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Prep Notebook: Kentucky goes for finales on Sunday

Apr. 22, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

Julian Tackett, commissioner of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association, knows a good thing when he sees it.

Earlier this year, the championship game in the Kentucky Sweet 16 state tournament for boys basketball was moved to a Sunday afternoon. The reason was the Kentucky Wildcats had a big Saturday afternoon SEC date against Florida at Rupp Arena. Traditionally, the two Sweet 16 semifinal games would take the court Saturday morning followed by the title game that evening.

Sunday's title game attracted one of the largest crowds ever. That was a win-win for Lexington and the KHSAA. And after review, the state's Board of Control voted in favor of the proposal to switch the championship games in the Sweet 16 for boys and girls to Sunday starting in 2014.

The format change allows for the semifinals to be conducted as a standalone event on Saturday, and gives the participants more time to prepare and recuperate leading up to the championship game.

"We examined the format of our basketball tournaments from a number of different perspectives, and in the end, felt like it was time to move the championship game to Sunday. Separating the championship game from the semifinals, really makes an event out of the Saturday games for those final four teams," Tackett said. "We think the added rest leading up to the championship game will not only benefit the health and safety of the students, it will also have an impact on the quality of play, and provide coaches a chance to better prepare their teams for the most important game of the year."

Attendance for Saturday night's semifinal twinbill was a record 20,172 with 17,351 returning for that first Sunday title game in Bluegrass high school history. That was the largest crowd for a title game since 2009.

ANOTHER MOVE: Kentucky's Board of Control approved a measure to move the championship match of the State Volleyball Tournament to Sunday.

Volleyball was the only KHSAA sport required to play three complete rounds in the winner's bracket on the same day during the state tournament. Starting in 2013, the first round will be played on Friday, the quarterfinals and semifinals on Saturday, and the championship match on Sunday. That allows for additional rest for the participants, likely resulting in improved quality of play.

SOUTH POINT TRACK: South Point will hold the Arthur Lydiard Classic meet on May 3 starting at 5 p.m. The meet is named after Arthur Lydiard, a successful distance running coach from New Zealand. He got to visit South Point just before he passed away.

Pointers coach Randy Smith gives the meet a Kiwi flare to make it different. Some famous New Zealand Olympic runners and entertainment are due in a day early for a big dinner. Guests include Barry Magee, Olympic bronze medal winner in the marathon; Bill Baillie, Olympian and former world record holder in the one-hour run and 20,000 meters; Nick Willis, current runner and Olympic silver medalist in the 1500; and Anne Audain, former world record holder in the 5,000. Bob Schul, the only American to win an Olympic gold in the 5,000, is also coming. New Zealand's traditional Maori dance and singing group Kahurangi will provide the entertainment.

Festivities start May 2 with the "Legends in Black." Athletes will speak and show video highlights of their careers. Kahurangi will perform, too. An autograph and photo session will follow. The event starts at 6:30 p.m. in the school cafeteria. It's free and open to the public. The athletes will be at the meet Friday. They'll help with awards, sign autographs and offer advice.

WEDNESDAY GAME: Huntington High and Nitro will resume their baseball game on 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at Cook-Holbrook Field. The Wildcats held a 3-2 lead with the Highlanders coming to bat in the bottom of the fourth inning Tuesday when play was halted by lightning first and then a thunderstorm. Once that game's complete, Nitro will travel to Ona to take on Cabell Midland.

David Walsh is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2759 or dwalsh@herald-dispatch.com.