BLOG: Final Four atmosphere awaits Lady Bearcats

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Regional semis is best day of the season

By John Herndon

I can't think of a better basketball day than when it is time for the semi-finals of the regional tournament.

Four teams, all good, all with the same goal, usually gathered in a high school gymnasium not quite equipped to handle a crowd of that magnitude. But they manage that one night a year.

The Eighth Region holds the boys' tournament at Henry County, which seats about 5,500 and is usually overflowing for the semi-finals. At one time, the Henry gym was the largest in the state and has hosted the region every year since 1963, the longest run of any facility in Kentucky. It is a great tradition for a special time.

The girls, however, have traditionally moved around. Since the current alignment went into effect in 2006, the site has rotated between each district and no school has hosted the event more than once. Even going back to 2000, only three schools – Shelby County, Oldham County and South Oldham – have hosted the girls' region more than once.

And for the record, Anderson County is scheduled to host the event for the first time next year.

Friday, it should be an electric atmosphere at Gallatin County High School for the girls' regional tournament. You will have the teams that have been at the top of the region all season, Anderson County and South Oldham, trying to end the year for a couple of smaller schools, Owen County and Walton-Verona.  Ironically, the team that broke Anderson's long regional winning streak this year was Owen and the only regional team to beat South Oldham has been Walton-Verona.

According to the fire marshal's notice in the Gallatin lobby, the gym can hold 1,920 people.

Owen, which is just a short drive from Gallatin County, had a great crowd at Tuesday's first round game. Walton-Verona, which is also a short drive from Gallatin, reportedly had a big following on Monday.  The northern Bearcats had a huge crowd at last year's regional as well. It really will be a high school version of the atmosphere that accompanies the NCAA Final Four semi-finals.

“They will bring a huge following,” Anderson coach Tony Kays said of Owen, “So it should be an exciting atmosphere for the kids.”

South Oldham and Walton-Verona tip off at 6  p.m. on Friday with Anderson and Owen going about 7:30.

Directions to Gallatin County High School
The easiest way to get to Gallatin County High School from Lawrenceburg is to take US 127 North through Frankfort and Owenton. The road will merge with US 42 at the Ohio River. Take a left there and the high school is a short drive down US 42 on the left, just inside the Warsaw city limits. The school is directly across from the Dairy Queen.

Fans can also get off 127 onto highway 35 north of Owenton. Stay on 35 until it dead ends into US 42 in Warsaw.  Take a right and the school is about a mile down the road on the right, across from the Dairy Queen.
Gallatin athletic director Jon Jones said Tuesday that the school expects to have two parking lots open. The main parking lot is located at the high school, but Jones said the middle school parking lot, just west of the high school will also be utilized and is a very short walk to the high gym.

Tickets are $6 each.

A bit of history

Gallatin is one of my favorite places to go on the road. The gym is not huge, but it is first rate. Jones, the long-time boys' basketball coach at Gallatin, is one of those really nice guys that has paid his dues. He came painfully close to advancing to the Sweet 16 in 2008, when the Wildcats lost to Shelby County on a tip-in with six seconds to play.

If you are a hoops history buff, check out Gallatin's main lobby. The school has traditionally had a very good basketball tradition – Anderson County resident Paul Watts once coached there. Like many small schools, making it through a region to the Sweet 16 is a rare feat.

Gallatin's boys have made only one trip to the Sweet 16, back in 1959. The coach was Jock Sutherland, who later won a state championship at Lafayette and then became well-known as the commentator on Louisville Cardinal broadcasts. A photo of that team greets people as they enter the gym.
Gallatin's girls also won the region in 1997 and defeated one of the best Anderson teams ever in the regional semi-finals.