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Aside from a few scattered colors, an army of blue-clad students wait anxiously behind Oldham County High School.
Five buses stand ready to transport the students to Rupp Arena in Lexington March 15 to watch the Colonels’ boys’ basketball team play Bowling Green in the first round of the state tournament.
Students traveled to the game to cheer on their classmates, hang out with friends and even take advantage of being out of class. But by the end of the day, a few found more important reasons why they attended.
After finding their seats on the buses Thursday morning, the students’ excitement quickly left as sleepiness kicked in.
But the excitement didn’t dwindle in the front two seats of bus No. 5, where two former basketball lifers trade stories.
OCHS teachers Wes Husband and Brent Dennison both coached as assistants for the Colonels’ boys’ basketball team under former coach Gary Forrest. Husband coached from 2000 to 2008, while Dennison coached from 2006 to 2009.
Husband also played on the 1994 OCHS team that lost in the region championship, one win away from the state tournament, a moment he remembers vividly.
Despite coaching at the 2003 state tournament where the Colonels won their first round game, Husband said he’d trade the experience to play in the state tournament.
OCHS lost in the quarterfinals to eventual state champion Mason County, which featured Chris Lofton, later a star at the University of Tennessee and who Husband said excited the crowd with his play.
“The electricity in that place was unreal,” Husband says. “The hair was standing up on the back of my neck.”
The basketball chat between Husband and Dennison stretches throughout the hour and a half bus ride.
As the bus exits I-64 in Lexington, there’s a renewed energy among the students.
Freshmen Jordan Bruce, Bethany Massey and Abigail Stewart review a printed list of cheers to chant at the game. OCHS’ pep club, The Blue Crew, distributed the list to students.
The girls are particularly excited about the ‘gorilla chant,’ where students stomp their feet, and the ‘Jaws chant,’ in which the band performs the theme song from the movie.
Junior Cody Lee talks about the different mindset of the students this year. He also attended the Colonels’ loss in the Sweet 16 last year.
“We weren’t really prepared last year,” he says. “Everyone came knowing we were gonna lose, but we know we’re gonna win this year.”
Just 20 minutes after the buses arrive at Rupp Arena, it’s still over an hour before tip-off. But the students are already filing into their seats where they’ll occupy the lower section of one end zone and a portion of the upper deck above it.
In the game, OCHS takes the lead with three minutes to go for a 27-26 lead at halftime.
During the intermission, seniors Dallas Moore and Trey Render talk about the first half and how they hope to pump up the rest of the students in the stands.
Render said the seniors are recognized by the rest of the students to sit in the front part of the student section, getting them closer to the famed floor the Wildcats play on.
“Rupp Arena is just so historic,” Moore says. “It’s just infinitely better than a high school gym.”
In the second half, the Colonels hold off the Purples and advance with a 55-48 win.
As the students head back to the bus 45 minutes later, Ashley Hall, an OCHS freshman, talks with her friend freshman Tyler Caswell about how to remove blue fabric paint from her face, arms, neck and legs.
A friend spontaneously painted her in the stands.
“It’s just all in support of OC,” she says. “This is what we do to show our school spirit.”
Sophomore Kaitlyn Byrd ended up with a handprint of black paint on her face from a friend. Byrd says the paint initially irritated her, but on the bus ride home, she says she didn’t mind.
She’d realized the importance of being part of the trip to Rupp Arena.
“We all as a school come together for the same reason,” she says. “It’s just such a great sense of
community. Plus, we won.”
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