History of The Sweet 16

 There is nothing in the world of high school basketball quite like the KHSAA Sweet 16 tournament. Since its inception in 1918, the Sweet 16 (a phrase trademarked by the KHSAA) has brought a bevy of great talent, performances, games, and underdog stories unique to the Bluegrass state and unparalleled anywhere else in the country.

The state tournament begins with District tournaments held at various gymnasiums across the state. Winners and runners-up of the Districts then advance to the sixteen Regional tournaments, with the winners advancing to the Sweet 16.

What makes the KHSAA Sweet 16 so special is how it is one of only three states to hold a basketball state tournament without class separation, meaning there is only one undisputed champion. This creates the opportunity for a classic underdog story for one of the many small rural schools throughout Kentucky to defeat the larger schools and shine on center stage in Lexington’s Rupp Arena (boys – through 2014) and Western Kentucky University’s E.A. Diddle Arena (girls – through 2011).  
Underdog stories:

 In 1995 Breckinridge County defeated Louisville power Pleasure Ridge Park 70-63 to shock the state and win a state championship. The next season in 1996, the small Paintsville High School defeated Ashland Blazer 71-53 en route to a state championship.

– In 1987, Clay County defeated another Louisville power, Ballard High School, behind the maginificent shooting of future Kentucky Wildcat “Unforgettable” Richie Farmer, 76-73. The following year Clay County made it back to the Sweet 16 championship behind Farmer, only to lose 88-79 in a rematch with the Ballard Bruins.

– A rather emotional story occurred in 1981 when the Simon Kenton High team won the state title against perennial state power Mason County, 70-63. Earlier in the school year, the students were forced to evacuate after a series of natural gas explosions destroyed much of the school.

– The greatest finish to a game came the following year in 1982 when Laurel County and North Hardin squared off. North Hardin were led by high school All-American and University of Louisville signee Robbie Valentine and were heavily favored. After a hard-fought, back-and-forth battle, Laurel County’s Paul Andrews heaved a 50-foot last second shot that won a state title for Laurel, giving them the 53-51 victory.

 Home(s) of the Sweet 16:

The first six Kentucky high school basketball state tournaments were held in Lexington, KY’s U.K. Gymnasium. Lexington’s Henry Clay H.S., then named Lexington High School, won five of the first seven tournaments (1918, 1919, 1920, 1922, 1924). They are currently tied with Lexington Lafayette High School for most state titles with six a piece (Henry Clay won their 6th in 1983; Lafayette: 1942, 1950, 1953, 1957, 1979, 2001). Louisville Manual High School won it in 1921, 1923, and 1925. They are tied for second on the list with four state titles, the fourth coming in 1931.

 After 1923, the tournament stayed in Lexington but was moved to Alumni Gymnasium (which still stands today on UK’s campus), where it stayed from 1924 – 1944. After that, the tournament moved to the Louisville Gardens for six years from 1945 – 1950. The tournament then moved back to Lexington, this time in the famed Memorial Coliseum, from 1951 – 1956. In 1957, the tournament was held in Louisville’s new monster arena, Freedom Hall. From 1957 – 1964, the tourney switched almost every year between Louisville’s Freedom Hall and Lexington’s Memorial Coliseum.

Then in 1965, Freedom Hall agreed on a contract to hold the Sweet 16 there for fourteen consecutive years, from 1965 – 1978. During this time, Louisville schools won seven of the fourteen tournaments held, including three by Louisville Male High School (1970, 1971, 1975). After fourteen years of dominance by Louisville schools in their home city, the rest of the state was ready to move back to Lexington.
In 1979, the timing could not have been better for the opening of Rupp Arena – a massive 24,000 seat gym in the heart of downtown Lexington. Since Rupp Arena’s first Sweet 16 in 1979, Freedom Hall has only held five tournaments, most recently in 1994. Since ’95 the tournament has stayed in Rupp, with the contract lasting until 2014.

Recent Champions:

2008: Future Kentucky Wildcat and Mr. Basketball winner Darius Miller led his Mason County Royals to their second state title in six years with a 57 – 48 win over Covington Holmes. Mason County defeated Elliot Co., Paducah Tilghman, and Shelby Co. en route to the Sweet 16 title game. In the championship, Miller scored a game-high 24 points on 7-of-11 shooting in front of a crowd of 17,663. After leading by just five points at half, the Royals took control of the game in the third quarter, outscoring Holmes 20-11.

Click here to view the 2008 Sweet 16 bracket.

2007: Indiana University signee Bud Mackey led his Scott County squad to the championship game against Ballard High School in one of the most highly anticipated Sweet 16 final match-ups in recent history. Louisville Ballard came in as the slight favorite with a 35 – 2 record led by starguard Twanny Beckham. But Scott County was not to be overlooked, sporting a shiny 33 – 2 record and led by an All-State guard themselves in Mackey. After a good start for Scott Co. with a 16-12 first quarter lead, the Bruins took over in the second and third, outscoring the Cardinals 33-24 en route to a 45-40 lead to begin the fourth quarter. As is usually the case, defense was key in the fourth quarter and Scott Co. dominated defensively in the final eight minutes, holding the Bruins to just five points, winning the game 56-50. Ballard star Beckham was held to 1-of-9 shooting, scoring just two points.

Click here to view the 2007 Sweet 16 bracket.

 Notable players to compete in Sweet 16: (from wikipedia.com)

Derek Anderson (Louisville Doss, Ohio State/Kentucky)

Butch Beard (Breckinridge County, Louisville)

Ralph Beard (Louisville Male, Kentucky)

Brian Brohm (Louisville Trinity, Louisville-football)

Greg Buckner (University Heights, Clemson)

Michael Bush (Louisville Male, Louisville-football)

Rex Chapman (Owensboro Apollo, Kentucky)

“King” Kelly Coleman (Wayland,[1] Kentucky Wesleyan)

Larry Conley (Ashland,[2] Kentucky)

Tim Couch (Leslie County, Kentucky-football)

Dave Cowens (Newport Catholic,[3] Florida State)

Richie Farmer (Clay County, Kentucky)

Travis Ford (Madisonville,[4] Missouri/Kentucky)

Jack Givens (Lexington Bryan Station, Kentucky)

Darrell Griffith (Louisville Male, Louisville)

Cliff Hagan (Owensboro, Kentucky)

Clem Haskins (Taylor County, Western Kentucky)

Allan Houston (Louisville Ballard, Tennessee)

Wallace “Wah Wah” Jones (Harlan, Kentucky)

Roy Kidd (Corbin, Eastern Kentucky-football)

Jared Lorenzen (Fort Thomas Highlands, Kentucky-football)

Jim McDaniels (Allen County,[5] Western Kentucky)

Dirk Minniefield (Lexington Lafayette, Kentucky)

John Pelphrey (Paintsville, Kentucky)

Frank Selvy (Corbin, Furman)

Wes Unseld (Louisville Seneca, Louisville)

Dejuan Wheat (Louisville Ballard, University of Louisville)

André Woodson (North Hardin, Kentucky-football)

Scotty Hopson (University Heights, University of Tennessee)

Darius Miller (Mason County, Kentucky)


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