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Ten Best Programs Without a Championship

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I've posted a few articles over the years about best programs in the state, best to never win a championship, etc. With it looking more and more like basketball won't crown a champion in 2020 it seemed like a good time to look at the best programs in our state's illustrious basketball history to never take home a Sweet 16 trophy.

 

Note 1: I did use a formula to rank the top teams and to develop this list. I'll give my opinions along with it. You're welcome to disagree and/or add thoughts of your own.

 

Note 2: Prior to 1927, region tournaments were called district tournaments and the district champion advanced to the state tournament. I've not included those championships in the stats list.

 

 

10. Highlands

Stats: 33 district championships, 10 regional championships, 9 state tournament games won

 

Last Trip: 2001; lost to Russellville in first round

 

Closest: Second place in both 1924 and 1997. The 1924 team lost to Lexington, who was winning their fifth title in seven years. The 1997 Bluebirds lost to Eastern, one of the most underrated champions of the last quarter century.

 

9. Monticello - closed in 2013

Stats: 15 district championships, 9 regional championships, 16 state tournament games won

 

Last Trip: 1987; lost to Paintsville in first round

 

Closest: Second place to Flaget in 1960, which capped a streak of four trips in five years. Trojans also finished fourth in 1958.

 

8. Breathitt County

Stats: 35 district championships, 11 regional championships, 8 state tournament games won

 

Last Trip: 1996; lost to Lexington Catholic in first round

 

Closest: Fourth place in 1961. Lost to Lexington Dunbar in state semifinals by one point.

 

7. Newport

Stats: 27 district championships, 11 regional championships, 14 state tournament games won

 

Last Trip: Surprise visit in 2010 was first since 1962; lost to Christian County in first round

 

Closest: Runners-up to St. Xavier in 1935 and Inez in 1954. Early Kentucky basketball power but haven't won a game at state tournament since 1955.

 

6. Central City - closed in 1990

Stats: 34 district championships, 15 regional championships, 9 state tournament games won

 

Last Trip: 1989; lost to Bryan Station in first round

 

Closest: For years the winningest program in the state, the Golden Tide were runners-up to Ralph Beard and Male in 1945. Central City also recorded a fourth place finish in 1950.

 

5. Oldham County

Stats: 36 district championships, 16 regional championships, 11 state tournament games won

 

Last Trip: 2018; lost to Covington Catholic in semifinals

 

Closest: The semifinal round has been a hurdle for the Colonels, falling in 1963 (Seneca), 1985 (Hopkinsville), 2012 (Scott County), and 2018 (Covington Catholic). Three of the four teams that beat Oldham County would win the state championship.

 

4. Pikeville

Stats: 43 district championships, 11 regional championships, 13 state tournament games won

 

Last Trip: 2018; memorably knocked off undefeated John Hardin in three overtimes before falling to Warren Central

 

Closest: Third place in 1957, falling to Lafayette in semifinals before beating Russell County.

 

3. Madisonville-North Hopkins

Stats: 57 district championships, 16 regional championships, 9 state tournament games won

 

Last Trip: 2019; lost to Warren Central in quarterfinals. Maroons had qualified for 2020 before tournament was canceled.

 

Closest: For such a great program their state tournament resume is a bit thin. Lost to Logan County in semifinals in 1984. Seven other times they've won their opener but lost in second round.

 

2. Danville

Stats: 50 district championships, 12 regional championships, 15 state tournament games won

 

Last Trip: 1990; lost to Clay County in first round.

 

Closest: Another early basketball power, Admirals were second to St. Xavier in 1926 and Ashland in 1934. Danville has only two state tournament wins since World War II, the last coming over Bowling Green in the first round in 1973.

 

1. Paducah Tilghman

Stats: 60 district championships, 23 regional championships, 14 state tournament games won

 

Last Trip: 2010; lost to Shelby Valley in first round

 

Closest: Runners-up in 1953 and 2002 by almost identical scores. Lafayette whipped Tilghman, 84-53, in Memorial Coliseum in 1953 and Lexington Catholic rolled the Blue Tornado, 83-53, at Rupp Arena in 2002.

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Madisonville would have had a legitimate shot to win one this year.

