Middle school boys are state runners-up

Posted January 15, 2020 at 9:54 am


The Clinton County Middle School 6th Grade Boys’ Basketball team took its game to Lexington, Kentucky this past weekend to play in the Kentucky Basketball Commission (KBC) State Tournament.

When the weekend was over, a police escort brought the team through town Sunday night with a state runners-up championship trophy in hand.

Head coach Nick Irwin, along with Assistant Coaches Josh Moons, Mike Davis and 18 players were on cloud nine after bringing home the state tournament runner up hardware

The team eventually lost in the championship game against Barrett of Louisville 61-26 Sunday afternoon.

Clinton County’s journey to the championship game started with the first game against the number one ranked team in the tournament, W.E.B Dubois out of Louisville in the first game in pool play.

Clinton County lost that game by a score of 46-31, but found a spark from that point on and went on a mission to seek revenge.

“My kids knew if that was the number one team then they knew they had a shot,” Irwin said. “They knew it to the point to where I was having to settle them down a little. They kept looking ahead and I kept trying to keep them looking at what was in front of them.”

The next game in pool play saw the Dawgs go up against Johnson Traditional out of Louisville, picking up a 52-16 win.

That win put the Dawgs into the tournament in the round of 64 up against Royal Springs with a win of 40-20. In the round of 32, the Dawgs defeated Pikeville 57-22 and in the Sweet 16, Clinton County defeated Northern Pulaski by one, 38-37.

In the Elite 8, the Dawgs defeated Corbin 40-20, setting Clinton County up for a re-match against W.E.B. Dubois in the Final Four game.

“We gave them their only loss of the year so far,” Irwin said. “We beat them 56-49. At halftime, we were up by six, I looked at Mike and kind of used the line from the movie ‘Do you believe in miracles big guy? He kind of laughed and was cutting up. Josh was bitting his fingernails off. Nick Thrasher was shaking so bad I didn’t know if he was going to be able to keep book or not. I’m getting tickled at them. I tell them boys settle down … we are right where we need to be.”

Irwin said the idea of his boys having the right to be in that tournament seems to click with his team during that moment.

“They realized that they deserved to be in that tournament,” Irwin said. “They deserved to be playing against the best and they knew they could beat the best. I told them, I’ve been in a lot of gyms, I’ve watched a lot of good basketball from the time I was a kid from the time our girls went to the state tournament, at your age, I would have never thought we could have been in an environment like this with this on the line, but we talked about this at the beginning of the year during the first week.”

Clinton County then went on to face the number two ranked team in the tournament, Barrett. The Dawgs lost that game by a final score of 61-26, giving the Dawgs the runners-up trophy for the weekend.

“We led 13-11 at the end of the first quarter and then they went on an 18-4 run and we only scored nine points the rest of the game. They absolutely lit us up. They had nine three pointers and one kid had eight of them,” Irwin said. “After Monday night they will have played 15 games in five nights. These guys are wore out.”

Irwin said last weekend’s effort was a whole team effort to accomplish what they did.

“It took everyone of them to pull off what they did,” Irwin said. “They are just a great group of kids. It was a great environment. I honestly didn’t think they would have enough gas in the tank, but they played with so much heart it was amazing.”

With most middle school teams, sixth grade basketball is made up of both fifth and sixth grade combined, however, with this year’s Clinton County sixth grade team, there were no fifth graders who came out for the sixth grade team which led the remainder of the team to be filled with fourth graders.

Allowing those elementary school kids to play on the sixth grade team played a huge factor in giving the sixth grade the numbers it needed to produce the skills needed to make it all the way to the championship game of the KBC State Basketball Tournament.

“I can’t say how much they mean to this team,” Irwin said. “Some of them are little brothers, some are little cousins who are down in fourth grade … and they’ve always been with us, so it’s not like we are tagging along a daycare with us. These kids are mature kids. The reason why it’s so important to have fourth graders playing this year is because next year all I will have is fifth graders playing sixth grade basketball. Without them there this year, it would have set us up for failure as a program. I know it took a long time to get our thinking heads around our school system to buy into that. I can’t say enough about the little guys. They make it fun.”

The players making up the team include, Chase Harmon, Zach Poore, Noah McCutchen, Kaysen Massengale, Crit Cowan, Maddox Moons, William, Guffey, Gavin Thurman, Dustin Meadors, Blane Melton, Drew Davis, Jaxon Mason, Carson Irwin, Cameron Irwin, Drake Thrasher, Caleb Thrasher, Dalton Poore, and Eli Bernard.

Irwin said he couldn’t have done it without the support of the parents. They always bring his players to the games and to practices and they trust him to teach their kids the game of basketball to the best of his ability.

“I do have a great bunch of parents because they allow me to coach their kids,” Irwin said. “I know I probably tick them off, but they know my intentions are good with them.”

Monday night, during the halftime of the boys’ varsity All “A” Classic first round 4th Regional game against Glasgow, the 6th grade team was recognized in front of the home crowd. The team took the runners-up trophy, stood at half court and hoisted the trophy up in the air as one unit and fans stood and congratulated them on their accomplishment.