Lots of Irish eyes on 1967 vs. 1980 Holy Family matchup

ASHLAND, Ky. – All week long the talk was of the battle between two of Holy Family’s best basketball teams.

Who would prevail between the Irish teams of 1967 and 1980?

They both had reputations to uphold and the attention was building before Game Day. Several area schools offered to let the Irish use their gymnasiums because of the anticipated crowd, but they kept it in the Irish bandbox anyway. People were wall to wall and the noise was unbearable.

“We wanted the popcorn money,” said Bill Bradley, an interested onlooker. “There was a lot at stake.”

Coaches Bill Carroll of the 67 Irish and Mike Sherman of the 80 Irish were going to have a hard time communicating with the players.

The game was a sellout the day before it was scheduled so a closed-circuit viewing party was going to be allowed at the Knights of Columbus. There may have been some blurred vision in there – from the closed circuit, I mean – and they had to lock the doors. The overflow venue was already overflowing.

Both teams were careful what they said before the game but it was clear they both wanted this one.

The 67 Irish came up firing and took a 16-8 advantage over the stunned 80 Irish, who seemed a little shaken by the crowd.

“I’ve never seen so many people in this gym,” said Art McCullough, the slick-shooting forward. “I mean they were right on the floor with us. It was hard to tell where the out-of-bounds line was because of people spilling onto the floor.”

It was going to be an uphill fight for the 80 Irish, who trailed 32-23 at halftime after the poor first quarter.

“I took two timeouts in the first quarter and they were either not listening to me or couldn’t hear me, I’m not sure which one,” Sherman said. “We needed some time to settle down and we did in the second half.”

The biggest deficit of the game came at 34-23 when John Layne drilled an 18-footer to begin the second half. But the game started to turn after that for the 80 Irish, who seemed to get their footing behind point guard David Layne, who finished with 12 points and six assists.

“We did a great job in the first half and a poor job in the second half,” Carroll said. “

John Layne put the 67 Irish in front 41-33 but eight straight points from David Layne tied the game at 41 halfway through the third quarter. It was going to be a tight affair the rest of the way and the crowd was getting rowdy.

The game was tied three more times at 45, 53 and 57. The 67 Irish built a 57-54 advantage before Dave Michalak connected on four consecutive free throws to put the 80 Irish in front 58-57.

“Clutch free throws from Dave,” Sherman said. “This game had a little bit of everything.”

Tom Davis answered for the 67 Irish with a putback, powering it in over Dan Phillips, to make it 59-58 with 43 seconds remaining. Davis finished with 17 points and eight rebounds.

The 80 Irish chose to run the clock down and did so with perfection. Dave Layne’s ballhandling was aided by McCullough, who would pop out when he got into trouble. They also used two timeouts to run the clock down to 10 seconds.

Following the last timeout, the strategy was set with McCullough, who had 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting, primed to take the potential game-winner. He fired up a heavily contested shot from the wing that bounced high off the rim. It went up so high that several of the 67 Irish mistimed their jumps. Phillips snuck between Davis and Maynard Thomas and managed to get his left hand on the ball and tipped it in. The 80 Irish had pulled it off, 60-59, as fans poured onto the floor.

“Well, our last-second play didn’t work out like we planned but big Dan got the tip in there and made us a winner,” Sherman said.

Michalak had 13 points and five rebounds and Phillips eight points and eight rebounds for the 80 Irish. Thomas had 14 points and John Layne added 10 points, six rebounds and five assists for the 67 Irish.

“Disappointing loss because we led for nearly the whole game,” Carroll said. “Not sure how this simulation works, but my teams didn’t blow 11-point leads. You need to upgrade your computer. Our defense was good, not great, but that’s a good team. They had some firepower. That was a lucky bounce on Artie’s miss but give Phillips credit for hanging with it.”

Real life

Holy Family’s 1980 team was a special one, finishing 28-6 and reaching the 16th Region final for the 10th – and last time – in school history. The Irish fell to Ashland, 56-48. They had snapped the Tomcats’ four-and-a-half year winning streak against region competition with a victory in the 64th District final.

Holy Family’s 1967 team was a good one in a year when Ashland and Russell were both extra good. They stunned the Tomcats in the AIT but fell to them in the district finals by 27. The Irish finished 24-9.

1967 HOLY FAMILY (59) – J.Layne 4-10 2-2 10, Brislin 0-3 2-2 2, Morris 4-10 1-3 9, Davis 7-17 3-3 17, Thomas 6-8 2-4 14, Uhron 1-3 0-0 2, Borgerding 2-2 1-3 5. FG: 24-53. FT: 11-17. Rebounds: 26 (J.Layne 6, Brislin 1, Morris 3, Davis8, Thomas 4, Uhron 2, Borgerding 2). Assists: 14 (J.Layne 5, Brislin 4, Morris 3, Davis 1, Uhron 1). PF: 16. Turnovers: 11.

