Fern Creek High School basketball team gets sendoff as players h - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Fern Creek High School basketball team gets sendoff as players head to Sweet 16

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Fern Creek High boys basketball team (Photo by Toni Konz, WDRB News) Fern Creek High boys basketball team (Photo by Toni Konz, WDRB News)
Fern Creek's Jarius Jones gets a hug on Wednesday morning (Photo by Toni Konz, WDRB News) Fern Creek's Jarius Jones gets a hug on Wednesday morning (Photo by Toni Konz, WDRB News)
Fern Creek High head basketball coach James Schooler (Photo by Toni Konz, WDRB News) Fern Creek High head basketball coach James Schooler (Photo by Toni Konz, WDRB News)
Fern Creek junior Anthony Wales Fern Creek junior Anthony Wales

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- It was a big sendoff for the Fern Creek High basketball team on Wednesday as they headed to the school's first state basketball tournament since opening in 1923.

Fern Creek (33-2) defeated Doss High last week to win its first regional basketball title since the school began playing varsity basketball in 1929.

The team will play Hopkinsville at noon Thursday in the first round of the 100th annual Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys Sweet 16 at Rupp Arena.

Students, teachers and some community members lined the hallways of the school on Wednesday morning, as the team prepared to head to Lexington.

"To see the boys grow into a cohesive unit has been great," said Fern Creek basketball coach James Schooler. "We've been through some adversity. We've had a lot of good times, but to see them handle it has been the best process."

Fern Creek previously beat Hopkinsville 78-58 on Jan. 7 and the team has won 19 games since.

Schooler says heading to the high school Sweet 16 is like to going to the NCAA tournament.

"Like March Madness, we are going dancing," he said. "It's kind of like Northwestern University, they are in the NCAA tournament for the first time. The excitement of seeing your name -- we had to play to get here but it's still the same kind of excitement."

Anthony Wales, a junior who plays point guard, said it's been a great season but the team is not done. He credits Schooler's coaching and comradery among his teammates with getting them this far.

"The hard work and preparation we put into this year -- we've always had the goal to win a state championship and that's what we have been preaching every day this year, just to win and bring it back to Fern Creek," Wales said. "We want to win this for our community and our school."

Asked how to describe this season, junior Ahmad Price said: "Magical, powerful...blessed."

"These guys, they are all my best friends...we've been playing together since like fourth or fifth grade," Price said.

On it being such a historical occasion for the school, Wales says "it's an honor."

"88 years -- that's a long time before I was ever even thought of ... it's a blessing," Wales said. "I can't even explain in words how I feel about it. It's a blessing."

Fern Creek High principal Nate Meyer says the school received 1,100 tickets for the game and only has a few left. Eight buses filled with students will head to Lexington on Thursday to watch the game.

"It's a very exciting time for us," he said. "We are very proud of these student athletes."

Other teams from the Louisville area playing in the Sweet 16 include Meade County High and Ballard High.

The winners will play in the quarterfinal on Friday; the semifinal is scheduled for Saturday.

The championship game is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Sunday.

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