Former Laurel County girls basketball coach Roy Bowling and his players who helped to put girls high school basketball on the radar, as well as former Laurel County cheerleaders, gathered together for the first time in over three decades this past weekend.
"It seemed like we were back all those years ago," said Janet Proffitt, former Laurel County basketball player.
Bowling, who had coached boys basketball at Hazel Green, boys basketball and baseball at London and was the baseball coach at Laurel County, was asked if he would start up the girls basketball program at Laurel County after the KHSAA reintroduced the sport in 1974.
In that first season (1974-75), the Lady Cardinals went 20-2, but fell to Monticello in the 12th Region finals. The following season they posted a 30-0 record and were ranked No. 1 in the state going into the region title game, but again lost to Monticello.
Laurel County went on to win the 1977 state title, defeating Paris 48-46, finishing with a 30-1 record.
The 1977 state title was the first of three consecutive state championships for Laurel County.
In 1978, the Lady Cards defeated Breathitt County 63-48 in the finals. And in 1979, Laurel County clipped Lafayette 43-36 in the championship game.
Though the Lady Cardinals didn't win another state title until 1987, Laurel County had made its mark in the state of Kentucky for girls high school basketball.
Bowling said that it's still unbelievable what those student athletes accomplished all those years ago.
"I started out with a young group and there was some talent there but really there wasn't overwhelming talent," he said. "They just worked hard and were so anxious to learn and try to do everything you told them to do. They just worked at it, jelled and played together, played as a team. It's just amazing what they did."
"It is unbelievable to think it has been 40 years since we won the last of three in a row and with an undefeated season," said former Laurel County basketball player Rachel Gaynor. "I think we knew we were pretty good back then and had players who were really confident in their abilities and we knew our coaching staff would have us prepared. When I look back at our team and at the teams now--I realized how much basketball we knew on top of being good athletes and fundamentally very sound."
Bowling had the opportunity to reunite with many of his former players, like Proffitt and Gaynor, as well as Lisa Collins and Sharon Garland who were named to the Kentucky Hall of Fame, for a reunion at the home of Proffitt and her husband, Glenn, over the weekend.
"It was amazing," Bowling said. "It was really, really nice to see those kids again."
"It is always really nice to see each other again as several have moved away from London and over the years have just lost touch with some of them," said Gaynor.
Proffitt said that Bowling was a father figure and a mentor to many of the girls, making this reunion very special to them all.
"It was great to see everyone," Proffitt said. "I hadn't seen some of them in a long time. Even though a lot of us live in the same town, we don't see a lot of each other and then some of us live out of town, so it was just special to see each other and be together and reminisce on the old days."
Bowling, along with his wife, Mary Jo, and his former players, even watched the 1977 state championship game during their reunion where they laughed about whether or not they would still win the title.
As many former players will agree, Gaynor said she still has a sense of pride knowing she was a part of something that was so special.
"Lots of fun memories when you win three state championships--I can't tell you how proud it still makes you feel when someone mentions the Laurel County 1970 teams and talks about how good they were and that they really put girls basketball on the map," Gaynor said. "Winning the state championship my senior year was probably one of the best things that has happened to me. We really felt the pressure of trying to win three straight being undefeated and being the team that was suppose to win it all. I feel like that was a learning experience that has impacted my professional and personal life. Each year brought about different challenges and through each challenge each girl learned something individually. Even when you do not see each another teammate for years when you do see them there is the special bond and it seems as if you can pick up quickly where you last left."
Proffitt said a lot of work went into the planning of this reunion and wanted to thank everyone who helped make it such a special, memorable event.
"A lot of people got together to make it all happen," Proffitt said. "We had a lot of donations, a lot of people made food and helped to set up and decorate it. A lot went into it but we just all pulled together as a team."