HALL OF FAME
WHITAKER BANK/KHSAA BOYS' SWEET 16: Fans bask in tourney glory
March 24, 2014Bardstown High School
Friday, March 21, 2014 at 2:04 am (Updated: March 21, 2:16 pm)
The Sweet Sixteen
It’s the one Kentucky sporting event that creates memories of a lifetime for generations of the state’s residents who have a passion for the game.
And for several Bardstown High School fans, the Tigers’ trip to Rupp Arena Thursday night brought back memories for some and created a lasting impression for others.
LONGTIME BARDSTOWN EDUCATOR BEN BURR WAS nine years old in 1955 when the Adair County Indians advanced to the championship game against Hazard in Lexington.
The Indians were coached by Burr’s dad, the highly respected and venerable John Burr.
Though young in age, Ben knew the importance of the game that night. He recalled the game in Memorial Coliseum as if it were yesterday.
“I was a youngster, but I was old enough to realize what that game meant,” he said after watching the Tigers dispatch of Pleasure Ridge Park 75-70. “We lost 74-66 to Hazard and Johnny Cox.”
ANOTHER COACH’S SON, BUDDY MARTINplayed on a Bardstown team that qualified for the state tournament in 1969.
It was the first year after the closing of St. Joe Prep, and Martin’s late father Garnis — who was inducted into the KABC Court of Honor Friday — had molded the players from the two schools together and won the school’s first regional championship since 1949.
“Jimmy Bivens had come to Bardstown from St. Joe and he was our ace in the hole,” Buddy said.
The tournament had moved to Freedom Hall by that time, and walking onto that court for the first time, was a startling experience for the junior guard.
“Wow,” is the word he used to describe the feeling.
“I will never forget walking onto the floor for the first time,” he said. “You could see yourself in the floor it was so shiny. It was like a mirror.
“When we walked to midcourt, you had to look hard to see the basket because it seemed so far away,” said Martin.
“Jude Talbott was our assistant coach and had played at a high level of basketball and he told us to take short shots to get used to the basket,” said Martin. “When the game started, we didn’t shoot the ball well at all.”
Unfortunately for Bardstown, Ohio County was accurate from the beginning en route to a 76-59 victory. They went on to beat St. Xavier and Ashland before falling in the finals to Central with its duo of Ron King and Otto Petty, 101-72.
Martin remembered returning from Louisville after the tournament and the Tigers were treated to a nice dinner by a group of supporters.
“When these boys come home after the tournament, they will be taken out to dinner too,” he said as he pointed to the floor. “Some people did that for my team and I’ve taken up donations to keep doing it for every Bardstown team that has gone to the state.”
MOST BARDSTOWN STUDENTS ONLYknow Franseda Gunn as an assistant principal.
“They look at me and don’t realize I played high school ball,” she said while watching the Tigers warm up.
Gunn was a two-time All-State player at Marion County. And she vividly described the ending of her only appearance in the state tournament in 1982 at Eastern Kentucky University’s McBrayer Arena in Richmond.
“We were underdogs to Henry Clay and were ahead by one,” she said. “I can still see Benita Croley pump fake, take a step back and drain a jumper that beat us (44-43).”
When asked if the players on Bardstown coach James “Boo” Brewer’s team would be nervous in their first state tournament appearance, she thought back to her playing days.
“When I walked out and looked up into the stands, I was a little overwhelmed,” she said. “But once the ball was thrown into the air, I forgot about that.”
THE NEW ERA OF BARDSTOWNstudents admitted Friday night that being in Rupp Arena to cheer for their team was a chance of a lifetime.
As Bardstown jumped to an early lead in the first half, senior Kaleb Barnes was standing with several of his fellow band members holding onto his saxophone. His face painted in purple and gold, he was in constant motion in support of his friends on the court.
Suddenly, when there was a break in the action, Barnes found himself the focal point of attention for the thousands of fans in Rupp Arena.
