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RIVER RAT: Is this Bardstown's last All A?

February 21, 2013
Bardstown High School



River Rat

By Peter W. Zubaty, Sports Editor
 

The Touchstone Energy All A Classic is this week at Frankfort’s Farnham-Dudgeon Civic Center, and Bardstown goes into the boys’ draw with an air of confidence.

<div class="source">Peter W. Zubaty</div><div class="image-desc">The Bardstown boys’ basketball team celebrates its win in the championship in Friday’s 5th Region All A Classic. Bardstown High School has been a fixture at the statewide All A Classic since its inception as a small-school invitational basketball tournament in the 1980s. This year could be the Bardstown’s last as an All A school, as growing enrollment figures to make the school ineligible for participation.</div><div class="buy-pic"><a href="http://web2.lcni5.com/cgi-bin/c2newbuyphoto.cgi?pub=191&amp;orig=celebrate_0.JPG" target="_new">Buy this photo</a></div>
Peter W. Zubaty
The Bardstown boys’ basketball team celebrates its win in the championship in Friday’s 5th Region All A Classic. Bardstown High School has been a fixture at the statewide All A Classic since its inception as a small-school invitational basketball tournament in the 1980s. This year could be the Bardstown’s last as an All A school, as growing enrollment figures to make the school ineligible for participation.

Disappointment from a last-year’s heartbreaking last-second loss in the championship to Covington Holy Cross is still fresh in the minds of Tiger players and coaches. “Unfinished business” was a common theme when I did postgame interviews after their 72-48 win over Bethlehem in Friday’s 5th Region All A Classic championship.

Hey, they have every reason to be confident. Bardstown traditionally does quite well in the All A Classic, with multiple titles and several other deep runs, including last year’s. And if you’re one to believe in computer rankings, the Tigers are at least the favorite to get to the semifinals, and just like in the Sweet 16, once you get that far, anything can happen.

There’s another item at play at the All A this year, though, a story that could play out as a farewell of sorts.

“This may be Bardstown’s last year in the All A Classic because Bardstown’s grown so much,” said Melissa Peters, the school’s assistant athletic director.

For as long as I can remember, and definitely before I came on board as sports editor at The Kentucky Standard, Peters has been the All A Classic’s 5th Region director.

She said the Bardstown community has a tendency to really embrace the tournament, which is for the smallest 150 schools in Kentucky. It started out as a basketball-only event, expanding into other sports in the 2000s. This year, soccer falls under the banner for the first time.

In the meantime, the All A Classic along with its chief sponsor, the Touchstone Energy rural electric cooperatives (which includes Salt River RECC), has doled out thousands in scholarship dollars to students across the state, and the Bardstown area has been well represented during that time. Peters said two Bardstown students will receive $1,000 scholarships this year.

On Thursday at 8:30 a.m. — a very unfortunate start time, I might add — the Tigers open first-round play against 1st Region champ Carlisle County (14-7); the girls’ first round begins today.

Peters said Bardstown High School has an allotment of 350 tickets for the first-round game Thursday, but she’s not sure how many have sold, as she had already made her way to Frankfort on Tuesday.

“We have in the past” sold through those tickets quickly, she said, “but playing that first-round game, I’m a bit concerned.”

Still, even if folks have a hard time getting off work to get there for the 8:30 a.m. tipoff, it’s comforting to know that there will be a good student presence there in the form of the cheerleaders and band, and the Bardstown chorus is singing the National Anthem.

And if nothing else, kids rarely pass up a chance to miss school, so expect there to be a big pep section of students for Thursday’s game.

While it would be weird for Bardstown to no longer be eligible to participate in the All A Classic, things change.

“If we get knocked out (after) this year, we’re going to miss it quite a bit,” Peters said. “We’re used to being a small school and playing small schools. It’s going to be quite a change for us.”

If this year is the last, what better way to go out than with a championship?

 

Still getting used to the changes

Like a lot of people, I got used to the small-school state tournament being held in Richmond at its longtime home at Eastern Kentucky University’s McBrayer Arena.

I even sort of got used to those long weeks at the gym, and how the arena’s aging, orange/green-tinted lights would beat my immune system down, ensuring a couple days of illness upon return.

I got used to the All A Classic championship being on Super Bowl Sunday, and recall the 2009 boys’ championship pitting Bardstown against Shelby Valley, a Wildcats squad that later went on to win the Sweet 16. Most years I would watch the All A final on TV during the day and the Super Bowl that night, but in 2009 I had to hustle back to my hotel room in Richmond to watch the Steelers win No. 6.

It switched last year, moving a little bit closer to home by relocating to Frankfort’s Farnham-Dudgeon Civic Center. It’s a just-right sized arena that features infinitely better lighting than at EKU (very important for this photographer) if maybe a slightly-less intimate feel brought on by the gentle slope of the arena’s ascencion as opposed to McBrayer, where lower level of seats is elevated, with fans hanging over top of the floor.

The shorter trip is important for me — and other fans from this area, I hope — keeping me from having to hole up in a hotel room for a week, and it gives me time to visit with friends in the area. Some things are done a bit differently, though, such as the media room being a bit more cramped and the post-game interview procedures a little less defined.

The one thing I’ve had the most difficult time getting used to is the change in date. Starting last year, the tournament is held one week earlier, landing the championship on the Sunday in between the Super Bowl and the conference title games. I’m still struggling to get used to that change, including making some scheduling mistakes as a result of it.

Larger schools who are prohibited from participating in the tournament have an unfortunate tendency to look down their nose at the All A and the quality of play at the tournament, but that is too bad as the tournament regularly places a couple of entrants into the Sweet 16 each season. Bardstown is one of those who have pulled off the All A/Sweet 16 daily double, and University Heights has also been a regular. Of course, the aforementioned Shelby Valley pulled the ultimate daily double in 2009.

The boys’ bracket features Newport Central Catholic, a regular participant, and Knott County Central, a newcomer, as the only Top 25 teams in the bracket. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader’s Cantrall Ratings, Bardstown is rated the fifth-best team in the field.

There’s good stuff on the girls’ side, too, with Murray and Webster County both in the Top 25. The field also includes Owensboro Catholic and the best girls’ player in the state, Becca Greenwell, who set a state record with 17 three-pointers in her All A region semifinals.

Well, if Bardstown is no longer eligible next year, it’s up to Bethlehem to pick up the torch and keep a strong presence at the All A in the future.


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