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The top local sports stories of 2013

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By John Herndon

The year 2013 was a memorable one in Anderson County sports, usually because of the great accomplishments of individuals, but in at least one instance, the story goes well beyond the sidelines.

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There were many big local sports stories over the last 12 months, many more than would usually warrant an inclusion in this list. The picks that follow are mine, although there was some consultation on a few of the stories considered. I have picked what I believe to be the most compelling local stories with the most interest to the most people.

Three of the picks were no-brainers. After that, a case could be made for at least eight other stories with much local interest. At least those 11 stories were considered.

Here is a look at the top sports stories in Anderson County in 2013.


1.Anderson County girls' basketball

Even though Anderson County played in the first game of the revived girls' state tournament in 1975 and the Lady Bearcats had made the big show on two other occasions, the school had never won a game in the Sweet 16.

Until 2013, that is.

Ranked No. 2 in the state for most of the season, the Lady Bearcats almost did not make it to Bowling Green for the state. Facing a cold shooting night and a fired up Simon Kenton team in the Eighth Region Tournament final at North Oldham High School, Anderson found itself behind by 10 points with 90 seconds to play.

Somehow, the Lady Bearcats made up those 10 points to send the game in overtime, where they won 70-68. Senior Kali Whiteside, who had single-handedly kept the Lady Bearcats in striking distance with her phenomenal play, was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.

At the state tournament, Anderson did not disappoint.

The blind draw pitted the Lady Bearcats against No. 3 Henderson County in the marquee first-round game. Andeson blistered the nets early, but fought off a furious Henderson rally. The Colonels actually got within a point before the Lady Bearcats pulled away for a 65-54 win.

In the quarterfinals, the Lady Bearcats routed Shelby Valley, from far eastern Kentucky to get a date with Marion County, the heavy tournament favorite and a team considered to be in the nation's top five.

It might have been a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Marion rolled to a 72-49 win in the semi-finals and went on to complete an undefeated season.

Anderson finished 34-2 and, when the Lady Bearcats finally lost, it snapped a 26-game winning streak. Anderson was most likely the second-best team in the tournament. Juniors Makenzie Cann and Eriel McKee were named to the all-tournament team and led a group of returnees – Anderson only lost two seniors, one a starter – back.

As expected for most of the off-season, the Lady Bearcats were the No. 1 pick statewide in nearly every pre-season poll, apparently a first for any Anderson team in history.

Even though the Lady Bearcats suffered two losses before Christmas, they are considered a legitimate threat to win the state championship in March, 2014. In December, McKee, who was already the school's all-time leading girls' basketball scorer, passed Jonathan Beasley, Jimmy Dan Conner and her cousin, C.J. Penny, to become the school's leading scorer, boys or girls.

During the off-season, McKee signed to play at Morehead State while Cann, ranked the top player in Kentucky in the pre-season, inked with the University of Cincinnati. It is believed to be the first time since 1971 that two Anderson County athletes from the same team signed with schools playing at the Division I level.

All in all, the Anderson County Lady Bearcats had a year to remember.

 

2.A change at the top of Anderson County softball.

Brian Glass had earned the reputation as one of Kentucky's top high school softball coaches. His teams had made two trips to the state tournament and were often ranked in the state's Top 25 teams.

His Anderson County teams had won the last two 30th District Tournaments and had advanced to the Eighth Region semi-finals both years.

With nearly the entire team expected back in 2014, the Lady Bearcats are expected to be heavy favorites for the Eighth Region championship and could be ranked among Kentucky's Top 15, maybe even higher.

But Glass learned in the summer that he won't be around to coach what was expected to be one of his best teams. The reason is a statute in the Kentucky Education Reform Act that prohibits relatives of the principal from working at a school.

Chris Glass, the coach's older brother, was named interim principal at Anderson County High School in late May.

Glass, who taught physical education at the high school, transferred to Anderson County Middle School, but a legal opinion given to Anderson County school superintendent Sheila Mitchell said that the prohibition applies to coaches as well.

In the community, there were unverified allegations that the Glass brothers were told that Brian's coaching job would not be in jeopardy if Chris was named principal. Since it is a personnel matter, making it confidential, there is no way to find that out for certain.

What is clear is that the Anderson softball program is moving on as if Glass will not be back.

On Dec. 20, The Anderson News inquired about the situation. Anderson County athletic director Rick Sallee confirmed the program's assistant coaches, Brent Aldridge and Shawn Black, are leading off-season workouts and are expected to lead the team in 2014.

