Published March 23, 2008 in The Ledger Independent
George Clooney and Renee Zellweger are due in town tonight, and Bill Clinton is coming to Maysville on Tuesday.
But on Sunday, the center of attention was a group of tall, gangly teenagers who proved themselves the best in Kentucky on the basketball court Saturday night.
The Mason County High School Royals brought home their second state championship Sunday, less than 18 hours after they conquered Covington Holmes, 57-48, in the championship game Saturday night at Lexington’s Rupp Arena.
The players and coaches on the team bus were escorted by police cars and firetrucks Sunday and hustled into the Fieldhouse, where a small, but enthusiastic group of fans awaited.
Several hundred fans — a number that no doubt was held down by Easter observances throughout Mason County — greeted the Royals as they entered the Fieldhouse carrying the state championship trophy.
When he was introduced to the crowd, head coach Chris O’Hearn said, “The first thing I have to say is ‘Welcome to our dream.’”
The short ceremony was punctuated by frequent applause and by a series of standing ovations.
O’Hearn acknowledged the contributions made by the pep band, cheerleaders, managers, video coordinator, ball boys, scorekeeper and statistics man. He thanked the fans and assistant coaches, among others.
But his most heart-felt comments were about the players.
“They’re going to remember this day and last night for the rest of their lives,” said O’Hearn
Mason County guidance counselor Kent Moore served as master of ceremonies and introduced each player in a poetic tribute to the Royals. He pointed out to the crowd that there are 268 high school teams in Kentucky, “but only one champion.”
It wasn’t hard to figure out about whom he was talking. Most of the Royals wore T-shirts proclaiming “Kentucky State Champs.”
The loudest ovation was for Darius Miller, the MVP of the state tournament and a University of Kentucky signee who is considered the leading candidate to be named Mr. Kentucky Basketball.
O’Hearn tried to explain what went on between the semifinal on Saturday morning and that night’s final. Senior forward Trevor Setty, a key player for the Royals, was slapped with a technical foul during the semifinal victory over Shelby County, and O’Hearn was informed an hour before the championship game that Setty had been suspended. But before the game began, the Kentucky High School Athletic Association had reversed itself and allowed Setty to play. As O’Hearn described the roller-coaster emotions he felt Saturday, his voice cracked and he was unable to finish.
O’Hearn also acknowledged those who went before, including the 1947 Maysville High School state champs and the 2003 Mason County team coached by Kelly Wells, who won the Royals’ first state title.
The celebrity treatment is expected to continue tonight. O’Hearn revealed that Maysville Mayor David Cartmell had received a phone call from George Clooney’s father, Nick Clooney.
“We’re going to be invited to a special event,” O’Hearn said, hinting that the special event is the world premiere of Clooney’s latest movie, “Leatherheads,” at the Washington Opera Theatre.