By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
A few years ago when The Arena was awarded the 13th Region basketball tournament, I was quick to voice my disapproval in the move. I thought that taking the tournament away from schools would kill the atmosphere that we had become used to.
And in a sense it did. The larger arena meant the fans were further away, especially the students.
This year, the Kentucky High School Athletic Association and Commissioner Julian Tackett allowed Harlan County to host the boys’ and girls’ tournaments. Harlan County’s been wanting to play host ever since they built their multi-million dollar temple in the foothills of the mountains of Harlan County.
And let me say, I missed the Arena.
First off, the multiple drives to Harlan County, with today’s gas prices, put a strain on the old wallet. I missed just zipping down I-75 to the Arena, a drive that took maybe 15 minutes at the most.
I also missed the parking at the Arena. To park in the assigned lot at Harlan County I had to go through three checkpoints before being allowed to park. Speaking of parking, that’s the one thing the school is lacking, as cars had to park along side Hwy. 119. That also happened when Bell County played host to the region before it moved to the Arena.
As for the atmosphere I was hoping would be back, well, for the games I attended, it just wasn’t there. Most of the nights the student sections were almost empty, as I guess a lot of parents didn’t want their children to drive to Harlan County at night. Also, a lot of your casual basketball fans didn’t want to make the drive(s) down there. I know several who stayed at home. The games themselves had more of a regular season feel instead of a region tournament feel. When they played at the Arena it seemed more like a special event.
It could have been a little more media-friendly. I won’t go into any details, but talking among the media present we pretty much agreed on that.
So Clay County will represent the 13th Region in the boys’ tourney which starts today at Rupp Arena, while Corbin will play in the girls’ tourney next week at Western Kentucky University. Congratulations to both teams and their coaches.
As of right now I’m not sure where the region will be held next year. Will it go back to the Arena, or will another high school host it? That will be decided in the coming weeks.