Last week's Boys Sweet 16 lived up to the KHSAA's billing as "the greatest show in hoops." There were so many good story lines and believe it or not, the best team won.
Gracious in defeat
Carr Creek. The great Bobby Keith teams at Clay Co. J.R. VanHoose, Todd Tackett and Paintsville. These are just a few of the great names and teams from Eastern Kentucky.
Add to that list the Elliott Co. Lions.
Rick Mays so loves his group of kids that after 28 years as the coach in Sandy Hook, he will go out with the seniors on this team. Mays immediately announced he was retiring following the Lions' 67-57 loss to Holmes.
Twins Ethan and Evan Faulkner, along with Jonathan Ferguson and Chris and Timmy Knipp, captured the imagination of an entire state. After three straight trips to the Sweet 16, over 100 wins in four years and countless memorable games, the ride is over for this group. Years from now we'll be rattling off some of the legendary high school teams and Elliott Co. will be included in the conversation.
Despite not winning a state championship, their legacy is secure -- this team played with guts, guile and an ease at which fans marveled. These Lions made the game look easy, as they burned up the scoreboards, becoming one of the highest scoring teams of all-time.
By playing on Saturday morning, Elliott Co. fell just one game short of their goal: to play for a state title. Fans from across Kentucky flocked to Rupp Arena to see the Lions, and the other 15 teams, setting attendance records along the way.
Holmes knocked out Elliott Co. along their way to the school's first state title. Surprisingly, Elliott's players didn't sulk or whimper in defeat; rather, the guys seemed at peace with the loss, graciously thanking everyone in sight, including yours truly, for perhaps the opportunity to play one last time.
Just like an Edmonson Co., which shocked a state by winning a state title in its only appearance, perhaps saving Kentucky high school basketball from classification along the way and just as Richie Farmer encouraged young kids to dream of playing in the state tournament with his incredible run of state tournament games, so too did Elliott Co., who left us breathless time and again, when we were lucky enough to see them play.
One of the great stories this past week was seeing Shelby Valley, champions from the 15th Region, tackle expectations and make it to the quarterfinals of the Sweet 16.
Coached by Jason Booher, Shelby Valley already had won a state championship, when earlier this year the Wildcats won the All "A" Classic in Richmond.
Booher's story is incredible. He is a survivor of the Carollton bus crash, the worst such disaster in American history. Only 13 at the time, Booher saw 27 of his friends die when a drunk driver hit their church bus as it was traveling back to Kentucky from an amusement park.
Obviously, the crash changed Booher's life forever.
But there he was, the AP Coach of the Year, on the sidelines at Rupp, directing his team to a win over defending state champion, Mason Co.
Congrats to the Wildcats and Booher on a great season.
Just days before West Jessamine played in the school's first-ever Sweet 16, classmate and soccer player Ryan Robinson died from a drug-resistant staph infection.
Robinson became ill after soccer practice and was hospitalized soon thereafter. He was diagnosed with MRSA, or methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus.
When West Jessamine won the 12th Region title, players and coaches dedicated the win to Robinson. His memory helped carry the Colts all the way to Saturday morning of the Sweet 16.
Jarrod Polson was spectacular throughout the tournament. Exploding onto the scene earlier this year, after scoring 51 points against Lexington Catholic, the crafty lefty nearly rallied the Colts to a rousing upset of Louisville Central in Saturday's first semifinal game.
Polson, along with his teammates, lifted their fallen classmate by writing "R.R." on their shoes.
Central's gridiron greats
More than just a few folks were surprised to see Louisville Central win its way to the Sweet 16 championship game. After all, the Yellowjackets began the season with eight straight losses.
Once the football season was over, and several new faces joined the basketball team, the Jackets took off. Along the way, however, Central fell at Louisville Eastern, 78-58.
How shocking was it, then, when Central turned the table on Eastern in Friday's quarterfinal game? Linebackers Ridge Wilson and Tim Patterson looked right at home on the Rupp Arena floor, leading the Yellowjackets all the way to the title game.
Wilson has already signed with Kentucky, while Patterson, just a junior, is getting offers from the likes of USC, Alabama and others.
Central had a chance to become the first school in modern history to win both a state football title and basketball championship in the same school year.
In an epic championship game, Central extended Holmes to double-overtime, before falling, 67-63. The last five minutes of regulation, and both overtimes, saw players make clutch shot after clutch shot. It turned out to be an amazing game.
It was an amazing tournament with some pretty incredible story lines.
Those are the highlights... Stay tuned.