COLUMN: Community pride in Lady Bearcats on display in Diddle

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By John Herndon

There are people who will try to convince you that no one cares about high school sports any more.


They should have been in Diddle Arena last week.

Then there are some who just say that high school sports really aren't important, that our schools should be spending all of their resources on academics.

They should have been in Diddle, too.

It seemed like everyone else in Lawrenceburg was there.

OK, that IS an exaggeration. According to the Census Bureau, the poplulation of The Burg is 10,615 which is more than 3,000 above the grand old arena's capacity. But I think you get the idea.

Over the last month, I watched a community come together behind a group of 15 girls who wonder about what they will wear to the prom or who might, repeat might, like Justin Timberlake.

Yes, it was basketball. Yes, the sun came back up about 18 hours after the Anderson County Lady Bearcats finally went down in the girls' state tournament. Those 15 girls had to be in class Monday morning.

They didn't cure cancer nor did they solve the national debt problems.

But for three glorious weeks, Anderson County came together. Trips to Shelbyville, Goshen and Bowling Green meant hundreds of miles on the car and, in all likelihood, too much fast food.

 It was worth every bit of it.

Kids dressed silly. Adults proudly walked beside them. Most were proudly wearing a shirt that said “Anderson County.” You simply can't manufacture that kind of community pride.

Truthfully, I had seen Anderson County get behind great athletic teams before. As a kid, I was awed by the standing room only crowds the Bearcats played before in 1971. As a writer, I can still remember looking over my shoulder at a sea of red shirts at Rupp Arena in 1997. Twelve years later, I was in Rupp again when Anderson County fans gobbled up an estimated 6-7,000 tickets for the Bearcat games.

I was there in the fall of 2011 when Anderson County fans might have outnumbered the hometown Bowling Green faithful for the state football finals.

But the last month was different. It was girls' basketball.

Despite the efforts of some to convince the casual fan that the 2013 Lady Bearcats had the potential to be something special, that while the game were different, they were still exciting, and that they were well worth the time invested, attendance lagged behind that of the boys' team.

Unfortunately, that's just how it is.

However, a few moments after the Lady Bearcats had rallied from 10 points down with 90 seconds to play to beat Simon Kenton in the Eighth Region championship game, a tweet popped up on my Twitter timeline, saying something along the line of “This game shows that girls' basketball played at a high level can be every bit as exciting as the boys.”

Anderson County found that out last week.

Some estimated there were at least 2,000 Lady Bearcat fans descending on Bowling Green three times last week. I don't know about that but what I do know is that Anderson County had one of the largest cheering sections of the 16 teams that made it there.

Students did The Harlem Shake over and over again. They yelled and screamed in support of their friends.

And they seemed to understand that girls' basketball can be mighty good. Anderson willed a win over a great Henderson County team, then routed an over-matched Shelby Valley before running into a Marion County club that could give a lot of small college teams a run for the money.

It was a week of community and school pride that money can't buy. I can guarantee you it was an experience few will ever forget.

You see, it really was important. It wasn't about “some basketball games.” The Sweet 16 was about an accomplishment. It was about those teenaged girls setting a goal of greatness and then achieving it.

It didn't end in a state championship. Not many expected that with Marion County, one of the most dominant teams in Kentucky history, looming in the field.

But it was undoubtedly a ride to greatness. The Lady Bearcats won 34 games and they were playing in the Final Four. It was the first time any girls' basketball team from Anderson County had accomplished so much success.

It was a ride we could all embrace.


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