What an incredible atmosphere last night in Ft. Thomas for the Highlands/SK game. It was not just a game, but a display of everything that is right about high school B-Ball in the Bluegrass.
I took an Ohio friend who had never before experienced Kentucky High School Basketball, and this was what it was all about baby.
He could not have experienced a better introduction than to be right there on top of the action in a packed house where every patron, including the legendary Coach Shields, knew that they weren't missing out on anything else on this mild- temped Saturday night in January.
This was where it was at.
The people of Highlands really know how to make the night an experience, and indeed it was.
We arrived during a lately played JV game during its halftime due to, from what I was told, an exciting Freshman game that had gone into overtime. We got more than we bargained for as the JV game was rife with talent and excitement in itself before the traditional varsity game fanfare had begun.
Then the main event had begun, and the warmups and music ensued with dunk city time just for the kick of it, a moving moment of silence for official Bob Burkart, and a nicely sung National Anthem by a female student, player introductions accompanied by the big screened scoreboard showing a fun vid of senior players announcing themselves.
The game itself started a bit rough until finding its rhythm, but quickly went in Highlands' favor displaying defensive prowess that made every last attempt at anything extremely difficult for the Pioneers. With a Sisson hand on every ball in every face, he was displaying block-o-mania at its finest, and nothing SK tried to do was working. The Bluebirds dominated the first half making everyone believe there was no way for the Pioneers to remedy the situation.
That all began to sway differently in the 2nd half after a sensational halftime dance routine, where adjustments and diligence took over showing the Pioneers' ability to turn the tide. For starters their deep 3's were beginning to land, and inch, by inch they clawed their way back into this thing with a fierce focused effort.
Niece and company showed the "teamwork pays off" ethic, and never let off the pedal in their pursuit of taking over. Somewhere late in the 3rd, early in the 4th the Pioneers knotted things up to even go ahead, and while it started smelling like a down-to-the-wire game, SK wasn't having that either as they just continued full throttle in their grand momentum shift saying that all that effort would not be settled for just to tie things up, and they played it right on out to the final horn, winning by a comfortable 8 point margain, 68-60.
While my friends' excitement could not be contained throughout, I couldn't wait to get his assessment on the way back to the car. He was dumbfounded by just what an incredibly electrifying evening it had been, and he was all thumbs up over his very first Kentucky High School Basketball experience.
Little does he know that I was lump in the throat too many times to count all evening just knowing what he was experiencing, and for me getting that reminder of just what brings me back time and again for the incredible atmosphere, and the die hard efforts these fine young athletes display in what for me is just about the greatest American past time that there is.
It makes you feel alive, and these die hard kids make you want to tackle anything and know that if you never give up you'll get it done.
That's what I call inspiring.
That's what I call Kentucky High School Basketball.