This time, he's on our side in the 13th region tournament

March 07, 2024

The 13th region basketball tournament stirs many memories for me. As a boy, I remember watching the Tigers compete year in and year out in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

I entered high school in 1986. We won the Sweet 16 in 1987, followed by the girls’ winning the title in 1989.

I watched it all and enjoyed every minute of what I call Tiger basketball's ‘glory years.’

Starting with the ’92-’93 basketball season, I became the sports editor of The Enterprise.

It was a dream job for me. I got paid to cover the beloved Tigers and Tigerettes.

Enterprise Editor Bill Abner, Photographer Larry Harms, and I traveled to Bell County High School, the site of the tournament for many years, to cover the Tigers vs. Harlan. The Green Dragons were coached by Mike Jones, and current Tiger coach Michael Jones was their starting point guard.

The Green Dragons were loaded. They had Jones, future Mr. Basketball Charles Thomas, and starting center Todd Cox.

As we rolled into Pineville that Friday afternoon, snow was falling. The forecast called for heavy snow, and we had no idea what was to come with the game or the snow.

Things were hot inside the gym, literally. With Harlan up 73-72, Clay was forced to foul. Who did we foul? Michael Jones. He sank both free throws with 06 on the clock, and the Green Dragons won 75-72.

Man, I was crushed. In my first year as sports editor, I wouldn’t get to sit on the floor at Rupp Arena and cover the Tigers.

When we walked outside, three or four inches of snow covered the ground, the biggest snowflakes I’d ever seen.

Thank God Larry had an S-10 Blazer. We may or may not have had to lift our spirits with some spirits and stay warm, but we finally made it back to Manchester on what felt like the most extended trip of my life, thanks to Michael Jones and the snow.

The storm ended up being a blizzard, and some called it the biggest snowstorm in 100 years. It’s still the biggest snowstorm I’ve ever seen.

It was a long time before I got to sit on the floor of Rupp Arena and cover the Tigers. We won the region the following season, but the Sweet 16 was at Freedom Hall in Louisville.

It was 1998-99 before I got to fill that seat, and I got to fill it again in 2001 with that same Harlan Green Dragon coach, Mike Jones, leading the Tigers. The man who ripped out the Tigers' hearts that night was sitting on the bench, also with his dad.

Since then, I’ve only had the opportunity to cover the Tigers in Rupp Arena two more times. When I took this job, I thought I’d get to do this at least every other year. It’s been a hard row since the ‘glory years,’ which makes winning the 13th region tournament more precious now than ever.

We had a team good enough to win the region a few years ago. We were upset by Harlan County and a talented 8th grader named Trent Noah in the semi-finals of the 13th region tournament.

Again, that same man, Michael Jones, ripped my heart out as he coached the Black Bears in the win over my Tigers.

Fast forward to March 7th, 2024.

Tonight (Thursday), I will travel to another 13th region tournament, and this time, my son will be covering the duties of sports editor.

Things sure have changed. My son, who wasn’t even born when I started at The Enterprise, is now doing that job.

And that man, that player, that coach, who has repeatedly stopped me from going to Rupp Arena to cover the Tigers…this time, he’s on OUR SIDE!

He will lead our Tigers into the opening round against Pineville, and I wish him and the Tigers the best of luck. I’m just thankful he’s on our side for a change.