|MIRACLE MILLENNIUM MUSTANGS
| We attended the opening round of the tournament so that our players could get the feel of the tournament atmosphere. Since many of our guys had never been to Rupp, it was especially enjoyable watching their eyes light up as they first strode into the massive arena. Newport Central Catholic was playing the second game vs Louisville Male and since we play NCC and our kids are familiar with theirs it did us good to see familiar faces out on the floor.
That evening we experienced an awesome event in itself. Mr. Ron Heiert, our school’s Development Director had pulled a few strings with his connections at UK and landed us a practice slot in Memorial Coliseum. As we walked into this venue made sacred by Kentucky teams past, the house lights were all out with the exception of those which shone directly onto the playing surface. For we followers of the Big Blue, this was truly a near-celestial experience. This may sound corny, but you could almost visualize Adolph himself standing at center court directing the Runts or the Fab Five who earned fame on this very floor. To practice in the shadows of all of UK’s NCAA National Championship banners, lent a special solemnity to the Brossart Mustang practice that night.
| On game day the team was up early and had breakfast at 8am at a local Bob Evans. Again we bolstered the stock of the Herald-Leader and Courier Journal absorbing all we could about games played the previous day and those to take place today.
The team was in a very serious mood. Reality had set in. We were really going to do this.
Prior to our departure for Rupp the players gathered in the hotel lobby, while the seniors and Chris Ryan stepped outside for a brief pow-wow. I have no idea what was said and didn’t ask, but I’m sure it wasn’t about what video they were going to rent at Blockbuster that night.
At 11:00am Coach Schlarman appeared in the lobby and asked his usual – “Are we ready to go?” and thirteen players, three managers, four coaches, one trainer and our athletic director boarded the bus for our date with destiny in Rupp Arena.
I’ll never forget that ride. Dead Silence………..You could have heard a pin drop. Each player and coach was alone with his thoughts. I reflected upon the events that had evolved over the years which had brought us to this day.
At 11:30am, one hour and thirty minutes before we were to take the floor, we arrived at Rupp Arena. Much like the scene in “Hoosiers”, we were welcomed, told that they were happy that we were there, wished good luck, and escorted to our locker room.
The players dressed quickly and quietly while Coach Schlarman jotted some notes about Graves County on the chalkboard.
Willie then left to give the first of many interviews he would grant the media over the next few days.
Our locker room was located just down the hall from that of the Kentucky Wildcats, which was doubling today as a training facility. Several of the coaches, managers, and myself spent some time ogling the private sanctum of the Big Blue. This was just another in the long line of incredible experiences associated with playing in the State Tournament.
At 12:15pm Coach Schlarman delivered his pre-game talk. He was direct and confident. He went over their starters and diagramed some of their key plays. He would later appear prophetic when he told our boys that the team who would make the fewest mistakes would win the game. We would need to beat Graves by being smarter, tougher, and more disciplined than they were. We simply needed to “Play Like Us”. Coach Rowe interjected a quick dose of instant intensity and we were ready to take the floor.
| As the first game of the day, the arena was just beginning to fill up, and since we were playing at the same time as UK who was doing battle in the NCAA Tournament, the Rupp crowd was a bit sparse. But the Mustang rooting section was rocking. Our Brossart Mustangs took the Rupp hardwood to a thunderous ovation that stretched from the designated cheering section behind the basket and overflowed upward to the upper deck and wound around to the left of the top of the arena. We were complimented by Commissioner Julian Tackett on our fans turnout, which outnumbered the supporters of Graves County who more than tripled us in enrollment.
Following the pre-game and last minute instructions from the coaches I stood with chills running down my spine as the PA Announcer Randy Mills spoke the words I never thought I would live to hear ………. “and now let’s meet the Champions of Region Ten, the Mustangs of Bishop Brossart.”
How many times before in the thirty some years I’d attended the State Tournament, either here in Rupp or over at Freedom Hall, had I heard great teams introduced, never daring to dream that someday I would stand on the floor of Rupp Arena, having my Mustangs introduced to the crowd here and to a statewide radio audience. Our time had finally come.
As the game began it was obvious that we were deep under the influence of the “diarrhea factor.” We turned the ball over, not playing a bit like us, falling quickly behind 5-0. I’m sure many in the crowd were already thinking how nice it was for a small school like us to get to play in the state tournament, but anticipated our fate of an early exit. Our Mustangs quickly regrouped and when Scott Ruth hit a free-throw with forty-one seconds in the quarter we were tied at nine. However, hitting on just six of nineteen shots in the first half caused us to face a 23-16 halftime deficit.
The fact that we had only scored sixteen first half points was a major concern to me. Another sixteen point half would tally thirty-two, and thirty-two does not win games in the “Greatest Show in Hoops” or back home on Tuesday night for that matter.
|Story Continued On Next Page|