1980 HOLY FAMILY (60) – D.Layne 5-8 2-2 12, McCullough 7-10 2-2 16, Stewart 2-8 2-2 6, Michalak 3-7 7-8 13, Phillips 4-6 0-0 8, Bailey 1-3 0-0 2, Bauer 1-2 2-2 4, Bradley 0-1 0-0 0, Tussey 0-1 1-2 1. FG: 22-46. FT: 16-18. Rebounds: 33 (D.Layne 4, McCullough 4, Stewart 7, Michalak 5, Phillips 8, Bailey 2, Bauer 2, Bradley 1). Assists: 16 (D.Layne 6, McCullough 6, Stewart 3, Michalak 1). PF: 15. Turnovers: 11.

1967 HOLY FAMILY       16       16       13        14       –            59

1980 HOLY FAMILY        8        15      22        15        –           60



40 years ago this summer, Darryl Strawberry made his pro debut in Paintsville, and so did Jody Hamilton

It was 41 years ago this summer that George Steinbrenner put some Yankee pride into eastern Kentucky.

The former Yankee owner, who passed away in 2010, made the Paintsville Highlanders the Paintsville Yankees.

Paintsville’s pinstripes lived up to what The Boss wanted from his franchise. Paintsville won the Appalachian League championship in 1979, 1980 and 1981 and finished second in 1982.

That first season the Paintsville Yankees went 52-13 — an .800 winning percentage — and ran away with the Appalachian League title by 15 1/2 games over the Bluefield Orioles.

Paintsville’s own Boss was the late Paul Fyffe, who was more Bill Veeck than George Steinbrenner.

In other words, Fyffe knew how to draw a crowd.

But one July night in 1980, he almost went too far.

The Kingsport Mets were visiting Paintsville and top draft choice, 18-year-old Darryl Strawberry, was in the house.

Fyffe didn’t want the moment to pass without some fans in the stands. He planted a strawberry patch in right field — where Darryl Strawberry would be playing — and sold nothing but strawberry drinks in the concession stand. Also, fans got free admission to the two-game series if they brought a strawberry with them. He dubbed it the “Strawberry Festival.”

(The story of strawberries being dropped from a helicopter was not true. Although, if Fyffe thought it might work within fan safety regulations, I wouldn’t have put it past him to try it).

Darryl Strawberry was the Mets’ No. 1 draft choice on June 3, 1980. Jody Hamilton (below) and Strawberry both made their professional debuts in Paintsville in July 1980.

Not only was Strawberry a rookie, but so was Ashland native Jody Hamilton, who went undrafted but earned a spot on the Yankees after a tryout. It was a mystery why Hamilton wasn’t drafted. He was taken in the 16th round by the Texas Rangers after his junior season at Morehead State University but chose to stay in school. He had knee surgery in the offseason and that may have been what scared them off.

Hamilton left MSU as the school’s all-time home run king, a Triple Crown champion and an Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year. He still ranks as one of the Eagles’ greatest hitters.

He proved he could hit on the professional level, too, going 14-for-30 (.467) with eight walks, two home runs and 10 RBIs in his first 10 games with the Yankees. Hamilton ended up hitting .306 with six home runs in his 47-game professional career.

Hamilton also outhit Strawberry in that two-game series with the Kingsport Mets. In one game, he belted a 330-foot home run over the right-field fence to give the Yankees an 11-10 victory in the series opener.

Hamilton, of course, quit playing baseball to start coaching it in high school. It was a good move. Jody was one of the giants in Kentucky high school baseball history with more than 900 career victories and state championships at Boyd County High School in 2001 and West Jessamine High School a couple of years ago.

The 1980 “Strawberry Festival” was a sellout and a fun time in Paintsville, which, remember, was the property of the Yankees.

And there was the rub.

When The Sporting News ran an article about how a Yankee team in the Appalachian League’s Rookie League had promoted a New York Met, Steinbrenner blew a gasket and threatened to take away the franchise.

“It was like a scene from ‘Seinfeld’ where Steinbrenner is screaming at George over something that happened in Paintsville, Ky.,” said Jason Blanton, who began working for the Paintsville Yankees as a 14-year-old clubbie who folded uniforms and towels — and whatever else was asked of him. “That was our claim to fame with Steinbrenner. That was the only time he threatened the franchise.”

