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What a night!

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Celebration of 100 years of basketball was about Anderson, the county

By John Herndon

Each person had a slightly different story.

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It cold have been Anita Waldridge, the first great girls' basketball player at Western High School, thinking of the proud little school located about 15 miles west of Lawrenceburg. From 1975-77, Waldridge was an honorable mention all-state selection three times. Her team was one of the better ones in the Eighth Region.

But she never played beyond the district tournament. “Anderson was so good,” she remembered.

But some of those Anderson players also remembered Waldridge. Gate-worker Vicki Walker was all smiles as she escorted Waldridge to meet me in the lobby at Anderson County High School The coach of those great Anderson teams, Anne Flynn, who was there to represent her sister, Nancy Flynn Davis, chatted with Waldridge.

I offered that I remembered seeing Nancy Flynn and Anita Waldridge going at it during the early days of girls' high school basketball. They might have been the two best centers in central Kentucky.

It was that kind of night Friday night. It was about Anderson County.

Not Anderson County High School. It merely hosted the brief ceremony honoring the best basketball players in the history of Anderson County.

It was Jimmy McBrayer, a cousin and perhaps the closest living relative of Kavanaugh High School great Paul McBrayer, accepting a certificate that was a small token to commemorate Paul McBrayer's legacy. Paul McBrayer graduated from high school in 1926, but Anderson County still remembers.

It was C.J. Penny, who will never be forgotten simply because of his buzzer-beating 3-pointer that sent the Anderson County Bearcats to the 2009 Sweet 16. Two angles of that shot have pulled in more than 22,000 views on You Tube. But the personable Penny seemed genuinely surprised when current Anderson coach Glen Drury showed a photo that will hang at the school commemorating Penny's place as the school's all-time leading scorer.

And it was local realtor John Cunningham proudly wearing a “Lincoln Institute, 1955 State Champs” jacket. In those days, Cunningham, and many of his friends, were not allowed to attend Anderson County schools because of the color of their skin. Yet, many created a great legacy of their own at the school for black people located near Simpsonville.

Today, however, those same people are part of the Anderson County family.

And that was what Friday's celebration was all about.

“This was about the community,” Drury would say later. “This meant a lot to the community.”

A crowd of well over 1,000 turned out on a night when the weather was bad and temperatures were dipping into the low single digits. Thursday's snow had closed school and the celebration, which had already been canceled once before because of snow, was not definitely on until noon, just a little over seven hours before it went off.

Yet eight of the 12 women and 15 of the men (or their representatives) were able to make it. They smiled. They hugged and they reminisced. Some shed a tear or two.

But it might have been a freshman at Anderson County High School who might have not even heard of most of the special guests that showed just what Friday was about. Anderson Lady Bearcat Eriel McKee accepted an award in honor of her grandfather, Lincoln Institute player Wallace Bean, who could not make it because of his health. She also accepted one on behalf of her brother, Eric McKee, who was traveling with his team at Kentucky Christian University.
But before things got started, Eriel was having a long chat with her cousin, Santana McKee, and Courtney Milam, two of the greatest girls' players in Anderson County history.

It's called tradition. It has built in Anderson County over 100 years of basketball. It can continue to grow over the next 100 years.

Friday, whether it started at Lawrenceburg, Kavanaugh or Anderson County High School, it did not really matter.

For at few hours, at least, everyone was on the same team.

And Anderson County, the community and the school, were the real winners.

Kudos to the crew
Major props are due the Anderson County High School maintenance crew. The group worked feverishly all day Friday to clear the parking lot at the school. They also made sure the sidewalks were safe and did every little thing imaginable to make sure a big night for Anderson County basketball would go off.

My hat, and hopefully that of everyone that took part in Friday's celebration, is off to them.