville — Trinity's boys and Manual's girls — looming as big favorites to win Sweet Sixteen titles next month, maybe it's time to find a DVD of Hoosiers and watch Coach Norman Dale guide Hickory to its improbable state title.
After all, life can imitate art, and hoop dreams do come true on occasion.
Looking ahead to the PNC/KHSAA Boys' State Tournament in Rupp Arena and the Houchens Industries/KHSAA Girls' State Tournament in WKU's Diddle Arena, 16 talking points:
1. It's wonderful when underdogs chew holes in the brackets, but it would be riveting basketball if the boys' championship game had Trinity and Madison Central going at it again (Trinity lost to the Indians 78-77 in a wild finish in mid-January), and the girls' finals matched powerhouses Manual and Marion County again (they split their two regular-season meetings).
2. Fairdale was the last school to win back-to-back boys' state championships 21 years ago. It's unlikely that Christian County can duplicate its 2011 title run. The Colonels finished the regular season 7-20 and rated 143rd in the state by Dave Cantrall. The last school to win back-to-back girls' titles was Lexington Catholic six years ago. Rockcastle County's chances of repeating this year look slim. The Rockets finished the regular season 14-13 and rated 55th in the state.
3. Scott County boys' coach Billy Hicks notched his 800th career victory a couple weeks ago. His No. 4 Cardinals now set out to win him his third state title. The last coach to have a hat trick of boys' championships was Lafayette's Ralph Carlisle in the 1950s.
4. Perry County Central senior star Kendall Noble hopes to finish her career by playing in her sixth consecutive Sweet Sixteen. She started on Breathitt County's state tournament teams in 2007, '08, '09 and '10 before transferring to Perry Central and leading the Commodores to last year's Sweet Sixteen. She suffered a torn ACL in Perry Central's opening game in Diddle Arena last March.
5. Bullitt East reached the boys' Sweet Sixteen semifinals last year thanks in part to the play of sophomore Derek Willis, who got his first statewide exposure as a big-time college prospect. Last month Willis committed to Kentucky, raising his 6-foot-9 profile even higher. He's no cinch to make it back to his future home (Rupp Arena), though. No. 2 Pleasure Ridge Park and No. 5 Moore could stand in the way of No. 9 Bullitt East in the 6th Region.
6. PRP Coach Dale Mabrey, whose Panthers haven't been to the Sweet Sixteen since 2006, has won more boys' state tournament games (22) than anybody else.
7. Don't let your GPS steer you wrong. The boys' 10th Region tournament, which has been played at Mason County 41 times in the previous 43 years, will be at Montgomery County.
8. Small schools with a good chance to make it to Rupp Arena include Covington Holy Cross (9th Region), which won the Touchstone Energy All "A" Classic, and runner-up Bardstown (5th). Glasgow (4th) and West Carter (16th) also have a shot. Small-school girls' teams that could show up in Diddle include All "A" champ Walton-Verona (8th), along with Murray (1st), Monroe County (4th), Magoffin County (15th) and Shelby Valley (15th).
9. Will the state tournaments help settle the races for Mr. and Miss Basketball? The boys' candidates most likely to get to Rupp are Tamron Manning of Scott County and Nathan Dieudonne of Trinity. The girls' candidates most likely to get to Diddle are Sydney Moss of Boone County, Kendall Noble of Perry Central and April Wilson of Manual.
10. It's a good year for Sweet Sixteen anniversaries. Sixty years ago the Cuba Cubs, led by Charles "Doodles" Floyd and Howie Crittenden, won the championship. Thirty years ago Laurel County's Paul Andrews hit a half-court shot to beat North Hardin 53-51 for the title. Twenty-five years ago Bobby Keith guided Clay County, led by Richie Farmer, to the championship. On the girls' side, Roy Bowling won his fourth state title at Laurel County 25 years ago.
11. If Rowan County makes it back to Rupp Arena, it'll be interesting to see if Adam Wing still has a hot hand. On Saturday in last year's Sweet Sixteen, Wing hit 12 of 13 three-pointers in the semifinals and finals, a shooting performance that will live forever in state tournament history.
12. It's always smart to check the Chinese calendar. This is the Year of the Dragon — good news for the Warren Central Dragons, who try to win the 4th Region for the ninth time in 11 years.
13. Southwestern, which opened in 1993, has never made it to the boys' or girls' Sweet Sixteen. But that may be about to change. Southwestern's boys, under first-year coach Steve Wright, are rated the favorite in the 12th Region. On the girls' side, Grayson County is rated No. 1 in the 3rd Region as it tries to qualify for the state tournament for the first time.
14. Don't be surprised if Perry County Central grizzled veteran Braxton Beverly makes a return trip to Rupp Arena. Beverly shone as a seventh-grader in last year's Sweet Sixteen. With a big assist from New York transfer Jaysean Paige, Beverly has helped the Commodores to a No. 7 state rating this season.
15. Please raise your hand if you thought Clark County would be rated No. 1 in the 10th Region after graduating Robbie Stenzel, Vinny Zollo, Corey Rogers, Jaylen Daniel and Travis Purvis. I don't see any hands.
16. Louisville Trinity could become the first school to win state football and basketball championships in the same school year. You think that'd reheat the ol' public-private debate?