Blanton, who now works for Morehead State University’s media department, closely followed professional baseball in Paintsville to its end in 1984.

“It was a great time, as I look back on it,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

The Yankees were good to Paintsville, including putting money into the high school field that they called home in the summer. It was a showplace.

“He (Steinbrenner) made sure they had anything they needed,” Blanton said. “I remember one of the first days at a Yankee practice they had a pamphlet called ‘The Yankee Way.’ It told you no facial hair, have the hair off the back of your collar, things like that. You did things their way. When I folded uniforms, it had to be a certain way.”

The sign on the Johnson County clubhouse door was the Yankee logo with “The pride starts here” written under it, Blanton said.

“That’s what it was all about,” he said. “They said it a thousand times a day: Do it the Yankee way. It started from the top and moved down.”

Steinbrenner, who had purchased the sagging New York Yankee franchise in 1973, was building from within (although he mostly built with a wide-open wallet). Of course, in 1979, the Yankees were coming off back-to-back World Series championships under Steinbrenner.

It wasn’t the same in Paintsville after the Brewers became the parent club in 1983 and 1984, Blanton said. The last game in Paintsville pro baseball history was a 4-0 loss to the Pikeville Cubs. The pitcher that night? None other than surefire Hall-of-Famer Greg Maddux.

“Things were a lot different,” he said. “The best days were with the Yankees.”



Tomcat Shootout ready for quarterfinal round; 60-64 Tomcats draw bye

ASHLAND, Ky. – The inaugural Tomcat Shootout, a simulation tournament of teams comprised of great Ashland Tomcat basketball players going back to the 1950s, is set for the quarterfinal round.

Seven half-decade teams have emerged after winning best-of-3 series against same-decade teams.

A bye for the quarterfinal round to the semifinals was given to the 1960-1964 Tomcats through a blind draw. They will face the winner of 1970-74 and 1990-94.

“I love my 70’s guys but seems about right that the 1960-64 guys got the bye,” said super-fan Bill Bradley. “This is going to be some good basketball. Can’t wait to see how it ends up.”

The other half of the bracket has 1955-59 vs. 2015-20 and 2000-04 vs. 1980-84.

Games will be single elimination in the quarterfinals and semifinals and best-of-3 in the championship round.

The tournament will finish up about the same time “Tomcat Tales” is released. The book features the games from the simulated Sweet Sixteen and individual Tomcat teams going against each other in fantasy matchups.

Only 30 copies will be available in the first run, but more will be available soon after. Books will be $20 ($25 if shipped).


A shot to remember or one to forget? It’s a 1990s thriller

ASHLAND, Ky. – David “Smooth” Greene found himself with the basketball in his hands with the 1990-94 Tomcats trailing 100-99 and only seconds remaining.

There wasn’t a defender near him, but it hadn’t been the best of nights for Greene, who was 1-for-9 shooting. Nothing would go in, not even layups. A tough night.

“I kind of, well, stunk,” he said bluntly.

Greene was open by design. The 1995-99 Tomcats had surrounded Marty Thomas with the game on the line. Somebody was going to be left without a defender. Coach Wayne Breeden chose Greene.

“It wasn’t his night,” Breeden said. “Marty had killed us all night. I couldn’t give him the opportunity to put the dagger in us. It seemed like a reasonable risk.”

The ball had got into Thomas when he was suddenly blocked from going anywhere with defenders on three sides. He quickly flashed it out to Greene, who was about 15 feet away.

“I held the ball for what seemed like an hour,” Greene said.

Everything was on the line for the 90-94 Tomcats, who were facing elimination with a loss.

Thomas had done his part, breaking loose for 43 points on remarkable 17-for-24 shooting from the field. He was, in a word, unstoppable. Thomas had “promised” a Game 3, which meant a Game 2 victory. He also had 15 rebounds.

And he was about to find out if Greene was going to give him his first assist of the night.

Like the first game, this one played out tight from start to finish. There were 15 lead changes and 13 ties. The 95-99 Tomcats led by 13 points at 53-40 late in the first half and looked on the way to clinching the series. But the 90-94 Tomcats weren’t going down easily.

Coach Jeff Hall used his 2-2-1 press to get back in the game. He also devised a counter-attack to Breeden’s box-and-one on Thomas. Chris Estep was chasing Thomas again, but Hall had Rusty Gray and Stuart Smith form a two-man wall screen. Estep crashed through it on several occasions but got himself into foul trouble.

He had three fouls midway through the third quarter when he tried to break through the screens again and was called for foul. He complained to the referee who was quick on a technical foul and he was out of the game since it also counted as a personal foul.