 

3.Anderson County football makes the state semifinals again.

You know you have a powerhouse program when a team goes 11-3 and makes the state semifinals and some fans are disappointed.

But that is exactly what happened to Anderson County football. The Bearcats not only went 11-3, they won district and regional championships, the latter being only the second in the history of the school.

Maybe it was because that was expected at Anderson in 2014. The Bearcats went unbeaten in district play, clinching the crown with a rousing home-field performance against Franklin County. They took the region, scoring late, then intercepting two Franklin passes in the final two minutes of a game played in horrendous conditions after a week of rains.

But the Bearcats could not close the deal in the semifinals, turning the ball over three times and giving several big plays as Pulaski County advanced to the state championship game.

Individually, reciever Ross Cox was named to the several all-state teams and was selected to play against the Tennessee All-Stars in the annual Border Bowl. Kicker Joe Rose was also an all-state selection and lineman Darius Harvey was an honorable mention.

The lofty expectations were warranted. Anderson County has now established itself as one of Kentucky's best Class 5A teams.

 

4.Declining attendance at high school sports.

For years, Anderson County has had the reputation as one of the best at supporting high school athletics. Packed houses have been the norm for Anderson football for years while the Anderson boys' basketball teams have routinely drawn large crowds over the years.

But for some reason, those crowds were noticeably down in 2013.

There were times when the Anderson faithful really turned out, to be sure. At the girls' Eighth Region championship game, the crowd was heavily pro-Anderson even though North Oldham is located over an hour from Lawrenceburg. Anderson coaches credited the crowd with playing a major role in the Lady Bearcats' win as it appeared Simon Kenton could not hear instructions from the sidelines.

At the girls' Sweet 16, most observers believed Anderson to have the second-largest contingent – behind Marion County – at the tourney. And football games against Franklin County and Pulaski County were full houses, although they were late-arriving crowds.

However, there were many nights when basketball teams played to a handful of people. The first-round football playoff, played on a beautiful night, saw the northern Kentucky school bring as many fans as the home team.

Admittedly, football and other outdoor sports suffered from bad weather much of the year. The Anderson baseball team, which had seen renovations to its field take longer than expected, did not play a home game until the final week of the season.

Some also pointed to the weak economy as a culprit, but high school sports are such that a family of four can attend a game for less than the cost of a movie or just about any other form of entertainment.

It was a development that left many fans and school administrators scratching their heads to figure out.

 

5.Anderson County golf

We lump Anderson County High School boys' and girls' golf together as both made their marks on the local sports scene in 2013.

On the girls' side, senior Kaitlyn Riley qualified for the state golf tournament as an individual. It meant that Riley advanced to the state all four years in high school. It is certain that no other Anderson girl golfer had ever accomplished the feat and it is believed to be the first time any Anderson athlete competing in a single-class sport has ever turned the trick. She finished tied for 22nd at the state and later signed to play collegiately at the University of the Cumberlands.

The Anderson boys had come so close to qualifying as a team so many times that it was becoming one of the most frustrating chases in Anderson sports.

But at the regional tournament at Campbellsville, the Bearcats and host Taylor County were deadlocked after 18 holes. Anderson prevailed in the extra hole with Nick Wilson, who later signed with Union College, providing the big shot.

It was the first time the Anderson team had made the state in nearly 20 years and the school went all-out with a send-off and pep rally.

At the state, the Bearcats let their nerves get the best of them and went out at the first cut, but Lee Robinson was able to play the second day as an individual and finished in a tie for 13th place with a two-day total of 151, seven over at the Bowling Green Country Club. It is believed to be the highest finish ever for an Anderson golfer at the state. Robinson also signed with the University of the Cumberlands.

 

Other local stories considered: Local resident Kenton Bottoms becomes director of Anderson County Parks and Recreation; Anderson County youth football gets back on the ground, with high school coaches taking an active role; Anderson County wrestlers claim their first-ever win over LaRue County.

Also considered were three regional stories with plenty of impact in Anderson County: Louisville's year in which the Cardinals won the Sugar Bowl, an NCAA men's basketball championship, a women's basketball national runner-up and the baseball team's berth in the College World Series; Kentucky basketball being shut out of the NCAA Tournament and losing in the first round of the NIT; The Cincinnati Reds faltering down the stretch and in a one-game playoff.

 

Comment at www.theandersonnews.com.