Speaking of Sports: State honor brings closure
By Jim Turner

Posted on January 1, 0001 12:00 AM

     "More than anything else, this brings closure," Gerald Sinclair said at the close of a big day.
     Sinclair was the head coach of the Logan County Cougars when they won the state boys basketball championship in 1984.
     Friday, he and his team were honored on the 25th anniversary of that accomplishment during halftime of the Lexington Catholic-Covington Holmes state quarterfinal game at Lexington's Rupp Arena. Appropriately, Holmes went on to win this year's state championship.
     Joining Sinclair at center court were fellow coaches Barry Reed, David Billingsley and David Becker and players Stacy Mason, Karl Wayne Dawson, Tim Thomason, Phillip Mallory, Warren Thomason and Brent Hinton. Terry Barker represented his late brother Gary, and Paul Jones represented his brother Henry, who lives in California. Howard Gorrell, who was the first principal of Logan County High School, was also in the group.

A video which includes scenes from that 1984 state championship game along with the memorable Elliott County-Shelby Valley game that night, plus scenes from the Cougars' honor session, can be seen on the LIJ Home page.
     Several family members were present to witness the ceremony, including Tim Thomason's son T.C. and Hinton's son Jordan. Both are athletes at nearby Centre College.
     The players were not introduced as individuals but as a group, and the ceremony did not last long. The team members' time spent together in Lexington continued into the weekend.
     "I love being with these guys, and I'm especially glad T.C. got to be here to see it," Tim Thomason said.
     "He's been riding my coat tails for 21 years. I don't mind riding his for a day," laughed T.C., who finished an outstanding career on the Centre basketball team with 996 points when the Colonels lost in the NCAA Division III Tournament recently.
    During the afternoon session, Sinclair was inducted into the Kentucky Association of Basketball Coaches (KABC) Court of Honor. Those joining him included Barney Thweatt of Paducah Tilghman, Jim Wallace of Trigg County, Delmar Gish of Central City, Elmer 'Baldy' Gibb of Lexington Henry Clay, and former Allen County-Scottsville coach J.D. Strange, who was honored for his work at Pikeville.
    A highlight for Gorrell was seeing former Bowling Green football coach Wilson Sears, who is now head of the state superintendents' association. Gorrell and Sears officiated many big games together. Gorrell worked state tournaments, as did Auburn native John McCarley.
    Troy Winders of the 13th District officiated at state again, but didn't get to work on Saturday because he officiated an NCAA women's regional game at Western Kentucky University Sunday.
    Jerry Kimmel, who heads Fourth Region officials and helps coordinate officials in the state tournament, said the NCAA does not allow officials to call a tournament game if they have worked the day before. Troy would have either called one of the semifinals or the finals if he had been available.
    Terry Baldwin of Logan County was the alternate official for the girls state championship game. His partner, Will Jones, called one of the state semifinals.
     Russellville Superintendent Roger Cook is a member of the Board of Controls, which makes huge decisions for the Kentucky High School Athletic Association. Members are very much involved in the state tournament. His term lasts two more years.
     Russell County’s Byron Ellis was the KABC Player of the Year and his coach, Willie Feldhaus, Coach of the Year for the Fourth Region
     Ellis and Bowling Green’s Tevin Barksdale were chosen to represent this region in the annual KABC Senior East/West Charity All-Star Game.
    The biggest names chosen for that game couldn’t play because of injuries. They are UK-signee Jon Hood of Madisonville-North Hopkins and Scott County’s Richie Phares, who has committed to Louisville as an invited walk-on. Both were present at state to accept their regional Player of the Year awards.
     Bowling Green coach D.G. Sherrill looked and sounded sick as he watched Holmes blow out Lexington Catholic Friday night. LexCath had edged BGH in overtime in the first round. “At least we would have showed up in this game,” he said, referring to the Knights’ lethargic effort against the eventual state champs.
    The Elliott County-Shelby Valley game was memorable with Elliott pulling out a narrow victory. Shelby Valley had won 24 straight games, including handing Elliott County its only loss to a Kentucky team. That was in the quarterfinals of the Class A state tournament, which Shelby Valley won. Both teams had over 30 victories, and Elliott County had been the subject of national publicity, including a story in USA Today.
     Mountain teams usually are crowd favorites at state, but don't do well. The last state champion from Elliott County's 16th Region was the Larry Conley-led Ashland Tomcats in 1961 The last state titlist from Shelby Valley's 15th Region was the 1996 Paintsvile team led by J.R. Van Hoose. In fact, the last state champ from the 13th Region was Richie Farmer's 1987 Clay County team while the 14th Region hasn't produced a champion since Carr Creek in1956,
      So here were two legitimate contenders from the mountains who had captivated followers. Over 20,000 people were in Rupp both nights they played. Compare that with the total attendance from every session of the Tennessee state tournament-- 25,246. Meanwhile the Kentucky total of over 130,000.
     Elliott outlasted Shelby in this game and advanced to Saturday morning's semifinals. They came close to Louisville Central but couldn't quite pull it off. 
     The Lions were family. Rick Mays had coached Elliott County since 1990. He played for Sandy Hook, one of the schools which became Elliott County in 1983, and he had coached Sandy Hook, too. All of his assistants played for Elliott County. So did the fathers of five of the players.
     After the loss to Central, he confirmed that he is giving up coaching. "I've been told that I would know when it's time to get out, and this feels like that time," he said in the press room. Elliott County was a class act and fun to watch for the thousands upon thousands of people who saw them in sold-out gyms across Kentucky this year.
     The Louisivlle Central team which lost in the finals came within an eyelash of making history. They wanted to be the first school to win a state football championship and the state basketball championship in the same school year. An outstanding Holmes team ended that dream in double overtime.
     Central started 0-8 without its football players and was just 11-14 entering the postseason. They finished 19-15. They could have been the ‘loosingest’ champ in state history. But those guys aren't losers, and neither is their school. They showed class throughout the tournament and had very little resemblance to the old Central teams which were showboating while winning the state in early 70s. Coach David Bibby has this team well disciplined, and their fans and band were super.
    Some of the players on this team were part of the football Yellowjackets which beat Russellville in the 2007 state quarterfinals. The team’s star, Ridge Wilson, is headed to UK to play football along with teammate Mister Cobble.
    Central’s coach, David Bibby, was Rajon Rondo’s coach at Louisville Eastern. They both moved on-Bibby to Central and Rondo to Oak Hill Academy, the University of Kentucky and the Boston Celtics. “Rondo never got you to the state tournament,” guard Alex Morrison told Bibby.
    Holmes coach David Henley has also done a marvelous job with the Holmes program. His team usually plays with class, even though some players were hot-dogging during introductions before the finals.
    A touching moment came when the coaches shook hands before the game. Their young children accompanied them. The kids shook hands, too.
    In the late 60s and early 70s, people from “the state” considered Louisville teams to be the enemy. This was a matchup of two inner-city programs that showed class and discipline. They played a game for the ages.

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