My early memories of this medium
sized town in the basketball-crazed state of Kentucky are still as fresh today as they were in the 1955-56 season. To this
10-year-old boy, seeing a team with so much talent with back to back years in the state semi-finals and finals was
Growing up in this Western Kentucky
town located on the Ohio River with the sports teams that they had in that incredible year of 1955-56 was close to being
unbelievable. I remember (hey, I was only 10). Watching the cheerleaders do their thing, and when
they finished the basketball squad would do their thing. And that thing was to kick some butts!!! And they did it like no
one I have ever seen, before or after that 1955-56 year.
With a 29-4 season in 1954-55, and
a 29-3 season in 1955-56. It's hard to imagine your local team combining back to back seasons with a combined record
of 58-7. With the master-planner Coach T. L. Plain using a 3 guard combination, with super guard Dave Eakins, guard Sammy
Joe Shelton, and swing small-forward/guard Pascal Benson which gave Henderson City High one of the best guard combos in Kentucky
Even though the three City
High guards were smaller than most other guards around Kentucky's other high schools (at that time there were approximately
650 high schools in Kentucky), they were three of the best in the state, if not the entire country. Benson being a smaller
forward at 6' was an extremely powerful & rare individual with a combination of brute strength & lightning quick speed.
Pinson was the main rebounder & scorer with unbelievable finesse and with a powerful Fred Schuette banging the
boards that gave this City High team a very fast & potent team, inside & outside. This City High team was so well
balanced that if the opposing team would double or triple a key scorer, such as Pinson or Dave Eakins, then you would have
Pascal Benson, Fred Schuette or Sammy Joe Shelton take up the slack. The 6' 2" Fred Schuette, not being a great leaper
but was graced with good basketball savvy. and was a very unselfish player that could bang the boards with the best
of them. Then you had Dave Eakins that could kill an opponent from the outside with a deadly 20-30 foot jump shot or drive
to the basket and score over the taller middle men. If he didn't shoot then he would drill a bullet pass into Pinson or Schuette,
or even one of the other guards, Pascal Benson or Sammy Joe Shelton that could shoot a jumper or go in for a lay-up. Eakins
was considered one of the best passing guards in the nation during his freshman, sophomore, junior & senior seasons.
There were no weaknesses whatsoever on this well-balanced team, with the possible exception being the lack of height as a
team. In the 1954-55 season, reserve sophomore guard 5'6" Bill Ruff scored 38 points against the Uniontown St. Agnes
Knights in less than 3 quarters of playing time in the District tournament. This shows the strength and balance of this powerful
Henderson City squad. You also had junior guards Petie Bryant and Junie Hall that could bomb the basket from 20 feet,
or drive right past you.
Though Henderson City was a very small
team, even by the mid-fifties standards. The average height was barely over 6'. At 6' 3", 6' 2". 6' 0", 5'
11" and 5' 9" which averages out to 6' .05". All of the teams the Flash faced throughout the year were considerably
taller. Now folks, this 1955-56 City High team was an extremely small squad, but this team had something most
teams didn't have, they had heart, and an incredibly talented group of young men.
When one of the starters got in foul
problems, the bench was so deep that any of the reserves were ready to fill in. This was truly a talented team that mastered
teamwork to the ultimate, using the best abilities that they had, and they had it down to perfection.
The 1954-55 Barret Manual Training
High School team was lead by two first team all-staters, 6’4" center Don Gish and 6’ 3"
forward Byron Pinson, and finished third in the state tournament that 1954-55 season. The other 3 starters were
5’ 9" G. David Eakins, 6’ 2" F. Billy Brown, and 6’ F/G. Pascal Benson. Pinson, Eakins, & Benson would
be named as all-state members the following year.
Coming off a 29-4 seson with
a 3rd place finish on the state tournament, no one expected the 1955-56 team to achieve the success they reached in that incredible
The fourth ranked Henderson
City Flash opening round of the state tournament (sweet 16) that was played at Memorial Coliseum on the University
of Kentucky campus in Lexington was against the #5 ranked Louisville Valley High, whom they thrashed 80-62. In the second
round they had a tougher opponent in #6 ranked Mayfield High, edging them by 2 points 59-57. This was a game that the
Henderson City squad should have lost. The leading scorer for Mayfield was Rex Story, with a season average of 27.1 points
per game, a 96% shooting from the foul line, missed both free throws and gave Henderson City the victory. Henderson beat
a good 9th ranked Bell County squad 78-63 just 4 hours prior to the championship game in the semi-finals. This tough but worn-out
City High team finished as second best in the state losing to an excellent team and a well rested #7 ranked
Carr Creek High School with 24 hours rest between games. That breaks down to Henderson City playing 3 games in a 24 hour period.
