What if I told you, there were stories in Second Region lore that would be worthy of 30 for 30s on a local scale?
With a global pandemic shutting down sports for the past two months, ESPN’s 10-part series “The Last Dance” on the ascension of the Chicago Bulls to NBA greatness has been center stage in America each of the last five Sundays.
The first 30 for 30 documentary aired on ESPN 11 years ago. The series had told some of the best stories in the sports landscape since the launch of ESPN in 1979. However, the series has told older stories dating back to the 1960s and 1970s.
What stories from schools in the Second Region would be worthy of a 30 for 30 film or even a short series? There are lot of stories that could be told. The list would be long. However, here is a list of 10 ideas should ESPN ever show up wanting to tell a story on a national stage.
Bird is the Word – The story of Hopkinsville’s William “Bird” Averitt who went from the local basketball courts to a career in the American Basketball Association and later the NBA. Averitt led Hopkinsville to the 1969 region title and took his game to Pepperdine University where he led the nation in scoring in 1973 at 33.9 points a game. He was drafted by both the NBA’s Portland Trailblazers and ABA’s San Diego Conquistadors but eventually played in the ABA where he helped the Kentucky Colonels to the 1975 ABA title. He also played in the NBA for the New Jersey Nets and Buffalo Braves.
Kingpins – Small schools in Kentucky aren’t supposed to become dynasties and dominate the unclassed high school sports landscape. Don’t tell that to the Union County wrestling program. Five straight state wrestling championships. 12 state titles overall. Don’t forget the legacy of the Ervin family. Union County has Ervins that coach wrestling, broadcast wrestling matches on WMSK Radio, and produce state champion wrestlers. Not bad for a school with just over 600 kids.
Blazing to ‘A’ Dynasty – University Heights Academy is synonymous with All-A Classic success. The small school has won 25 of the 31 boys’ basketball region titles and brought home nine All-A state titles. Their 53 All-A Classic state tournament wins are 21 more than any other school. But they haven’t been the darlings of the region because of their success, with some calling them the ‘Duke of the Second Region.’
Diamond Jim – Jim Perrin built Christian County into a perennial softball powerhouse in the state of Kentucky. This came while he coached the wrestling program to a state title in 1988. Christian County won three state softball titles in the final three years of slow pitch in the state. Because Perrin was ahead of the curve in the switch from slow pitch to fast pitch, Christian County won the 1996 state title. No other school in state history has won four state titles in a seven-year span. His impact on the sport is still felt locally today.
You Can Call Him Al – The eighth of 11 children, competition came natural to Al Baker. If you go anywhere in the state and mention Trigg County, odds are Al Baker’s name will come up. His gridiron exploits of over 5,300 rushing yards and 51 touchdowns caused Louisville Coach Howard Schnellenberger to land a helicopter on the front lawn of the high school to make his recruiting pitch. Two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin spoke at the football team’s annual banquet and likely tried to woo him to Columbus. He also set a state record in the 100-meter dash that still stands today and could bench press 360 pounds. Al played at the University of Kentucky and is still the only Trigg County football player ever taken in the NFL Draft.
It Takes an Army – Fort Campbell built a football powerhouse in the late 1970s and then went in the opposite direction by the time Y2K hit. Shawn Berner helped resurrect a program that would win three consecutive state titles by the end of the decade. All the while, serving as a father-figure to players whose fathers were serving overseas or in some cases, killed before their sons graduated high school. Despite the adversity, the Falcons overcame to produce three state titles.
Kentucky Charm – Emma Talley won people over on the golf course not only because of her dominance at the high school level, but also her friendly disposition with an awesome western Kentucky drawl. She won an NCAA title and later a U.S. Women’s Amateur championship before joining the PGA Tour. But as a golfer at Caldwell County High School, she was on her way to winning four straight state golf titles – something only one other person had done. If not for signing an incorrect scorecard her sophomore year in 2009, she would have claimed the four-peat. It was Emma that self-reported the error, costing her the state title but winning her fans statewide and establishing her golfing legacy.
Blazing Trails – Dwight Smith was a pioneer on both the basketball court and his family. A standout basketball player at Princeton Dotson High School, he helped usher in the era of desegregation in Caldwell County. He was the class valedictorian and the first college graduate in his family. Dwight played at Western Kentucky University where he and Clem Haskins were the first two African Americans to play basketball at the school. He was drafted in the second round of the 1967 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Lakers and would have played along side Jerry West and Elgin Baylor. He died in a traffic crash on Mother’s Day weekend before ever suiting up for the Purple and Gold.
The Marshall Plan – Marshall Patterson served in the Army. He then helped begin the athletic program at Fort Campbell. He won 227 games in 32 years as head football coach with the Falcons and won three state championships. He also won a state wrestling title in 1971 and served as athletic director at the school. Patterson also coached on a military installation during both the Vietnam and Gulf War when players on his teams attended school while worrying about a parent or family member fighting overseas. The story would be told through the voice of former players who fought to get him elected into the KHSAA Hall of Fame in 2016 – two years after his death.
Jumping Joe – Joe Fulks was a local basketball legend at Kuttawa High School and later at Murray State University. He left college after two years to fight in World War II where he served in the Marines. Months after his discharge, Fulks joined Philadelphia Warriors of the Basketball Association of America, a league that later became the NBA. He set several league scoring records and his 63 points in 1949 was an NBA record for 10 years until Elgin Baylor scored 64. One of the pioneers of the modern jump shot, Fulks was named to the NBA’s 25 Anniversary Team in 1971. He was shot and killed five years later by the son of his girlfriend during an argument over a handgun.