“I looked up and saw myself on the big screen,” he said. “Man, that was amazing. And I’ve got one of the best seats in the house.”
SENIOR BAILEE CORRERO FINDSherself the center of attention quite often at Bardstown sporting events, and Friday night was no different.
She’s the one dressed up in the Tiger mascot costume. And just as she’s done for the past four years, she was decked-out while cheering her team on to a win.
“Even though people know it’s me, I can be a little different in the outfit,” she said. “I am glad that I have something in front of my face in front of all of these people because I would be out of my comfort zone.”
Correro laughingly admitted that she is not coordinated enough to be a cheerleader, but loves being able to excite the crowd.
“It gets awfully hot in the uniform, but I love interacting with the crowd. I sometimes act as a go-between from the cheerleaders and the pep club. We have such a great pep section and so much school pride. That makes my job easier.”
ALLIE TUCKER WAS A BALL OF ENERGYand in constant motion throughout Friday’s game. The senior is president of the Bardstown pep club and says it’s her job to get the crowd into the game.
“We’re so far from the floor that we can’t hear the cheerleaders when they do a cheer,” she said. “Bailee gives me a signal and I know what is coming up. Then I get our cheering section going with it.”
However, Tucker is even busy before the game starts.
Before every game, she and her friends buy paint and show up to a game early so that they can paint the faces of any Bardstown student who wants to show even more support.
“We sometimes painted their chests too, but Rupp Arena wouldn’t let us do that because there weren’t supposed to be anyone without a shirt.”
Tucker was also one of several Bardstown students chose
n to compete in a shooting contest against their counterparts from PRP during the halftime break.
“That was fun,” she said. “And while we were waiting (under the stands) to go onto the floor, we got to have our picture taken with the UK national championship trophy.”
STANDING IN THE FRONT ROWof the Bardstown cheering section, junior Alexandra Walls stands out among her peers.
It’s not the purple shirt that she is wearing. Lots of Tiger fans are wearing those.
Rather, her shirt has sparkling letters on the back with the name Schooling and his number 23.
“He’s my cousin,” she said proudly.
Walls is not your typical Bardstown fan. She’s only been in Bardstown since January when she transferred from a high school in Mississippi where, she readily admits, the roundball sport was not a big deal.
But when you’re kin to one of the stars of the team, you learn quickly.
“I’m not used to something like this,” she said. “To be in such a big arena and cheering for my school is kind of overwhelming and exciting.”
And cheer she did as Schooling helped Bardstown to its first-ever win in the Sweet Sixteen.
ERIC NEWSOME WAS AN OUTSTANDING HIGH SCHOOLbasketball player at Campbellsville but never got a chance to play in the state tournament.
Almost 30 years later, he still has a sick feeling when he thinks about the 63-50 loss to Elizabethtown in the 1986 5th Region championship. But as he sits in the seat at the end of the aisle in the lower bowl of Rupp Arena, Newsome is able to live vicariously through Nicholas DeVillalobos, the Bardstown foreign exchange student from Spain for whom the Newsome family is playing host.
“When I dropped him off at the school before they went to play Elizabethtown in the regional finals in Lebanon, I told Nico that ‘you gotta get this game,’” Newsome said. “They knocked me out of my dream.”
DeVillalobos played club ball in Spain in front of sparse crowds in a setting that is not very much like what he’s experiencing .
“I tried to warn him what it was going to be like to play in Rupp Arena in front of so many people,” Newsome said. “We talked to him about what it was the dream of every kid in Kentucky to play in the state tournament.”
Bardstown’s Friday night game against Covington Catholic ended well past midnight in DeVillalobos’ native Spain.
“I have been texting his parents and they are able to watch the game on the Internet,” said Wendi Newsome, Eric’s wife.
DeVillalobos scored five points in the Tiger win. And he was able to check one more item off of is to-do list while in America.