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100 years of basketball: 'I always wanted to be a Kavanaugh basketball player'

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Co-captain of last Kavanaugh team still bleeds orange and black

By John Herndon

Surrounded by memorabilia from Kavanaugh High School, C.C. Fallis leaves little doubt that he is a Tiger.
Always has been, always will be.

“Lawrenceburg (High School) wanted me to go there and play football, but I had already made up my mind,” smiles Fallis, who served as co-captain of the last Kavanaugh Tiger basketball team.
Now 80, Fallis is still a regular at Kentucky Wildcat games, but his first passion was orange and black.
“I went to the games as a kid, but I had to have someone take me,” recalls Fallis, who grew up in the Stringtown area of Anderson County. “We'd go to the gym (located behind what is now The Kavanaugh House on Woodford Street in Lawrenceburg) and we thought it was a big gym then.”
The memories are still vivid for Fallis, a three-year starter for the Tigers.
Even though Mrs. Rhoda Kavanaugh had retired from teaching by the time he was in school, the image of the person who might have been Kentucky's most famous basketball fan in the first half of the 20th Century were burned in his mind. “Mrs. Kavanaugh always stood under the basket,” he says. “She was always wearing a black outfit and always had an umbrella in her hand. That's how she was every game.”
Fallis knew the tradition long before suiting up for Coach Fox DeMoisey. He knew about Aggie Sale, Frazier LeBus and Ralph Carlisle growing up. “I was thinking about Aggie and Ralph and the guys before me.
“Those guys were all good players. Ralph Carlisle was the coach when Bill was there,” Fallis says.
“Bill” was Fallis' lifelong friend, Bill Keightley, one of the last of the Kavanaugh greats. Keightley graduated from Kavanaugh in 1945 and later had a chance to play basketball at Eastern Kentucky under another Kavanaugh legend, Paul McBrayer. However, after a stint in the Marines, Keightley opted to work instead of go to college. He later became known as the beloved equipment manager of University o Kentucky Wildcat basketball until his death in 2008.
“When Bill got out of the Marines, he was always hanging around our practices,” says Fallis, who remains close to Keightley's family.
Fallis, nicknamed “Moose” by DeMoisey, says his biggest thrill came his sophomore season when Kavanaugh upset Lawrenceburg, the defending 11th Region champions. “We worked and worked on our defense and we beat them in the regular season, but they beat us in the district,” he recalls.
The rivalry was intense and was for bragging rights, but, Fallis says, it ended when the games were over. “We were all pretty good friends,” he said of the players from the two schools. “Jimmy Renfro was one of their better players. He and I were best friends and I guarded him my sophomore year.”
A photo from the 1947-48 Kavanaugh yearbook shows players discussing being ranked 17th in the state by the Litkenhous ratings during Fallis' junior year.
Even though players and fans of both schools knew that Kavanaugh and Lawrenceburg would be merging the following fall, Fallis says that final game of the series, a 38-35 Kavanaugh win in the 42nd District Tournament, held at Lawrenceburg High's gym, does not stand out. “I don't remember a thing about that game,” he smiles. “I remember we lost to University High, 48-47 in the regional tournament.”
Fallis lamented the closing of Kavanaugh, which had about 100 students that final year. “We had 25 in my class,” he said.
But, over the years, Fallis, and his wife, Hilda, have supported Anderson County High School teams and were seen at Cat Madness on Nov. 20. And they love the Kentucky Wildcats.
But he's still a Kavanaugh Tiger.
“I knew I couldn't be a U.K. player,” Fallis smiled, “I wanted to be a Kavanaugh basketball player.”