Great Crossing basketball coaches Glenn Wilson and Steve Page admittedly heard the devil whispering in their ear from one shoulder Tuesday night and an angel encouraging caution and reason from the other side.
It was the inaugural Warhawk Madness, a meet-the-team showcase for Wilson’s girls and Page’s boys.
Fans flocked to the beautiful, new GC gym wanting to see their favorite players fill it up with 3-pointers, rim-wrecking dunks and other high-octane hijinks.
Certainly that falls in line a little bit with the vision of both bench bosses. They expect the Warhawks to pile up points and put an exciting brand on that shiny hardwood in year one.
But it’s also November, when practices are at a premium and defense is preached incessantly. And so somewhere amid the crowd-pleasing, each team’s coaching staff harbored hopes of a teachable moment or two.
“We still need to work on defense, which is probably everybody at this time of year,” Page said. “I actually had a kid come up to me and say, ‘Are we going to play it hard, or do it like Kentucky Big Blue Madness?’ I said, ‘Honestly, we’re putting you on film, and next Tuesday night when we have a scrimmage, what we see tonight might determine who’s going to get playing time, so you might want to play hard.’”
Starters showcased their scoring talents in both varsity exhibition contests.
Braylee McMath, Rachel Smith, Timothi Williams and Hailey Ward rained down 3-pointers for the Lady Warhawks, with Raegan Barrett and Ava Schureman leading the charge with McMath in transition.
“You want them to have a little fun and enjoy themselves on a night like this, but then it’s also a day that we need to be practicing, too,” Wilson said. “So we want to get a little bit out of it. At least get up and down the court a little bit.”
Jaylen Barber’s thunderous dunk engaged the crowd early in the boys’ scrimmage.
From there, the spectators saw Michael McKenzie, K.J. Tucker and Neil Baker score with increasing ease. Their Blue team put up 65 points in only 30 minutes of running game time.
“Our blue team, which was probably the kids that will see most of the minutes, I thought they shared the ball really well,” Page said. “That’s what we’ve been preaching. All of them could probably go out and score 20 points a night if they were the only person out there. As I tell them all the time, if you share, the ball will come back to you eventually. We have some good days of that, some not-so-good, but I thought tonight we did a good job sharing the basketball.”
Patterned after Scott County’s long-standing event — Cardinal Mania was held last Monday — Warhawk Madness had a festive tone without many extra trappings. The program’s novelty was the main attraction.
Freshman teams kicked off the program. Scott County and Georgetown Middle School programs also played exhibition games with a 3-point contest for good measure.
Cheer and dance teams performed, and GCHS introduced its archery bowling and swim teams.
While there’s an obvious rivalry brewing, both tip-off events had players and spectators from the other school in attendance to cheer on their friends and neighbors.
“I would think so, and I hope (it continues),” Page said. “I’m a Scott County graduate. I’ve lived here since 1977, since I was seven years old, so I understand. The difference was there was only one game in town until this year.
“Their records are phenomenal. They’ve won a couple of state titles and all the region titles and all the things they did, they’ve done a heck of a job. We’re just trying to kind of start out. Our job this year is to see if we can compete.”
With many pieces in place from SC’s former consolidated junior varsity program, GC appears to have the talent and cohesion to challenge in both the 41st District and 11th Region.
The Warhawks will play a home-and-home series against the Cardinals, with a third meeting at the Toyota Classic and even a fourth in the region tournament possible if everyone holds up their end of the bargain this winter.
“I think everybody in this community would love if Great Crossing and Scott County were playing in every region final for a long time,” Page said. “Hopefully we can both make it happen this year, but I’m sure it will happen at some point.
“One thing you find is when you take a lot of talent from one, you’ve still got an awful darn good amount of kids. There’s still a lot of kids that are really, really good. We’ve got some kids that have never played and are getting the opportunity, so for them this is awesome. It’s great that it gives everybody that opportunity.”
Wilson, who shared the bench with Scott County JV coach Tara Helton for 22 years and her husband, head coach Steve Helton, for the past 20, can’t deny his own challenges in pushing forward with the new regime.
“It’s kind of weird a little bit, because I’ll look around when practice is going and think, ‘Where’s Steve and Tara? When are they coming in? Where are they at?’ It’s different,” Wilson said. “It’s going to be a little bittersweet. All those kids you’ve been with for years, and coaching with them for 22 years. But I know how they are, and they know how I am. We want that game bad. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
GC has embraced the loaded schedule its community has come to expect. In addition to SC, the boys will travel to Trinity and Madison Central, while the girls have Franklin County (twice), George Rogers Clark, Lincoln County and Simon Kenton on a slate stacked with perennial tournament teams.
What’s the best way to prepare? Wilson, also the GC track and field coach, has his own default setting.
“Get up and down. Let’s go. There isn’t a lot of setting up when you’ve got girls who can shoot the ball like that,” Wilson said. “Kids are like, ‘We do so much running in practice.’ I said, ‘We scrimmaged last Friday. Were you tired? That’s why.’”
The Lady Warhawks won their first scrimmage, 53-40, over Fleming County and will take on Anderson County this Saturday.
Remarkably there are no seniors on Wilson’s roster, and 20 of the 28 players in the program are either freshmen or middle school students.
“It’s a brand-new school, so nobody knows anything about us. All they knows is half the school split,” Wilson said. “That’s our motivator right there. I tell them we can sneak up on a lot of teams. We’ve just got to do the little things.”
Great Crossing will host two exhibition games next week on the boys’ side. The Warhawks will take on Carroll County in a Tuesday. Nov. 19 tripleheader before entertaining George Rogers Clark for a noon varsity tip on Saturday, Nov. 23.
The regular-season opener for the boys is Tuesday, Dec. 3 against East Jessamine. GC’s girls get rolling the next night at Walton-Verona.
Kal Oakes can be reached via email at email@example.com.