HEIDELBERG Quickly name the six high schools in the Northeastern Kentucky region of the KHSAA – which once included schools from Bracken County to Letcher County before moving to what is now the 16th region – with the percentage of All-time highest wins in men’s basketball tournaments.
Two are easy – Ashland and Olive Hill. Other notable programs that have since moved to different regions, some clustered into larger schools, also feature prominently in this category: Pikeville, Maysville and Clark County.
Then there’s Heidelberg, tied for sixth on the list winning 75% of its district tournament games while being lined up in the same region as the geographic footprint that includes today’s 16th region.
Today’s residents of Boyd, Carter, Greenup and Rowan counties could be forgiven for asking what and where Heidelberg is or was. The school in the small unincorporated Kentucky River hamlet of the same name in Lee County closed in 1938.
Josh Broadwell hopes to make sure the people of Lee County and beyond remember who the princes were.
“I’ve always been interested in history,” said the Lee County coach, “but more than anything I just felt like players, not just in St. Helens or Heidelberg, but in Lee County and Beattyville… they’re just being left behind. “
Heidelberg won the 53rd District Tournament in 1935 by beating St. Helens, 23-17, in the semifinals before outscoring Powell County, 21-15, beating the Pirates 12-1 in the fourth quarter. As the March 7, 1935 edition of The Beattyville Enterprise put it, the two victories of the Princes were heartbreaking – the newspaper called the winners “Heidelberg, extraordinary dark horse”.
And the Princes finished second in the district in 1936, edging Irvine 1-0 in the district semifinals before falling to Booneville, 27-11, in the 1936 final.
This made Heidelberg 3-1 in district tournament games while also sharing an area with Northeast Kentucky Schools. But, so glorious, the time for the Princes competing for the same regional title as Ashland, Catlettsburg, Russell and others was short.
By 1937, Heidelberg, due to its location in Lee County, was no longer in the same region as the schools in northeastern Kentucky. in what was called then and today the 14th Region.
A year later, Heidelberg was absorbed by Beattyville, which merged in 1939 with St. Helens to form Lee County High School.
Thus, the aforementioned distinction of the Princes reads like a technicality, a product of small sample size, but it is nonetheless part of the sporting history of the region – although mention of the matter is difficult to find, outside microfilm.
Make the trip to Ky. 399 to Heidelberg today, and you can still find at least one basketball court, outdoor and concrete, in a park along the banks of the Kentucky River. There’s also a lock and dam, a blue painted bridge, a body shop, two buildings with peeling white paint, and a cemetery that make up the campus of a Baptist missionary church, and not much of it. other. Nothing remains of the school, and there is certainly no indication that a District Tournament Champion once held court there.
This resides in Beattyville, a 15-minute loop drive east, to Lee County High School. The 1935 Heidelberg District Tournament Championship trophy can be found in the display case outside the Bobcats gymnasium.
Broadwell accidentally found the Princes’ gear at school “in a storage closet with a bunch of ball gowns,” he said, as he searched for other Lee County trophies.
Broadwell took it upon himself to ensure that the numbers and accomplishments of Lee County and its forefathers before the Consolidation were not lost in history. Honoring Heidelberg by displaying his trophy, as well as compiling information about the eight seasons of the Princes as part of a book in progress and taking the time to talk to a journalist about it, fits this mission.
For Broadwell, that has an additional byproduct: reminding his current and future Lee County players that the program has a positive history as well, not just the eight consecutive under-500 campaigns coming in this winter and being four years away. a 0-30 season. .
Broadwell was one of them – he was in his sophomore year when the Bobcats went 24-8 in 2005-06 and won the 56th District Tournament and 14th Region All “A” Classic.
He examines the microfilm, interviews former players and coaches and now puts it together in book form to ensure these accomplishments endure.
“It’s really for Lee Countians who Lee County is,” said Broadwell. “These kids don’t remember us. They weren’t alive when we won the All ‘A’. They remember being beaten, beaten, beaten. They don’t mean to think like that, but … it’s just giving pride back to where when you’re a little kid you don’t hear they’ve lost a bunch of matches.
“And I hope I can change it so that whatever happens, they don’t hear that anyway,” added Broadwell, the coach.
More than facts, figures and statistics, Broadwell’s job is to make sure that the stories – the ballast of the sport, which really resonates with people many years after playing or even watching games – are remembered. .
Paul Treadway, 101, is the oldest man in Lee County and is said to be the last basketball player living in Heidelberg. Her granddaughter and great-grandson teach in Lee County, Broadwell said.
Broadwell has a photo of the Princes’ midget team – what with modern sensibilities would be called junior college – which included Treadway taken on April 26, 1937 after winning a tournament. (In a 1937 time capsule, The Beattyville Enterprise reported that Beattyville post player Tom Combs “weighed in” and assumed he “must have eaten too much roast beef for dinner.”)
Treadway told Broadwell he trained outside on a dirt court and the princes lost their uniforms somewhere on a road trip, possibly in Hazard.
“They had their uniforms strapped to the top of the bus and they fell,” Broadwell said of Heidelberg, “so they had to borrow the uniforms from the home team visitors to be able to play.”
And Broadwell has heard of shenanigans that would almost certainly get a coach fired today. For Lee County Bench boss in the 1940s, Ernest “Dog” Young, a colorful man who organized boxing matches as halftime entertainment and fundraising, it was just a procedure. standard operating.
Young’s Bobcats took the train to Hazard for a game in 1942 or 1943, as Broadwell relates, leaving town on Friday and returning on Sunday. Young treated it as a lucrative expedition and the Lee County Meal Allowance as seed money. The problem was, he failed and lost the dough (figuratively and literally) at play on the first night of a three-day trip, so the Bobcats went hungry until they returned to the game. Lee County.
Bill Thorpe (who played for Lee County under Young in 1947-48) said that ‘Dog’, a notorious player, had a rule: ‘Do what I say, not what I do,’ “said Broadwell. laughing. “They say he was quite a character.”
Not everyone is as enthusiastic about preserving the history of Lee County boys’ basketball as Broadwell. He left Beattyville in 2016 after a season and a half leading the Bobcats and went to Buckhorn as an assistant for four years.
John Noble, then Buckhorn’s trainer, heard of Broadwell’s business.
“I told him about this book, and he told me I needed to have a life, basically,” Broadwell recalls with a laugh, “or maybe I needed a girlfriend. . … We will clean it up.
But Broadwell – who returned to the Bobcats in 2020 and whose day job is the dean of students at Lee County Middle-High School’s alternative school, Bobcat Academy – remains committed to the importance of his efforts.
“The fact that (Treadway) sat down and talked to me for a good two hours about his role in Heidelberg in 1937, it shows that it meant something to him,” Broadwell said. “It matters. Obviously it’s not your life, it’s not going to pay the bills, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. I think people are confused.
“I am first and foremost an educator. When I talk to my friends, I don’t say, “Hey, remember the time I got an A in that Spanish class?” That’s not what you’re talking about. Whenever I review my high school years, I talk about the memories I made. … Your ACT score matters, but the memories you create matter too.
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