With the top 3 ranked schools knocked out of the tournament, #4 ranked Henderson City High School was a slight favorite
to beat the Indians from Carr Creek with Appalachian legendary coach *Morton Combs at the helms. However, it was
not meant to be.
The consolation game for third place
went to the #3 ranked Wayland High School Wasps who literally demolished 7th ranked Bell County 122-89 breaking 6 state tournament
records. Wayland lost in the semi-finals to Carr Creek by 1 point, 67-68 on a last second shot by Freddie Maggard, with Kelly
Coleman being held to a tournament low of 28 points. Kentucky’s first Mr. Basketball (Mr. do everything) , "King"
Kelly Coleman led Wayland, (he was the king and still is the "KING" today of all of Kentucky high school basketball), past
Bell County 122-89 with Kelly banging home 68 points, and 28 rebounds. His 49 Points average per game for the tournament still
stands today as a KHSAA state tournament record. Those tournament records are still in tact today, and will probably
never be broken. The king, Kelly Coleman immortalized himself forever in Kentucky high school folklore in that wild &
frantic 1955-1956 season and the 1955-56 state tournament. Even today, 54 years later Kelly Coleman is still revered in the
Appalachian Mountains of Eastern Kentucky. It was this consolation game, in which Wayland man-handled Bell Co. the KHSAA dropped
the consolation game for future state tournaments after Wayland's embarassing lop-sided win.
Henderson City's three season
losses were by a combined total of 8 points. The three losses were to top-ranked Berea, led by first team all-American/all-state
perfomer Don Mills 78-75. Earlington 71-70 led by future Mr. Basketball of 1958, sophomore great 6' 8", 4 time all-state peformer
Harry Todd and the state championship game to Carr Creek 72-68.
All of these team members also starred
in other major sports (football, baseball & track) for the Barret & City High Flash teams, and many starred in
college in one sport or another, and then went onto lustrous careers outside of sports. Several of the players played
dual sports in college and played in the military.
No one is making excuses for not
winning the state championship, and not to take any glory away from Carr Creek. However I feel it must be duly noted in all
fairness to this fine Henderson City team, that they had to play back to back games 4 hours apart. Carr Creek had a fully
rested team (24 hours rest) and enough energy to outlast a very tired Henderson City team by a score of 72-68. I also feel
if the games had been reversed, with City High having a full 24 hour rest, and Carr Creek playing after a 4 hour rest, the
game would have had an entirely different outcome.
One must keep in mind that history
does not remember or record this, all the books will say is who won and who lost, with the final score. There are no excuses
whatsoever, and Henderson is not making an excuse for losing! It seems to this writer that history has a habit to remember
what it wants to recall, and is not necessarily filled with all the facts, as I have seen many times in my life. If you read
a lot of history, you know what I am saying is factual. In ancient times, the victorious armies wrote history. So consequently
you get their side of what actually happened in reality, and there are always 3 sides to every story, yours, mine, &
the truth, or to be put in another way, the winners version, the losers version, and somewhere in between those two lies the
All the players that I have talked to all
agreed on one thing. Each City High ball player felt they could have beaten Carr Creek on any given night, except that
one fateful night. Fate along with fatigue denied the Henderson City School Flash the glory of the state championship crown.
But in the eyes of this 11-year-old, they were the true champions of the Bluegrass state.
T. L. Plain said that he has
never coached a group of students/athletes in his entire career that were as exceptional and excelled in everything as this team
from the 1955-56 Henderson City High team did.
This unbelievable team proved they were
champions, on & off the basketball court. To the loyal fans in Henderson, the 1955-56 team were the state champions
in their hearts and minds.
NOTE: The new Henderson City High School was completed in the
summer of 1955 & opened for the fall of the 1955-56 school year. The Old Barret High School was the Barret Junior
High School building for 4 years, while being demolished at the same time. The new Barret Junior High School was completed
in the spring of 1961 and opened for classes for the 1961-1962 school year. The junior high school students attended Henderson
City High in the school years 1959-1960 & 1960-1961.