“Rusty and Stuart gave Marty a chance to do his thing,” Hall said. “And it did it well.”

Like in the opening game of the series, the 95-99 Tomcats showed great balance with its “bigs” and some instant offense from Michael Lynch, who led them with 25 points. Kyle Umberger collected 15 points and nine rebounds, Tony Barrow scored 14, Chris Lynch 13 and Darrell Arbaugh 11.

On the other side, Nathan Kirk’s 18 points and 12 rebounds complemented the huge game from Thomas. Jason Strader had 11 points and 10 rebounds and twice picked the pocket of little brother Brian to make amends for the steal in Game 1.

“I told him I was going to get him,” Strader said. “You know what they say about paybacks.”

Rob Lynch’s shooting was way off, going 3-for-13, but he did pull down eight rebounds for the 90-94 Tomcats.

“Except for Marty and Nathan, not a great scoring night for us but our defense was much better,” Hall said.

Austin Young hit the only 3-pointer for the 90-94 Tomcats but it was a big one. It pulled them within 100-99 with 20 seconds to play. Robinson came up with the game’s biggest defensive play, taking a charge to give his team one last chance to stay alive.

Both teams called timeout to set the last-second strategy and everybody knew it had to involve Thomas.

“We were going to Marty but figured they were coming,” Hall said. “We flashed Smooth out in the corner and I told him to be ready and take the shot if you get it. A lot of guys who had a game like he’d had wouldn’t want the ball. But I looked into his eyes and they looked back at me with confidence. I was almost hoping they’d triple team Marty. OK, not really, but I felt good about Smooth shooting.”

They managed to force it inside to Thomas, but there was no way for him to shoot it and he wasn’t going to leave it to the referees for a bail-out call.

“Smooth got open, just like Coach said he would,” Thomas said.

Greene caught the pass, rolled the ball in his hands and shot the jumper like he’d done a thousand times before. It was a high-arching shot that was either going to be a perfect swish or bounce off the rim it had such trajectory….


And that was it. The 90-94 Tomcats had won 101-100 to force Game 3 just as Thomas promised after Game 1.

“I told you there was going to be a Game 3!” Thomas yelled as teammates mobbed Greene in a dog pile at the foul line. “I told you!”

You might just call the celebration a Marty Party.

1990-1994 ASHLAND (101) – Strader 4-7 3-4 11, Young 2-4 0-0 5, R.Lynch 3-13 1-2 7, Kirk 7-16 4-6 18, Thomas 17-24 9-16 43, Greene 2-10 0-0 4, Keeton 1-2 0-0 2, Gray 2-3 0-0 4, Smith 1-2 3-5 5, Robinson 1-3 0-0 2, Salyers 0-1 0-0 0. FG: 40-85. FT: 20-32. 3FG: 1-9 (Young 1-3, R.Lynch 0-1, Kirk 0-2, Salyers 0-1). Rebounds: 46 (Young 1, R.Lynch 8, Kirk 12, Thomas 15, Greene 1, Keeton 2, Gray 1, Robinson 4, Salyers 1). Assists: 22 (J.Strader 10, R.Lynch 3, Kirk 3, Thomas 1, Gray 2, Smith 2, Robinson 1). PF: 24. Turnovers: 11.

1995-99 ASHLAND (100) – Tolbert 2-6 2-2 7, Estep 2-6 0-0 5, M.Lynch 8-22 7-8 25, Umberger 6-9 3-3 15, Arbaugh 4-9 2-4 11, C.Lynch 4-7 3-4 13, Barrow 5-6 2-2 14, Cooksey 1-3 0-0 2, Stakely 1-3 0-0 3, B.Strader 1-3 0-0 2, Johnson 1-4 1-1 3. FG: 35-74. FT: 20-24. 3FG: 10-24 (Tolbert 1-4, Estep 1-3, M.ynch 2-6, Umberger 0-2, Arbaugh 1-1, C.Lynch 2-2, Barrow 2-2, Cooksey 0-1, Stakely 1-3). Rebounds: 42 (Tolbert 3, Estep 4, M.Lynch 3, Umberger 9, Arbaugh 3, C.Lynch 3, Barrow 5, Cooksey 2, Stakely 1, Strader 5, Johnson 4). Assists: 23 (Tolbert 7, Estep 2, M.Lynch 4, Umberger 2, Arbaugh 2, C.Lynch 5, Barrow 1). PF: 27. Turnovers: 10.

1990-94 ASHLAND    25         26         27         23      –          101

1995-99 ASHLAND    25         30         29         16       –         100