WESTWOOD, Ky. – They checked the defense at the door.
The high-octane battle between the 1977 and 1979 Fairview High School basketball teams was one Wild West(wood) shootout, fueled by the addition of adding the 3-point shot to the arsenals of these high-scoring teams.
Everybody expected a lot of points but what transpired in the Fairview gym will be talked about for years. It may be the wildest game in the simulation series of 16th Region games.
Besides the familiarity of being only two years apart, their records were astonishingly close – 77 was 26-4 and 79 was 26-5. George Cooke was the coach for both teams so that was going to be a little tricky in this showdown.
“It’s not a problem,” Cooke said. “These guys can coach themselves. I’ll sit on one bench for a half and the other bench the second half.
“Has anybody seen my plaid jacket?”
Bob Morrison was assigned to stay with the 77 team and Rex Cooksey to the 79 team to make the calls when necessary.
“Don’t worry,” Cooke said, “it won’t be necessary.”
The big crowd was filing in early for the game. It was such a large crowd that George Stout ran out of game programs, which never happened. The cheerleaders had sold 1,500 programs for him and there was still a line to get into the game.
“Hey Baldy,” Cooke yelled to Stout. “Where are you going to put all these people?”
Stout had $1 bills coming out of every pocket from the program sells.
“Don’t worry about it old man,” he yelled back. “You just coach the teams and leave the rest to me.”
It was going to be that kind of night. The scoreboard lights better work well if the pregame warmups meant anything. Nobody was missing and that included some long bombs.
“I like this 3-point shot,” said Jack Preston, a guard on the 79 team. “We’re used to taking them from here.”
It was a bombs away! kind of night for both teams.
In the first quarter, the teams went up and down the floor in rapid fashion with the 79 Eagles putting up 31 points. They tried out some 3-point shooting and it was much to their liking with Preston, Wesley Meeks and Tim Holbrook getting comfortable behind the arc.
Cooke, who started out on the bench for the 79 team, was barking at them for not playing defense.
“This is not a YMCA league game,” he said. “Play some (expletive) defense!”
He couldn’t argue with the offense though. Thirty-one points was a lot for an eight-minute quarter. And then they topped it in the second quarter, outscoring the 77 Eagles 32-30 to lead 63-52 at the half.
Nobody was going anywhere at the half, not even to get a soft drink and popcorn, for fear of losing their seat.
This wild shootout had everybody’s attention.
Coach Cooke could be heard peeling paint in both locker rooms under the home stands because of a lack of defense. He would sit on the bench for the 77 team in the second half. The game was so fast paced that nobody had much time to make adjustments. It was some of the most amazing shooting anybody had witnessed.
The 77 Eagles had some serious firepower in David Rowe, a senior who was dominating inside. He had 25 points at the half and even took a plastering from Bronnie McKenzie on an inside move.
Rowe picked himself up, with help from McKenzie, and played on.
“We couldn’t even slow him down,” said Rick Lambert, who tried to match up with Rowe. “He’s so good. I just knew if we were going to win, we’d have to outscore them. I think they felt the same way.”
True enough. In the third quarter the 77 Eagles held a small edge, 30-28, but trailed 91-82 and there was still eight minutes remaining.
“I felt confident at that point that we were going to get them,” Preston said. “I even saw George Stout putting on his coat to go home. That was a good sign for us.”
The 79 Eagles had led from the very start and by as much as 15 points at 53-38 when Meaux Mullins sank one of two free throws. That was late in the first half but the 77 Eagles were able to knock the lead under double figures.
“That was huge for us,” said Keith Menshouse. “We were on the verge of being in big trouble.”
Early in the fourth quarter, facing a 95-84 deficit, the 77 Eagles came to life. Over the next four minutes, the game changed. Rowe was big during that surge. Bobby Clark’s two free throws made it 101-98 with 4:19 remaining.
“I gotta tell you, I was getting tired,” said Tim Holbrook. “We had that big lead and blew it. Those last four minutes were some of the wildest I’ve ever played.”
The 79 Eagles maintained the lead, barely, at 108-105 when Rowe scored on a putback. After a turnover, the 77 Eagles went to him again. He caught the ball on the high post, faked one way and drove the other to score and put his team ahead 109-108. It was their first lead and came with 2:08 remaining. But plenty of time remained.