Paducah Tilghman has struggle since McCracken consolidated. ( lost something like 10 straight games to McCracken)

Just for conversation who would be the best bet to win a State Championship out of these teams?

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Madisonville and Oldham County seem like they'd be the closest to breaking through. Madisonville would have had a shot this year, but would have had to run the gauntlet to do it. With White and Casey graduating, they may slide back, especially if the 8th District can reestablish. Oldham County, on the other hand, has had staying power of late. Of the teams on this list, they'd be my pick to break through. Though Highlands will be awfully good next year.

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Madisonville would have had a legit shot this year.

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Apollo may not be on this list but they have to be pretty close. I believe they have 10 3rd Region titles since 1976 including the undefeated 1978 team, a Final 4 appearance in 1988 and a runner-up in 2006.

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Apollo may not be on this list but they have to be pretty close. I believe they have 10 3rd Region titles since 1976 including the undefeated 1978 team, a Final 4 appearance in 1988 and a runner-up in 2006.

 

I’ve got them mid-30s. Apollo is a very young school in comparison to many others and therefore don’t have as many district and region titles. That shoved them down a bit.

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Apollo may not be on this list but they have to be pretty close. I believe they have 10 3rd Region titles since 1976 including the undefeated 1978 team, a Final 4 appearance in 1988 and a runner-up in 2006.

 

I was just about to post about Apollo. As they have only been a school for about 50 years they've won their region about 20% of the time. I'm not sure how the formula used is calculated but I guess that having too many one and done appearances in the Sweet Sixteen has hurt their ranking.

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You have Breathitt County’s closest opportunity to a state title being 1961 where they lost in the semifinals to Dunbar. However, Breathitt County also made it to the semifinals in 1967 and lost to eventual state champion Earlington after leading them for nearly the entire game. Earlington defeated Covington Catholic later that night on a last second shot.

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You have Breathitt County’s closest opportunity to a state title being 1961 where they lost in the semifinals to Dunbar. However, Breathitt County also made it to the semifinals in 1967 and lost to eventual state champion Earlington after leading them for nearly the entire game. Earlington defeated Covington Catholic later that night on a last second shot.

 

True. The third place game no longer existed in 1967 so technically they advanced farther in 1961. But your point is correct.

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True. The third place game no longer existed in 1967 so technically they advanced farther in 1961. But your point is correct.

What year did they discontinue the consolation game?

 

Breathitt County’s golden era was under the leadership of coach Fairce Woods in the late 1950’s until he left the school after the 1967 season. I think the Bobcats won six regional championships during his tenure, which included his two state tournament semifinal teams.

 

Another note, Breathitt County’s high school enrollment in Coach Wood’s time there was around 1,200. Today it is around 650. Loss of the coal business has depleted the population in most of the Appalachian counties.

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Off the top of my head, I think 1961 was the last season with a third place game. Breathitt played Wheelwright.

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Great Job! I would like to add an honorable mention.

 

Newport Central Catholic - 37 District Championships, 9 Regional Championships, 4 All "A" State Championships, (I would need help finding how many state tournament wins they have)

5th on the all-time wins list for a basketball program in KY

In 2016 made it to the semi-finals where they lost to eventual champion Paul Laurence Dunbar 55-47

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Madisonville didn’t have any shot to win it all this year. Very over rated, lucky to beat a below .500 team in region semifinals.

 

Warren Central would have beat them just like they did last season.

 

Madisonville has zero chance to win four games at Rupp, zero

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Madisonville didn’t have any shot to win it all this year. Very over rated, lucky to beat a below .500 team in region semifinals.

 

Warren Central would have beat them just like they did last season.

 

Madisonville has zero chance to win four games at Rupp, zero

 

Madisonville lost to these teams all ranked very high during the year:

Collins by 1

Lex. Catholic by 2

John Hardin by 14

 

Madisonville beat the following teams who were ranked in the BGP top 20 at the end of they year or at one point:

Bowling Green

Marshall Co.

McCracken, two times

Bourbon Co.

Butler

Webster Co.

 

Not ranked but won their region:

Owensboro

 

May have been ranked but not sure:

Clay County

Simon Kenton

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