A basketball party in Lexington

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By Brian Blair

The Commonwealth of Kentucky threw its annual party last week in Lexington.

Sixteen teams from around the state earned the right to take part in the National City/Sweet 16 at Rupp Arena.

The tournament tipped off Wednesday afternoon and concluded on Saturday night with the Holmes Bulldogs cutting down the nets after defeating Louisville Central in double overtime in the Championship Game.

With the win the Bulldogs became just the second team from the Ninth Region to win the title. The only other time it happened was back in 1981 when Simon Kenton claimed the title.

My Dad and I, like we have done for the past three years, went to Lexington on Saturday and watched the semifinals in the morning and then the title game that night. In between we checked out a movie and ate dinner across from Rupp Arena that evening.

We had no ties to anyone playing in the games, we go to just watch and enjoy hanging out. We are not alone. It is amazing to me to see all the people who come to Lexington to do the exact same thing.

As we walked around Rupp Arena between games it was apparent just how passionate the state is about high school basketball as many schools from around the state were represented even though they were not in the tournament. That included a nice showing of people from Owen County who went down to watch the games and to be a part of something special that is part of Kentucky history.

The tournament has been going on for 92 years. Kentucky is one of the last states to have an all-inclusive state tournament that is not broken down by class. Maybe that is what makes the tournament so much fun and so interesting. The fact that a small school has the same chance to win as does the big school makes it that much more intriguing.

For example, it was fun on Saturday morning to watch Elliot County take on Covington Holmes. To listen to the crowd do its part to cheer on the smaller county school against the big city school helps make the tournament what it is.

The tournament’s long and proud history brings people of all ages to Rupp Arena. There is something special about sitting next to someone who has experienced many years of the tournament and listen to them relate stories of years past. At the same time, the same thing can be said about watching the wonder in the eyes of young fans who are watching the games and wishing that one day they may too have the chance to play on that court.

Every year the tournament culminates on Saturday night with the Championship Game. The game is preceded by the introduction of both schools’ administrators followed by every member of both teams. There is the singing of “My Old Kentucky Home” and the “National Anthem.”

To be a part of the game is a moment that very few will get to experience, but for those who do, it will be a memory they will never forget.

For those in the crowd, we hope for a good game; but no matter what, we know that come March of next year we will gather to do it all again.

It’s tradition.