“I’ve never ever seen anything like this game,” Cooke said. “I didn’t do much coaching. I got caught up in the excitement.”
Chuck Queen buried a corner 3 and the 77 Eagles, who trailed the entire way, were leading 112-108. Lambert and Preston scored on consecutive possessions to tie it again at 112.
Lambert was able to work around Rowe, using his left hand to score, and Preston drilled a mid-range jumper from about 15 feet.
The crowd was in a frenzy, louder than anybody could ever remember. It was so loud that it set off alarms and the police and fire department had to come. The game was delayed for a few minutes but it was a welcome break.
They had played 30 minutes of basketball and scored 224 points between them.
“The greatest game I’ve ever seen,” Cooke said.
Wesley Meeks scored on a driving layup to put 79 ahead again at 114-112 but Menshouse lined up a 3-pointer from deep in the corner. He let it go and it swished as the net spun up over the rim. Now the 77 Eagles were leading 115-114 with only 32 seconds to play.
Preston was controlling the ball and he zipped a behind-the-back pass to Lambert, who pump faked Rowe and then drove around him for a layup and a 116-115 lead. The crowd rose to its feet on the 79 side of the gym.
Only 10 seconds remained and Menshouse quickly inbounded to Clark. He drove past a pair of defenders and lobbed it inside to Rowe, who corralled the ball and then shot a hook over Lambert’s outstretched hand. The buzzer sounded with the basketball at its highest point and then came straight down and through the basket. The 77 Eagles had won 117-116 in dramatic last-second fashion.
Players from both teams were sprawled out all over the floor but the fans rushed out anyway. It was like a scene out of “Hoosiers” as players congratulated each other. Even George Cooke was seen smiling and George Stout hadn’t left after all.
“This is the greatest simulation game in history,” shouted Stout.
Some of the final numbers included 40 points and 10 rebounds from Rowe, who was named the MVP. He made 14 of 20 floor attempts and 12 of 13 free throws. Five others were in double figures: 18 from Bobby Clark, 17 from Chuck Queen and 13 for Keith Menshouse. Doug Stevens and Jeff Rigsby scored 10 apiece.
Six players scored double figures for the 79 Eagles led by Holbrook with 23 points and Preston with 20, 12 assists and five steals. Meeks and Lambert had 19 apiece and Meaux Mullins collected 17 points and six assists.
Jeff Hall, only a freshman, scored 14 off the bench. Lambert also had 12 rebounds.
Fairview 1977 team finished 26-4 and were 16th Region runners-up to Ashland.
Fairview 1979 team finished 26-5 and fell in the 16th Region semifinals to Holy Family.
1977 FAIRVIEW (117) – Clark 6-10 5-8 18, Stevens 3-6 2-2 10, Menshouse 5-10 0-0 13, Rowe 14-20 12-13 40, Queen 7-13 2-2 17, Rigsby 2-8 0-0 6, Burchett 3-8 1-2 10, R.Menshouse 2-3 2-4 6. FG: 41-76. FT: 23-28. 3FG: 12-29 (Stevens 2-4, K.Menshouse 3-5, Clark 1-4, Queen 1-1, Rigsby 2-7, Burchett 3-8). Rebounds: 46 (Clark 5, Stevens 4, Menshouse 5, Rowe 10, Burchett 5, Queen 8, Rigsby 3, R.Menshouse 4). Assists: Clark 8, Stevens 1, Menshouse 1, Rowe 1, Queen 2, Rigsby 3, Burchett 2). PF: 26. Turnovers: 26.
1979 FAIRVIEW (116) – Preston 7-12 2-4 20, Meeks 6-11 3-3 19, Holbrook 8-22 4-6 23, Lambert 8-15 3-4 19, Hall 7-12 0-0 14, Mullins 6-11 5-9 17, McKenzie 1-3 2-4 4. FG: 43-86. FT: 19-30. 3FG: 11-21 (Preston 4-5, Meeks 4-6, Holbrook 3-10). Rebounds: 34 (Preston 2, Meeks 3, Holbrook 2, Lambert 12, Hall 3, Mullins 6, McKenzie 6). Assists: 26 (Preston 12, Meeks 5, Holbrook 2, Lambert 3, Hall 2, Mullins 2). PF: 23. Turnovers: 16.
1977 FAIRVIEW 22 30 30 35 – 117
1979 FAIRVIEW 31 32 28 25 – 116