Deuces wild for Ashland in 1928: Almost 2 good to be true?

The deuces were prevalent for the Ashland Tomcats and Ashland Kittens basketball teams in 1928.

Let’s count the ways:

–Ashland brought home not one, but two, state championships with both the Tomcats and Kittens winning it.

–Tomcat star Ellis Johnson was whistled for two fouls – the entire season! No wonder he was given the sportsmanship award after the tournament.

–Two Kittens players were named to a Lexington writer’s “All Kentucky Beautiful Girls Basketball Team.”

I couldn’t make this stuff up. Are  you seeing double yet?

When Ashland’s boys and girls swept the 1928 state basketball championships, it was a hero’s welcome when they returned home from Lexington. And why not? It was the first time in Kentucky high school history that any school swept the boys and girls championship honors.

The Tomcats did it in heart-stopping fashion by defeating Carr Creek 13-11 in four overtimes before a loud and rowdy crowd at the UK gymnasium. The Kittens defeated Oddville (I’m not kidding) by a score of 27-11.


A delegation of 10,000 awaited the train carrying the victors home and the mayor extended an official welcome and had some keys to the city to hand out (you reading this Steve Gilmore and Matt Perkins?) It was declared a half-holiday in Ashland with most of the businesses shutting down amid the celebration. A parade took the teams down Winchester Avenue and over to 17th Street where the party continued for hours. Picture shows (no movies yet), confectioneries, and amusements of all kind were made available for free to the Ashland teams who were clearly the toasts of town.

Ashland had more than 1,000 fans of the 4,000 in the UK gymnasium on the boys championship night, the Lexington Leader newspaper said. Special cars were made up that carried 400 on a train from Ashland to Lexington and the other 600 came Thursday. Carr Creek, the mountain team from Knott County that didn’t even have a gym where they could practice, had become tournament darlings and several thousand supporters, including many from the schools that had already been eliminated, were rooting for the Creekers

When the Kittens won the championship, they were showered with dozens of flowers on the floor. The state title was nothing new for coach W.B. Jackson, who had directed state titles in 1921 and 1922 – the first years of the tournament – and also in 1924.

Ashland’s boys had reached the semifinals twice and the finals once in previous state tournaments.

The attendance for the 1928 boys tournament was the best since it started, the newspaper reported.

The All-State team was selected by the two referees with Ashland’s Ellis Johnson and Darrell Darby among the five named. That’s right, five. Carr Creek had one player on the team.

Johnson won the sportsmanship award after a season where he was whistled for only two fouls in 37 games.

Carr Creek’s team was given the sportsmanship award and it’s no wonder why. They had captured everybody’s hearts. Fans of both teams hoisted their coaches, Jimmy Anderson for Ashland and Oscar Morgan for Carr Creek, on their shoulders following the exhausting four-overtime championship game.

E.M. Sargent, a writer for the Lexington Leader, selected his own team for the girls. He wrote: “Kentucky has always been noted for its beautiful women and therefore it is appropriate that an ‘All Kentucky Most Beautiful Girls Basketball Team’ be selected.” Evelyn Ashworth and Thelma Young of Ashland were among his team of “two blondes and three brunettes.”

Oh my, how times have changed.



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