Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Sports Talk: The 3 Week Home Game Frenzy

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published Mar. 5, 2014.  
The last two weeks of CCHS basketball action has been a real treat and I am sorry to all of you Rebel and Lady Rebel fans who failed to make it to any games--especially since they've all been at our home gym, which was kind of the icing on the cake.

The best part all of these home games was the atmosphere that came with them. Having been to plenty of games over the last few years, I've seen plenty of nights where the stands are rather vacant. Even some of the nights when the student section has a crowd, they don't necessarily get "into" the games and the whole feel of the gym is pretty stagnant.

The electric atmosphere at CCHS started three weeks ago. First the boys' took a major victory over Green County the same night as the schools' Basketball Sweetheart ceremony, as well as seeing the two 2013 track and field state champions honored, Micah Smith and Shelby Stringer. The following night parents, players and alumni had a special night of honoring Coach Salyers.

Then, the final game of the season for both teams came the next Friday: a doubleheader hosting neighbor rival Lincoln County. It was a record crowd for a regular season game this year.

On top of being a great rival (particularly for the Lady Rebels) and Lincoln being close enough to send a respectable number of their own fans, Casey's crowd was aided by numerous before and between game events. Coach Salyer's was honored with the court being dedicated to him (a surprise for him) and unveiled at the beginning of the night. This was followed by a Marshall Forbes giving a spectacular performance of our national anthem. Then between games the senior ball players, cheerleaders and dance team members were recognized. After that the Casey County Bank did a $10,000 giveaway in which Principal Josh Blevins, a Rebel basketball alum himself, was randomly selected from a drawing to attempt making the necessary baskets to claim the prize... Much to his, and spectators' dismay, he came up short. The bank also honored players of the month during this break and Lakken Miller was officially welcomed into the Lady Rebel 1,000 Point Club after having hit the milestone earlier in the week.

All of this activity was just the side show to the main events: two basketball games. While the boys' took a pretty rough defeat, the Lady Rebs gave a stellar performance in which they took down the Lady Patriots, avenging their back-to-back 12th Region championship game losses from the past two years.

This night--the games, the crowd, the atmosphere--were the perfect prelude to the 47th District Tournament which Casey hosted. If you attended the doubleheader, it made you want to be there for the tournament games; if you missed the doubleheader and heard about it, you didn't want to miss out again.

Tournament time always brings a special buzz to the air--everyone knowing anything can happen and when it comes down to it, records are wiped clean and how you did all season does not matter--it's now down to earning one win at a time, one game at a time.

Casey's hosting of the tournament did not disappoint. The gym was packed night after night and saw plenty of excitement--at least for the Casey fans. Perhaps the Lady Rebel games weren't exactly nailbiters, but when you are on the winning side of a game, fans are always excited--especially when one of those wins makes history. Not only did the girls' earn the district title, but it's the first 'three-peat' in the program's history. As if that weren't enough, it gave Coach Salyers his first district title on his home court--now named after him.

Then you had the Rebels. You could not ask for a more fun game than what we saw last Thursday when the boys' took on Somerset and won by four points. The Rebels gave us everything you want in a tournament game: a comeback from behind (going down by 12 at one point), a second half that saw constant lead exchanges, a final 90 seconds that had you so nervous you could hardly stay in your seat, and a finish that made you proud to be a Rebel. They may not have come out on top in the championship game, but their second half performance gave Pulaski a run for their money and the young team fought to the end and proudly earned our school the runner-up trophy.

The home game excitement is officially over for this season, but thankfully the play is not. With both teams competing in the 12th Region tournament, the excitement only continues and if you have been to any regional games in the past, you know the electric atmosphere that exists. The boys are playing at Pulaski County High School and the girls will be at Lincoln County High School. Both teams play Wayne County. Obviously weather is keeping a lot of us at home this week but tune in on the radio if nothing else. These two teams and their coaches have given us a heck of a season and I for one don't want to see it end.

The Lady Rebels play today at 6 p.m. and the Rebels are scheduled to play Saturday at 7:45 p.m.

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