By T.J. Morgan
Freelance Sports Writer
Everyone now knows the Hornets and Lady Hornets claimed history this season, becoming the first group in program history to win both the boys’ and girls’ district championships as the district tournament host. What is less known is how close factors completely outside of the Hornets and Lady Hornets control came to forcing that reality to remain a dream.
February 16, 2023, is a day Athletic Director Matt Shirley will not soon forget. The Thursday before the district tournament, but not just any district tournament. This year’s district was one that young Metcalfe boys and girls dream of, one that young kids mimic hundreds of times over in their driveway growing up. The Hornets and Lady Hornets were hosts and number one seeds, favorites to cut down their own nets in front of a capacity hometown crowd, the perfect finale. 6:15 AM. The time that morning it became evident that destruction had begun to at least threaten that storybook ending. Edmonton had received heavy overnight rain and the downpour was continuing into Thursday morning. Coinciding with the rain and the district tournament was a roofing project for Metcalfe County High School. A recipe with the possibility for disaster. At 6:15 AM, Matt received the call from Tim South, Metcalfe County High School custodian. “There was a lot of water, in a lot of places,” Matt remembers the picture that was painted for him.
Matt arrives at the high school shortly after and the sight in front of him is bleak, “it was very bad.”
Matt’s mind is instantly taken back to 2019. Metcalfe was host to the 16th district tournament in 2019. Matt had spent much of that tournament with a towel in his hand. While much more minor than what he is looking at now, the roof had begun leaking during the middle of that tournament, and Matt was drying up wet spots on the court during dead balls. The leak was serious enough that the tournament had to be paused while a crew of Metcalfe County employees that included Athletic Director Matt Shirley, tarped an area of the gym roof.
That night, which still haunts Matt today, at least partially led to the construction taking place during this year’s district tournament. While the construction company had initially assured the school district they would finish the gym before the district tournament, like most construction jobs, the project started later than expected, pushing the completion of the gym further back than anticipated.
While the construction company isn’t initially on-site Thursday because of the weather, they quickly respond once the school district officials make them aware of the situation. Matt, along with other school officials, as well as the construction company begin to weigh their options. Metcalfe County does possess another gym, the Old School gym, which was the gymnasium to the old Metcalfe County High School and then the old Metcalfe County Middle School. While the school district does traditionally utilize the gym once a season for the annual throwback game, the gym doesn’t have the seating capacity for a district tournament. In fact, Metcalfe County did not host a district tournament from a time in the mid-’70s until the competition of the new high school in 1995, because of the seating capacity at the old gym.
Matt was adamant the tournament would stay in Metcalfe County, “we were going to host [the district tournament].” He wanted to make sure that every player had that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to claim a district title in front of their home fans. The plan became clear. Time was not a luxury Matt or other school officials had on their side. While the district tournament traditionally begins on Monday, because the 16th had expanded to five teams this season with the addition of Monroe County, the tournament now began on Sunday afternoon. Additionally, all teams are permitted a practice slot in the host gym before the district tournament, those would begin on Saturday at 8:00 AM. Metcalfe County now had less than 48 hours to create a miracle. As such, the school gave the construction company 24 hours to resolve the issue. If the company could not make it right, Matt says the school was prepared “to get tarps up there and do what was needed.”
If there was one glimmer of relief, it was that the Hornets and Lady Hornets were finishing their regular season on the road at Caverna that Thursday night. A game that Metcalfe traditionally finishes their season with, but a game that rotates home and away every other season, playing home to Metcalfe’s senior night last season and next season. Ironically, that game would be played at Caverna Elementary this season, as Caverna High School has suffered a flooded gym floor. Over Christmas break freezing temperatures had caused a pipe to burst in Caverna High School, resulting in the court buckling under heavy amounts of water. “Once the floor buckles, there isn’t anything you can do about it, and that’s certainly another fear in my head,” Matt describing his thoughts as he and Caverna Principal Frank Beauchamp were comparing gym misfortunes at the Metcalfe and Caverna basketball game that night.
“We had a lot of people helping out, doing a good job, keeping our floor as dry as we possibly could,” Matt described the teamwork that helped Metcalfe County keep water from becoming a more drastic problem Thursday and into Friday. With their own effort and the hard work of the construction crew, the court was mostly dry and ready for Lady Hornet practice by 3:00 PM the next day. Teams would travel to Edmonton Saturday and their practices would begin and end as scheduled.
The wet court nor the leaking roof would be a factor during the playing of the district tournament. Those in attendance would be none the wiser on how a potential calamity was avoided. While some may have fun with the saying Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, the Good Lord willed a mostly dry forecast for the district tournament, never putting the roof under serious stress. As a result of that good fortune, the Metcalfe County Hornets and Lady Hornets both took advantage of the dream that lay in front of them, the girls capturing the district title the following Thursday night, and the boys doing the very same, 24 hours later, on Friday night. Both the girls and the boys were able to cut down their home nets in front of a packed home court gymnasium, the perfect culmination to a storybook ending.