100 years of basketball: Still an Eagle

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By John Herndon

It has been over 55 years.
But even today, visitors to the Discount Sport Shop in Harrodsburg are reminded that even though Bruce Springate played major college basketball at Eastern Kentucky and roots for the Louisville Cardinals, he's still a Western Eagle.

Attached to the wall, just to the left of the cash register, is a picture of six basketball players from Western High School.
Just six, a manager and coach Monty Singleton. “That's the team,” Springate says with a bit of a chuckle. Who needs a deep bench when you go 27-4.?
“We scored a lot of points and we had a pretty good knack for winning,” says Springate, who averaged 26 points a game during one of the greatest seasons in the 62-year history of Western High. And the memories are still vivid.
A relationship with the coach? “He lived with us,” chuckles Springate.
The crowds? “It was always packed at home,” he says. “The school was just the center of the small community. It was kind of a rallying point.”
And it was where Springate embarked on a basketball career that led him to play in the NCAA tournament, become a successful coach himself and later a businessman whose name became synonymous with high school sports.
It was a long journey from Fairview Road. “I actually lived in Washington County,” Springate says. “We lived on one side of the road and my mother ran the old country store at Fairview across the road. It was in Anderson County.”
The store, located nor far from where Fairview Christian Church still meets, and Western helped shape Springate's outlook on life. “I think the community has lost a lot of its identity now,” he says with some obvious sadness. “When you lose your country store and lose the school, the small communities lose that identity. The store and the school are where everyone gathered.”
In 1955, they gathered at the school as the Eagles whipped all comers. It ended, however, at Harrodsburg High School during the 42nd District Tournament semifinals. Western had beaten Midway in the first round of the tournament and waiting in the semi-finals was Anderson.
It was expected to be close, but few could have imagined the controversy that ensued.
The Anderson News simply reported that Bob Stratton hit a shot with two seconds to go that gave Anderson a 60-58 win. The report only told part of the story, according to Springate.
“There were just a few seconds left. It was more than two when he hit that shot,” Springate says. “June Gritton took the ball out and threw the ball to me. I laid it in and got fouled. We were thinking we were going to have a chance to win the game.
“But then the referee went to the scorekeeper. He waved it off.”
The call still haunts Springate today.
Springate went on to a solid career at Eastern Kentucky, then coached at Trimble and Breathitt counties. A chance conversation led him to purchase a sporting goods store from his friend, Aggie Sale. For 42 years, Springate worked with high school athletic programs before selling the business recently. He's liquidating some excess inventory across the street before he spends all of his time on the golf course or tinkering with cars.
And somewhere along the line, there will be some stories about a career shaped at a country store and a rural school.
Even after 55 years, Bruce Springate is still a Western Eagle.

E-mail John Herndon at jpherndon@theandersonnews.com.